In the past, consumers have had to compromise on appearance in order to gain the durability and easy-to-clean features of a semi-gloss finish.

Flat-finish paints have the reputation of providing an attractive, rich-looking finish that effectively hides surface imperfections. Strictly from an appearance standpoint, consumers often prefer flat finishes over semi-gloss finishes. However, many consumers have had to compromise on appearance in order to gain the durability and easy-to-clean features of a semi-gloss finish that previously were not found in flat paints. But now, due to a collaborative effort between 3M and Ace Hardware Corporation, an acrylic flat latex paint with the easy-to-clean attributes of a semi-gloss is available.

A New Coatings Additive

For decades, 3M has pioneered stain-release technology through Scotchgard™ Brand carpet- and fabric-protector products. 3M has also been an innovator in the coatings industry with products such as 3M fluorosurfactant additives that lower the surface tension of coatings, thus eliminating surface defects. Considering these two technologies, it is a natural extension for 3M to develop a paint additive with stain-resistant attributes.

The additive - 3M Scotchgard Protector - contains fluorinated materials. These materials localize at the coating surface, effectively lowering the surface energy and providing stain-resistant qualities. Though the technology has similarities to existing fabric and carpet protectors, 3M is the first to successfully extend this technology to producing an easy-clean paint.

Formulating an Easy-To-Clean Flat-Finish Paint

Ace Hardware Corporation is the first paint manufacturer to successfully incorporate the 3M Scotchgard Protector additive into a paint formulation. Named Ace Sensations™, this new premium acrylic latex paint combines the attractiveness of a flat-finish paint with the washability, durability and easy-to-clean attributes of a semi-gloss.

What differentiates the Ace Sensations paint from other flat-finish paints on the market today is its ability to be cleaned with mild cleansers and minimal washing. Typical flat-finish paints can be cleaned, but only with harsh detergents and rigorous scrubbing. This excessive cleaning process may eliminate the stain but often permanently alters the finish, creating a glossy or burnished defect. Furthermore, the new paint contains a mildewcide, making it safe to use in kitchens and bathrooms.

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Independent Test Results

In September of 2004, an independent testing and consulting laboratory - DL Laboratories, located in Brooklyn, NY - was commissioned to test and document the stain resistance of Ace Sensations paint, comparing it to the stain resistance of five premium acrylic flat paints available on the market. DL Laboratories used a standard recognized testing procedure, ASTM D 4828-94 (2003) e1 - Standard Test Methods for Practical Washability of Organic Coatings. The scope of this standard is described as "These test methods cover the determination of the relative ease of removal of common soil and stains from interior coatings by manual or mechanical washing with a sponge and a liquid or powder coating."1

Four common household stains - coffee, red wine, mustard and lipstick - were included in the study. The independent testing laboratory applied the stain and then cleaned the surface of the six flat-finish white interior wall coatings, including the Ace Sensations Premium Matte Flat. The number of cleaning cycles required to clean the surface are stated in Table 1.

While the Ace Sensations finish was cleaned fairly easily (with only two cycles required for cleaning the coffee), the other paints required a minimum of 46 cycles; four of the five premium paints could not be cleaned after 100 cleaning cycles. Ace Sensations clearly out-performed all of the other paints, requiring a total of only 32 cycles to clean the four stains, while the other paints required more than 226 cycles.

After completing the cleaning cycles, the independent laboratory rated the condition of the stain, which was rated as follows in accordance with the definitions of ASTM D 4828-94 (2003) e1:

  • 0 - No change from original intensity (depth) of stain;
  • 3 - Slight change from original, but readily visible;
  • 5 - Moderate change from original, slightly visible;
  • 7 - Large change from original, barely visible; and
  • 10 - All soil and stain removed.

The ratings on the condition of the stain of the six painted surfaces are shown in Table 2. Though a few of the paint brands released a few of the soil and stains, the Scotchgard-containing paint was the only one to release all the soils and stains completely.

The final phase of the analysis rated the condition of the paint surface after the cleaning was completed. Three conditions were rated - the gloss or sheen change, the color change and the erosion of the washed area relative to the unwashed area. Again, the testing laboratory used the definitions in ASTM D 4828-94 (2003) e1 to rate these properties. The paint surface conditions are given in Table 3.

While all of the surfaces had a slight color change, none of the surfaces showed any erosion of the washed area relative to the unwashed area. The paint with Scotchgard Protector was the only paint that showed no increase in the gloss or the sheen of the cleaned surface.

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These test results on four typical household stains clearly identified the Ace Sensations paint with Scotchgard Protector as the formulation that is easier to clean when compared to five other competing products. Consumers can now choose a flat finish without giving up the easy-to-clean advantage previously available only in semi-gloss finishes.


1 ASTM International, 100 Barr Harbor Drive, West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2959.

3M and Scotchgard are trademarks of 3M.
Ace Sensations is a trademark of Ace Hardware.