The industry has been searching for a way to meet consumer demand for a flat paint that resists stains, can be washed easily and keeps its sophisticated look.
Washable Interior Paint
by Christina Camara
elegant look of flat interior wall paint has been popular for years, but it used to have one big drawback.
“No matter how good the flat paint was, it wasn’t washable,” says Shashi Patel, executive vice president for the Muralo Company.
Homeowners with kids and pets often gave up on the stylish look of a matte finish for the ability to wash away stains, dirt, fingerprints and paw prints. But the downside was that semi-gloss paints reflect light and magnify every imperfection on the wall surface.
The industry has been searching for a way to meet consumer demand for a flat paint that resists stains, can be washed easily and keeps its sophisticated look. Thanks to new formulations and the addition of ceramic “microspheres,” products are now available that outperform conventional flat latex wall paints.
Historically, consumers had a choice: flat, unwashable paint or a semi-gloss that could be washed but had an undesirable shine. About 30 years ago, combining the desirable features of semi-gloss and flat paints produced an eggshell, which is more washable and had just a slight sheen when viewed at an angle. However, many homeowners still preferred the soft matte finish of a flat paint. “The washability was there, but the aesthetics weren’t,” Patel says.
Now consumers can have it both ways. Patel called the new ceramic technology “the best thing that’s happened since sliced bread.”
Patel is hearing rave reviews for Muralo’s Water-Borne Ultra Finish and Muralo-owned Graham Paint’s Aqua-Borne Ceramic Interior Flat Finish. The paints have the durability of an oil-based coating, but the easy cleanup of a water-based product.
The new flat scrubbable paints contain ceramic microspheres combined with high-performance, water-borne resins. The microspheres are tiny, compared with the large particles in the pigment extenders contained in standard latex paints. (Think of a golf ball versus a basketball, Patel says.) The ceramic particles are also perfectly spherical, unlike the uneven, jagged edges of the pigment extenders, which are usually made from finely ground silica sand or Georgia kaolin clays.
Dirt and stains grab onto those sharp edges and don’t let go, making conventional flat paint difficult, if not impossible, to clean. It’s easy to scrub so hard that a shiny, burnished spot is left on the wall that looks worse than the stain. Sometimes the only solution is to paint the room over again — not the answer most homeowners are looking for.
The ceramic particles create a smooth, tight finish and better adhesion so dirt and stains don’t penetrate. Cleanup is as easy as wiping ketchup off a dinner plate.
Better stain resistance and easy cleanup are not the only benefits that ceramic additives bring to paint, according to the Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute. Their spherical shape enables the ceramic particles to slide easily, which makes for better flow and leveling. Like conventional extenders, the ceramic microspheres contribute to the paint’s ability to hide the underlying substrate, and they also reduce the luster of the paint.
Patel pointed out another advantage for those who paint eight hours a day. The ceramic spheres in the paint act almost like ball bearings, making the paint very easy to roll on. It noticeably reduces fatigue since there is less drag and brushing. It produces a durable, uniform look with no roller marks.
The Coronado Paint Company says ceramic paints give professional painters a new way to improve sales and profit margins. With the explosion in home theaters and home-based businesses and offices, consumers are spending more time at home. “Demand for quality walls that last has all but taken price out of the equation — and a number of professional painters are reaping the higher profits of offering the ceramic solution,” says Coronado Paint spokeswoman Becky Trudeau.
Coronado’s alternative to traditional latex, CeramaGard, performed well in scrub testing by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). CeramaGard Matte Flat Finish was tested against two national brands of conventional flat wall paint. Using a mechanical device that applied equal pressure, the CeramaGard coating was still intact after 600 scrub cycles, while the competitive samples failed.
Coronado offers eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, primer and flat ceiling paint in a complete range of tint bases. The company will offer one of the first complete VOC-compliant systems nationwide in January 2005, in time for the 2005 OTC regulations.
Benjamin Moore’s new ceramic coatings already have a strong legion of fans. In fact, the introduction of Regal Matte Finish — the company’s first new interior sheen in more than a decade — is the most successful product launch Benjamin Moore’s ever had, says Jeff Spillane, senior marketing manager.
After market-testing the product in Chicago, it was launched nationally about a year ago. The new paint was accepted immediately by do-it-yourselfers and painting contractors. “Customers come in and say, ‘I want that flat scrubbable paint from Benjamin Moore.’”
Spillane says the paint is being used in every room in the house, even bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms that have long been the domains of semi-gloss paints. In fact, the company recently added a mildewcide to the paint because it was being used so frequently in rooms with moisture.
Homeowners with an eye for design can finally balance the shiny surfaces of their kitchen appliances and tile with the soft finish of a flat paint that can stand up to repeated washings.
Spillane says that it’s more than the microscopic ceramic beads that make the Benjamin Moore paint so successful. Even more important is the fact that the company develops and manufactures its own resins, and the new formulation produces a tight, stain-resistant film that differs dramatically from the porous, unwashable surface of a conventional flat latex.
What kinds of stains can be removed? Pencil, ink, certain markers, crayons, stickers, grease, carbon, lipstick, ketchup and other household stains. “It’s not indestructible, but compared to a flat paint it is,” he says. Spillane says that he would still recommend a semi-gloss paint for trim or high abuse areas.
Durability, stain resistance, an elegant look and more. “It’s the best wall finish, without any qualifications,” says Muralo’s Shashi Patel. “It’s unusual to have all these things in one can of paint. It’s an answer to your prayers.”