Matte vs. Satin Finish on Hardwood Floors

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matte vs satin finish on hardwood floors

Choosing a stain color is a pretty big deal when refinishing hardwood floors. Because, after all, you don’t want to pick something that you grow tired of in a year.

But just like stain color, you also need to consider the finish of your floors.

While there are many finishes to choose from, two of the most popular are matte vs. satin finish. 

The main difference between a matte and satin finish is the sheen. A matte finish is very flat and doesn’t allow light to reflect off of the floors. A satin finish reflects light, making your floors look a little shiny.

Here are some other key differences between the two.

Matte vs. Satin Finish on Hardwoods: Main Differences

matte vs satin finish on hardwoods main differences

Appearance

Most homeowners choose the finish of their hardwoods based on the look they like best. 

A matte or flat finish looks very dull. It’s not shiny and doesn’t reflect light. Traditionally matte finishes were more popular in rustic style homes, but matte is becoming a trend for all styles. It leaves your floors looking very natural.

A satin finish has a low sheen level but is still glossy enough to make your floors appear a little smooth and shiny. Satin is two steps down from a gloss finish and one step down from a semi-gloss. It’s a great option if you want a hint of shine to your hardwoods without a full gloss.

Durability

If you’re worried about durability, here’s some good news: matte and satin finishes are equally durable. They both protect your floors and stand up to normal household wear and tear.

Maintenance and Cleaning

While there aren’t gigantic differences between the maintenance and cleaning of satin vs. matte finishes, matte hides dirt better.

For matte and satin hardwood floor finishes, you’ll need to sweep regularly and mop with a hardwood floor cleaner. You should avoid acidic cleaners on both finishes since the acid will eventually wear through the poly, exposing the wood.

Ability to Hide Scratches and Dents

If you have pets and kids running around, matte is the better choice since it hides scratches, dents, and dirt much better than any other finish.

Satin and other higher luster finishes reflect light, highlighting scratches and dents. The dullness of matte does the opposite.

How to Clean Matte Hardwood Floors

how to clean matte hardwood floors

A matte finish is not nearly as common as satin or semigloss. Because of this, many homeowners ask how to clean matte hardwood floors.

You can use these instructions to clean any hardwood floor finish, including matte.

Sweep Regularly

The most important thing you can do to keep your finish intact is to sweep your floors regularly. Built-up dirt and debris will act like sandpaper, wearing down your floor’s finish if you don’t.

Sweep your matte finish hardwood floors a few times per week or as needed.

You can sweep them with a hardwood floor vacuum, broom, or dry microfiber mop.

Mop with a PH Neutral Cleaner

Consider using a microfiber mop and a ph-neutral cleaning solution to mop your matte finish floors.

You can mop as needed – this usually ranges from once per week to at least once per month.

Some of the best hardwood floor mop cleaners for matte finish hardwoods include:

Avoid using acidic cleaners – especially vinegar. Vinegar will wear down the finish on your floors, exposing your wood.

Do NOT Wax Your Matte Wood Floors

If you want to maintain the matte look of your hardwood floors, don’t use any type of wax products on them.

Hardwood floors with a matte poly are already protected, and there’s no need for wax.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq matte vs satin finish on hardwood floors

Can I put matte polyurethane over satin polyurethane?

Putting matte poly over satin will tone down the satin but probably not give you a completely flat look. Instead, if you want to achieve matte hardwood floors, remove the satin top coat first and then add the matte.

Are matte wood floors in style?

Yes, matte wood floors are currently trending. A matte finish gives a floor a more natural look and conceals dirt and scratches better than other finishes. While you used to see matte floors in rustic homes, they’re popular for every style of home right now.

Is matte finish shiny?

A matte finish is flat, not shiny. As a result, it doesn’t reflect light. Instead, on hardwood floors, it provides a natural, rustic appearance. Consider a satin, semigloss, or gloss finish if you want a shiny hardwood floor.

What is the best matte floor finish?

You can get a matte floor finish in a water or oil-based formula. Both have merits, but oil-based has much stronger fumes, requiring you to be out of your house for longer. Water-based poly is a little more expensive but quicker to apply. If you’re working with a flooring contractor, ask for recommendations. 

You can find matte floor poly from many popular manufacturers, including Bona, Varathane, and MinWax.

Final Thoughts

If you’re wondering which is better: matte vs. satin finish for your floor, there is no one right answer. Both are great finishes that are durable, easy to clean, and long-lasting.

If you want a rustic, natural feel, go with matte. But don’t go with matte if you’re always trying to make your hardwoods look shiny. If you like a slight sheen, choose satin. There is no wrong choice, so pick the one you like the most.

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AUTHOR

Katie Barton lives with her husband and three daughters in an 1800’s style log cabin in southern Ohio. She thinks cleaning is relaxing and is considered the organizing go-to person by her family and friends. She runs the blog Cabin Lane where she shares about cleaning, decluttering, and minimalism. See full biography here.

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