How to Dull a Glossy Finish Without Sanding


Last updated: September 18, 2023

Learn How to Make a Glossy Finish Dull in this Detailed Pro Painters Guide

How to dull a glossy finish without sanding

There are different types of paint finishes, each with its benefits and drawbacks. A glossy finish is one of the more common finishes, especially for woodwork.

While a glossy finish does look beautiful and smooth, it tends to pick up dirt more easily and is quite easy to scratch. What if you could dull down the finish to give it a more matte look? While this is easy to achieve with sanding, the process doesn’t always yield clean results and can take a lot of time and effort. 

In this article, we will discuss how to dull a glossy finish without sanding. Let’s get digging! 

What is a Glossy Finish?

A glossy finish is one that is applied to surfaces and is often characterized by a high degree of shine. 

In general, paints are labeled different finishes depending on how much light they reflect. Usually, the more light the paint reflects, the glossier it will appear. Likewise, the smoother the surface, the glossier it will appear. 

There are different types of gloss finish; the main ones are matte or flat, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. 

Flat paints usually appear dull and don’t reflect any light. Satin paints have a low gloss and reflect little light. Semi-gloss has more sheen than satin and thus reflects more light. High gloss is the most reflective option with the highest degree of sheen or glossiness.  

Can You Dull a Glossy Finish?

Yes, you can dull glossy finishes, and there are two main ways to achieve this. The first one is sanding, which is the more traditional option. Sanding usually takes time and can be difficult to control. 

The second option is to use a refinishing agent, finer polishing compound, or chemical products such as wax or lacquer thinner. This method is simpler and easier, especially for beginners, and gives you more control over the final result.

Why Dull a Glossy Finish Without Sanding?

The main reason why you would want to dull a glossy finish is to change the look. This is particularly recommended when you want to achieve a more natural and rustic appearance, whether on an old piece or newly painted furniture. 

You can also dull a glossy surface to prepare it for refinishing. This is usually the case if the surface has already been painted with glossy paint. Using a sander or sandpaper can ruin the paint job, so you may want to exploit other ways to dull down the finish. 

Another reason to dull a glossy finish without sanding is that it’s easier to control and doesn’t take much time. As earlier indicated, sanding usually takes time and is difficult to control. 

How to Dull a Glossy Finish Without Sanding

Here are some options you have to dull a glossy finish without sanding. 

1. Chemical Strippers

You can use chemical strippers such as acetone or lacquer thinner to dull a glossy surface without sanding it. The main advantage of this method is that you can adjust the gloss level.

The strippers are quick and easy to use and can be applied to any surface, whether it’s wood, plastic, or metal. The only downside is that they contain chemicals that can cause skin irritation, so you must use them with care. 

Also, this method might not be effective if the surface is heavily “glossed.” 

How To Use A Chemical Stripper

Once you’ve selected your stripper, the next thing is to begin applying it to the gloss finish. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Protect your hands and eyes by wearing gloves and goggles, respectively. It’s also good to wear a good overall to protect your body from any splash.
  2. If you haven’t done so already, clean the surface with a clean, damp cloth to get rid of dust and dirt.
  3. Dip an old paintbrush or clean piece pf cloth into the stripper and apply it to the gloss surface. You can throw the brush away afterward.
  4. Let the stripper sit for 10-15 minutes, the wipe it off with a dry cloth.
  5. Finally , rinse the surface with clean water to remove any residue left.

Once you are done with the process, clean your work area and dispose the chemical strippers safely away from pets and kids. Also, remember to remove paint residues from your hands and any other part of the body that might have got into contact with the paint.

2. Paint (& Primer)

Another thing you could do is to paint over the glossy finish. First, you apply a primer to seal the gloss layer; next, you apply paint over it to dull down the glossiness. Ideally, you want to use a flat or matte black spray paint. 

To save time, you can also use a paint and primer combination, so you don’t have to apply a separate coat of primer. The product should be applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

If you’re applying primer separately, each layer should be allowed to dry completely. 

Like chemical strippers, this method is quick and easy, and allows you to customize the level of glossiness. 

However, you need to use a paint and primer that is compatible with the glossy finish, or else it might not adhere well.

How to dull a glossy finish without sanding

3. Sealant

Using sealant is another effective way to dull a glossy finish without sanding. The method is pretty straightforward and involves applying a clear coat (sealant) such as Minwax over the glossy finish. This will give the surface a matte look once it’s dried. 

The good thing about this method is that it works for any surface and is easy to implement, just like the others. 

