How Does Burnishing Happen and How to Fix It

Have you noticed strange marks on your painted walls? It isn’t chipping or flaking, but there appears to be a shiny smudge on the paint job. This is called burnishing, and today we will break down why it happens and how to prevent it. 

Burnishing, by definition, is an increase in gloss or sheen of the paint film. When rubbed, scrubbed or brushed up against, the surface will burnish or shine. In other words, paint burnishing happens when a painted surface is subjected to friction usually caused by abrasive cleaners or repeated rubbing or scrubbing to clean it. This is especially true with darker colors. Below is an image showing burnishing. 


One of the most common causes of burnishing is when using a flat paint in high-traffic areas. Most commonly, a family room, hallway, stairwell and doors. Flat paints have the most pigmentation which provides excellent coverage, hides drywall imperfections, and has no shine to it at all. However, that higher pigmentation makes flat paints more susceptible to burnishing. In these kinds of spaces, a finish with a higher sheen level would have better resistance to burnishing. Other common causes of burnishing are: 

  • Frequent washing and spot-cleaning
  • Use of abrasive cloth and/or cleaners
  • Using paint with minimal washability 
  • Objects rubbing against the paint (furniture against walls)
  • Using low-quality paints with poor stain and scrub resistance 
  • Using the wrong paint in general

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Here are some solutions to help you prevent this problem:

  1. Paint high-traffic areas with a high quality water-based paint and finish in each room. Cheaper flat paints are not durable enough to handle high traffic areas. But premium products like PPG’s Hi-Hide are more durable and can even be washed with soap and water, even in flat. 
  2. Consider using a paint with a higher gloss or sheen. The best recommended sheens are eggshell, semi-gloss and satin. 
  3. Clean your walls with a soft cloth or non-abrasive cleaners like dish soap and water and rinse with water. After painting your walls, always wait thirty days so the paint has time to fully cure.  
  4. Keep furniture and other objects away from the walls
  5. Do not scrub any surface that is painted with a flat sheen.

When hiring a professional painter, they will be able to determine which sheen is best for you to avoid burnishing. Leave it to the pros to set your project up for success. Fill out the form below to schedule a free quote today. 

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