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I’ve always loved the look of a glossy finish but there are times when it’s just too much. I once painted a table with a glossy finish but the wood stain was too shiny and reflective.

If you’ve ever had to dull a glossy finish, you know it can be a daunting task. But don’t worry, I’ve got your back!

Sanding is the most common way to dull a glossy finish but it can be time-consuming and messy. Be cautious when handling materials to prevent potential surface damage, particularly if it’s fragile. There are other ways to dull a glossy finish that are less time-consuming and messy. And the best part is, they won’t damage the surface of the material!

No need to grab the sandpaper! In this article, I’ll show you how to dull a glossy finish without sanding.

How to Dull a Glossy Finish

What a Glossy Finish Is?

Any shiny surface that reflects some light is a glossy finish. It’s often used on furniture, metal and other objects to give them a new and shiny look. Glossy finishes can also be used to protect surfaces from damage and make them easier to clean.

Glossy finishes are created by applying a layer of clear coat to a surface. This clear coat can be made of a variety of materials such as polyurethane, lacquer or varnish. The more layers of clear coat that are applied, the shinier the finish will be.

Gloss Level Shine/Reflection
Matte Least glossy, No reflection
SatinVery little shine and reflection
Semi-glossSlightly higher gloss and reflection
High glossHighly reflective

How to Dull a Glossy Finish Without Sanding? 4 Proven Methods

1. painting over gloss without sanding Using a Deglosser

Deglosser is a product designed to prepare glossy surfaces for painting. It doesn’t function like a paint stripper to reveal the wood underneath but is used to eliminate the shiny finish, allowing paint to adhere better to the surface. They’re easily available in hardware stores.

  • Start by applying the deglosser as needed to the surface using a clean cloth or cotton fabric.
  • Don’t forget to wear gloves before dealing with it. 
  • Follow the given instructions given on the label.
  • When the required time has passed, wipe away the deglosser with a clean cloth.
Pros Cons 
Helps to achieve the desired gloss levelNot suitable for removing heavy gloss finish
Quick and easy methodMay cause skin irritation
Can be used on any surface
No sanding needed

When to use Sandpaper or Deglosser To Dull a Shiny Wood Finish

AspectLiquid Sandpaper/DeglosserSandpaper
Chemical UsageUses chemicals to remove gloss, but low VOC options are availableNo chemicals, mechanical abrasion
Health PrecautionsUse in well-ventilated area, wear protective gear, avoid skin contactUse in well-ventilated area, wear a mask for dust
Time EfficiencyQuick application, suitable for intricate detailsTime-consuming, labor-intensive
CostRelatively affordable, a small bottle goes a long wayCost-effective if you already have it
When to UseWhen you need a quick and efficient prep for painting, especially on detailed surfaces. –
When working on smaller projects or have limited time.
When you’re on a tight budget or already have sandpaper available.
When working on larger projects that can tolerate the extended time investment.

Helpful Resource: You can find additional details on the process of paint removal from wood using non-chemical methods.

2. Using a Matte Varnish

Matte varnish dulls the shine of a glossy surface. It’s a good option if you want to keep the original finish but want to make it less shiny.

  • To apply a matte varnish, simply brush or roll it onto the surface. 
  • Remember, apply it in thin and even coats.
  • Allow it to dry thoroughly.
Pros Cons 
Easy to applyCan darken surface 
Affordable Difficult to repair
Versatile Can reduce the depth of colour

3. How to Dull High Gloss Finish With Paint?

Who needs sandpaper when you’ve got paint?! Here’s how to dull shiny wood by painting on gloss without sanding:

  • Clean the surface on which you want to dull the glossy finish.
  • Apply a coat of flat or matte paint in thin, even coats.
  • Leave the paint to dry completely between consecutive coats
  • To get a washed-out look, mix paint and water 50/50 and paint it on the surface in small sections with a brush. After a few minutes, wipe away the excess with a clean cloth.
  • A wax or flat matte topcoat should be applied to the surface of the painted piece to seal the finish and protect the paint. 
Pros Cons 
Easy to useRequires multiple coats of paint
Suitable for various surfacesNot as durable as other methods
Can create different finishesIf not done properly, the surface can be damaged

4. How to Remove the Gloss from Wood With Wax?

Wax can also help to dull a glossy finish on any surface, especially the glossy finish of wood surfaces. It will give a smooth and even look to the surface by filling all the gaps. The matte effect of the wax helps to dull the glossy wood finish.