To apply the sealant, simply follow the instructions on the label. Make sure to remove all dust and dirt on the glossy surface prior to applying the sealant. 

Wax is another substance that works very similarly to a clear coat, especially for wooden surfaces. Using wax will help to even out the surface in case there are any scratches or gaps.

4. Deglosser

If the item you’re working on has a glossy metal fixture, you can give it a dull look by applying a deglosser. For this method, you will need a liquid degloss, a varnish (matte/flat finish), and clean dust microfiber cloth or fine steel wool. 

The steps are described as follows:

  1. Detach the metal part and separate it from the wood. If it’s possible to remove it, then cover the wooden surface around the metal. You can use a piece of cloth or masking tape.
  2. Next, apply the liquid deglosser to the metal part with a piece of cloth. Gently rub it in circles. Add more deglosser to the cloth and apply as needed.
  3. Leave it for 30 minutes. If the metal is still glossy, you can apply more deglosser. Otherwise, move on to the next step.
  4. Finally, spray the metal part with varnish. This will give the extra protection. Wait for 10 minutes after the first coat, then spray another layer. Let it dry for at least 3 hours.

Why You Shouldn’t Dull a Glossy Finish By Sanding

There are several reasons why dulling a glossy finish by sanding might not be the best move for some projects. 

The most obvious one is the inherent risk of ruining the paint job. And that is because when sanding, you use an abrasive material, which makes it easy to leave scratches and gouges on the surface, especially if it’s smooth. 

Sanding can also take longer than expected, as you will often need to make tweaks to achieve the desired outcome. Considering the physicality of the process, it can be extremely difficult to get a consistent, even result. 

In addition, it’s difficult to control the temperature and pressure output when sanding a surface. Unfortunately, applying excess heat or pressure can damage the surface underneath.  

Furthermore, the dust generated from sanding can cause damage to nearby surfaces or objects. 

Safety Tips for Dulling a Glossy Finish.

  • Be careful when handling any chemical, especially strippers. Always wear glove.
  • Ensure the area where you’re working is well-ventilated. This will help reduce the impact of the fumes, especially if the chemical has a strong smell.
  • It’s a good idea to wear a breathing mask, especially if you’re working with a strong-smelling chemical.
  • Avoid working near open fires or other heat sources as some chemicals and paints are highly flammable.
  • In addition to gloves and a nose mask, you might also want to wear goggles and a good overall.
  • Always read the label carefully before using any product. This will give you more info on how to use the product and the best safety practices.

FAQ – How To Dull Glossy Finish By Sanding

What is the Best Way to Dull Glossy Paint?

This depends on the nature of the surface you wish to dull down and the type of effect you’re trying to create. In general, sanding will give you a more durable finish, while using chemicals will give you a softer, matte finish. 

Are Sanding and Dulling the Same?

Sanding and dulling are not exactly the same thing, although they are often used interchangeably. Sanding may be used to flatten a surface or remove some of its material through physical abrasion. Dulling, on the other hand, is any method used to reduce the sheen of a surface or make it non-lustrous. This may be achieved through mechanical means (such as sanding), through the use of chemicals. 

Can Gloss Paint Be Made Flat?

Yes, gloss paint can be made flat. There are different ways you can achieve this, but the simplest ones are sanding the paint job or adding more pigments to the paint. More pigments usually come in the form of flattening agents, which include but not limited to chemical strippers, deglosser, wax, talc, mica, etc. You can also add a light coat of flat paint on the gloss paint. 

How long does it typically take to dull a glossy finish?

This depends on the method you’re using and the size of the surface. If you’re able to change the composition of the paint before applying it, then it should only take a few minutes. However, if you plan on wet sanding or using sandpaper or any of the chemicals listed above, expect to spend a few hours on the project. 

Can You Make Gloss Paint Satin?

Yes, you can. Gloss paint can be converted to satin paint by mixing it with flat paint. This makes sense since satin is somewhere between gloss and flat finish. The only challenge you may have is figuring out the amount of flat paint to use. In any case, ensure both paints are the same type and brand. 

Summary – How to Dull Glossy Finish by Sanding

We will draw the curtains here. As you can see, it’s possible to dull down a glossy finish without using sandpaper. All the methods we’ve discussed here using different chemical products are not only easy but also give you greater control over the glossiness of the paint job. 

Whichever option you choose, don’t forget to wear proper safety gear to protect yourself. Also, read the manufacturer’s instructions for any product you decide to use. 

Let us know if you have any more questions about how to dull a high gloss finish. Until then, happy dulling! 

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