Back Button

How to Use Steel Wool to Degloss a Semigloss Surface

Alan Sembera

If you don't like the shine on an item with a semigloss surface, there is an easier alternative to refinishing it. You can use fine steel wool to tone down the shine on most semigloss surfaces.

Steel wool has many uses.

When you rub a semigloss surface with steel wool, you create tiny scratches that diffuse the light reflections and create more of a satin finish. This technique works on wood, plastic, metal and other materials. Try it on an inconspicuous part of the item to be sure you like the results before proceeding.

  1. Purchase the finest grade of steel wool. It will be labeled "0000" or "#0000."

  2. Wait for the semigloss finish to completely cure if it has been freshly applied. Usually this takes about 24 hours. Check the directions on your paint or finish to be sure. Use fine sandpaper to remove any large irregularities on a freshly painted or finished surface before deglossing.

  3. Position yourself and the item you are deglossing so that you can see the surface reflection on the item.

  4. Rub the gloss finish with the steel wool gently, in long strokes. Follow the grain if the item is made of wood. Use overlapping strokes and be careful not to rub through the finish, especially on the edges.

  5. Continue deglossing the item until you reach the desired sheen.

  6. Tip

    For a smoother finish, use paste wax as a sanding lubricant. When you are finished, use a soft cloth to buff the wax off the surface before it hardens.