Scuff-resistant flat wall paints are no longer just for commercial buildings. They've found their way into remodeling and custom homebuilding, thanks to changes in how people live.

Today's homes are built or remodeled with a variety of uses in mind. Rather than serving as a place to return to in the evening, homes need to accommodate family members who work and study at home full-time.

But that means more wear and tear—and the potential for callbacks. It's why in the past, pros usually specified a washable eggshell finish. A flat finish does a better job hiding surface imperfections, but has a reputation for being prone to scuffing.

Scuff-resistant paint solves the problem. It ensures that surfaces in high traffic areas—like hallways where kids drag their hands along the wall—will stay looking good long after the paint dries.

Some professionals and homeowners question whether this type of paint will deliver on its promise, or whether it will continue to perform over time. To answer that we spoke with Dr. John Gilbert, Chief R&D Officer at Behr, which makes Behr Ultra Scuff Defense interior flat paint. He says the concern reflects a misunderstanding of how it's made.

That's because its scuff resistance doesn't come from an additive that can wear away. Instead, it's a function of the paint's formulation—the pigments and polymers used. Let’s look at each of them.

John Gilbert, Chief R&D Officer at Behr
John Gilbert, Chief R&D Officer at Behr

Low Profile Pigments

People generally equate pigment with color. But while most paints include color pigments, they're not the only type. In fact non-coloring pigments are a key ingredient of flat paint.

"Traditional flat paints have amorphous pigments that stick up above the surface," says Dr. Gilbert. You can think of them as microscopic hairs that are too small to see with the eye yet big enough to scatter light. That light scattering ability is what makes flat paint flat.

However these 3D pigments also make flat paint vulnerable to scuffing. "Rubbing something against the surface can knock over the pigment particles," he adds. The rubbed area loses its light-scattering ability and ends up with a burnished or shiny look that can only be fixed by a touch-up with fresh paint.

The pigments used in scuff-resistant paint are different. While they scatter just as much light, they also have a lower profile. Rubbing against the wall won't knock them over.

Energy Killing Polymers

The type of polymer used in scuff resistant paint ensures that a hand dragged across the wall is unlikely to leave dirt on the surface. That's because it lowers the paint’s "surface energy" compared to regular flat paint.

Surface energy measures the attraction between unlike substances; the lower the energy, the less attraction. Dirt will be less attracted to a wall with low surface energy.

To visualize how this works consider two cars: one with a coating of wax and one without it. If you pour a drop of water on the unwaxed car, it will be attracted to the paint's high surface energy and will spread out. Waxing the car lowers its surface energy so the water is happy to bead up in one place.

Of course the differences are that wax is shiny and wears off over time. The pigment used in a scuff-resistant paint eliminates the shine and the polymer makes low surface energy a permanent feature.

Learn more about a flat interior paint that’s truly scuff-resistant at