Keeping Substrates Safe and Clean: The Power of Clear Coats in Professional Painting Reply

Professor Magnuson stood in front of the class with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge. While his “Introduction to Painting” class watched on in silence, he dipped the sponge in the water bucket and began cleaning the oil-painting in front of him. Some of the students were dumbfounded and wondered why their instructor would do something that most certainly would damage the painting.

Clear coat on a canvas painting

Clear coats help protect priceless paintings from dirt and damage.
Image courtesy of Wilkempart School.

The Professor continued wiping the painting with the soapy sponge before taking a damp towel and wiping away the soap. By the time he was finished, the whole class was in on the joke. Professor Magnuson wasn’t actually cleaning the canvas painting, but rather the clear coat on top of the painting that protected the artist’s work from dirt and damage. When the exercise began, the class was worried that he was destroying a piece of art to make a point. But by the end, they all realized that he was actually demonstrating how to protect paintings from dirt and damage by using a clear coat over the actual paint surface.

Clear coats can give most any flat surface, from furniture to custom motorcycles, a gorgeous and clear reflection. Many weekend painters think the clear coat they just added during a project around the house is entirely for aesthetics and is intended to give sparkle to the final result. Despite the rising popularity of flat paints in sectors like automotive custom work, glossy finishes still remain popular and clear coats are instrumental in making them shine. But professional painters understand and know that the real usefulness of clear coats isn’t found in the gloss they offer, but rather in the protective qualities they provide.  A clear coat makes the surface upon which is it applied harder and more resistant to denting or scratches. Similarly, the clear coat protects the surface underneath (including any other paint or coating) from corrosive dirt, acid rain, and chemicals.

It is important to understand, however, that the clear coat itself absorbs damage and dirt as it protects the coating underneath. With regard to automobiles, clear coats are vital to protecting vehicles from carbon black produced by the emissions of other vehicles. Rainfall, particularly in urban areas, can be full of pollutants, so clear coats help protect everything from children’s playground equipment to outdoor furniture to automobiles.

Clear coats must be cleaned regularly, particularly on outdoor structures or surfaces, or else the buildup of dirt and toxic residue will eventually degrade the coat’s protective qualities and the surface beneath will be exposed to damage. Failure to properly clean the clear coat of dirt, grime, and residue can lead to oxidization or corrosion. You need look no further than an older automobile to see what happens when a clear coat is not properly cared for; the shine on the paint is long gone and the entire texture of the surface appears worn and weathered.

Honda with peeling paint

Failure to clean the clear coat of dirt and grime will lead to permanent damage.
Image courtesy of Car Complaints.

As a professional painter, you should be utilizing a protective clear coat when possible on outdoor paint jobs. When painting a building or house, the paint you are using should already include protective qualities. But any automotive or airplane painting and most painting of outdoor structures like gas pumps and bike racks should include either specially protective coatings or a clear coat.

Using a clear coat will also please the client by virtue of how glossy the finished product looks. Keep in mind, however, that your motivation for using a clear coat is to protect the surface itself. In doing so, you can ensure a longer lifecycle for the painted object or structure to go along with a great appearance. Click here to learn more about how the coatings and paints you use serve to protect substrates and surfaces!

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