Pros Cons 
Fast and easy methodIt may not stick very well 
Suitable for any wooden surfaceIt might be challenging to diminish the glossiness of a heavily finished surface.

How to Make a Polyurethane Finish Less Shiny?

I have been working with polyurethane for three years now. If you want to make the polyurethane finish less shiny, I’ll suggest you sanding method. Although this method is  time-consuming, but most effective.

  • To sand a polyurethane finish, first clean the desired surface.
  • Start with rough grit sandpaper and then switch to finer grit sandpaper to smooth things out.
  • Be sure to sand the surface evenly to avoid creating any unevenness.
  • Don’t forget to give your freshly sanded surface a new coat of finish, unless you want it to look dull and unfinished.

Find out the process to apply paint on previously stained wood?

how to make wood glossy?

how to make wood glossy

Whatever your reason, there are several different methods you can use as discussed above.

  1. Clean and sand the surface with a fine-grit sandpaper lightly to remove any imperfections.
  2. Apply a wood sealer that will help to protect the wood and prevent the finish from absorbing into the wood.
  3. Apply thin and even coat of any finish on wood such as polyurethane, varnish, or lacquer and let it dry.
  4. After allowing each coat to fully dry, gently sand the surface using fine-grit sandpaper, typically with a rating of 220 or higher. This step is important for eliminating imperfections and rough spots. Once sanded, use a cloth to wipe away any residual dust.
  5. Next, it’s advisable to repeat the process by applying additional coats of the chosen finish, sanding in between each coat. This repetition continues until you achieve the level of gloss you desire. Typically, applying 2-3 coats proves to be sufficient.
  6. Upon the final coat’s complete drying, you can enhance the gloss and smoothness of the wood surface by buffing it. Employ a clean, dry cloth or a specialized buffing pad for this purpose.
  7. Following this, it’s essential to allow the wood to cure fully. The curing time can vary, taking anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the specific wood finish product you’ve used.

My Personal Experience 

As a professional in this field for the past few years, I’ve learned that dulling a glossy finish can be a challenging task. But with experimentation, I’ve found several methods that produce amazing results.

I recently needed to dull the glossy finish on a wooden shelf. To avoid damaging the wood, I chose to use a matte varnish instead of sanding. I applied a thin coat of matte varnish to the shelf with a foam brush and then I waited until it was completely dry before applying a second coat. The matte varnish dulled the glossy finish without damaging the wood and I was very happy with the results.

Always choose the right method for the surface you are working on. For example, a matte varnish is a good option for wood while a deglosser may be a better choice for plastic. 


There are many reasons why you may want to dull a glossy finish without sanding such as to create a more sophisticated look or to reduce glare. Regardless of your reason, there are multiple methods available, as discussed earlier. Before selecting any method, take a look at its advantages and disadvantages. However, sanding is also a good method if it’s done properly.

I hope this article on how to dull a glossy finish without sanding was helpful!


How to dull a glossy paint finish matte?

To dull a glossy paint finish matte, you can use a deglosser, matte varnish or refinishing agent. However, sanding is a traditional method for dulling a glossy finish but it takes a lot of time and  care to avoid damaging the surface.

How do you make gloss finish?

To make a gloss finish, apply multiple thin coats of glossy paint or varnish and sand lightly between coats. To achieve a high-gloss finish, buff the surface after allowing the final coat to dry.

Martina Hitchcock-Holapaints writer

Martina Hitchcock

Martina Hitchcock is a versatile author with expertise in different fields. As a paint sprayer expert, she has in-depth knowledge of paint spraying techniques, tools, and equipment. Martina is also an experienced home remodeler who has worked on various projects, including kitchen and bathroom renovations, flooring installations, and room additions. Her knowledge of home improvement and remodeling is extensive, and she enjoys sharing her insights and tips with readers. You can follow her on Facebook.

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