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Matte vs Glossy Subway Tile: Differences & Uses Explained

matte vs glossy subway tile

Subway tiles are unique-looking, minimalistic tiles that offer an elegant and classy look to any space. With their compact and simple form, they can change the atmosphere of a room, depending on the owner’s particular need. These tiles come in many designs, sizes, patterns, and colors and can create a contrasting look or neutralize the space.

When it comes to the different finishes of subway tiles, similarly to most other tiles, you can choose between matte and glossy. Since every homeowner is searching for a unique and personalized approach, we will list all the differences and features of these two types to help you make the best decision.

Click Below to Jump Ahead:

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Overview of Matte Subway Tiles

installing rectified tiles
Image By: Sidorov_Ruslan, Shutterstock


Matte subway tiles are classic and modern tiles that come with a matte finish. The matte look offers the entire design a sophisticated feel while staying subtle and minimalistic. Matte subway tiles are designed to fit in larger rooms with more natural light and contribute to a minimalistic, neutral environment. They go especially well in rooms with edgy and eccentric designs to create balance. Since these specific tiles are non-shiny, they also have non-slippery features.

These tiles will provide your home with a rustic and timeless style with their simple form. The softness of the matte look and the warm undertones add a warm and soothing effect to any room.


Cleaning and maintaining your matte subway tiles may seem challenging because of the rough matte finish. When attempting to clean your matte subway tiles with regular water and soap, you may find that the soap accumulates on the rough surface. For this reason, cleaning your matte tiles with a gentle mixture of water, vinegar, and detergent is recommended. You can scrub the tiles with a harder brush, rinse them with water, and dry them with a cloth. While vinegar has excellent anti-bacterial properties, it will also prevent mold and mildew from growing on your tiles.

Maintaining clean matte subway tiles may need a little extra work, but these tiles are excellent for areas where there is a lot of splashing since the stains are less likely to be visible.

Where Are They Used?

Matte subway tiles are perfect for areas with high humidity levels and rooms with a lot of natural sunlight. Since they don’t have any reflective properties, you should avoid installing matte tiles in darker rooms. These tiles will be excellent installed in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, or outdoor patios. Matte tiles are a perfect solution for households with elderly or children because of their anti-slip properties. Matte subway tiles usually come smaller and narrower, which makes them ideal for backsplashes all around the home. They can be made into various designs and patterns to fit the room’s overall style.

  • Anti-slip properties that are excellent for households with senior citizens and smaller children
  • Excellent at concealing spillages, splashes, and water stains
  • They provide your home with a timeless and rustic look
  • The minimalistic form of subway tiles is versatile and easy to fit in with any design
  • They have a non-shiny surface which is ideal for creating a soft and calming environment
  • Unsuitable for darker rooms because they don’t reflect light
  • Challenging to maintain
  • Stubborn stains aren’t as easy to remove

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Overview of Glossy Subway Tiles

subway tiles
Image By: Pixabay


Glossy subway tiles are gorgeous symmetric tiles with a shiny finish. They are topped off with a glaze that reflects light, which creates an illusion of a more spacious room. Glossy subway tiles are excellent for smaller rooms or areas with insufficient natural light since they can contribute to creating a bright and warm environment. Contrary to matte subway tiles, which have a soothing effect, glossy tiles are an excellent way to liven up a room and add more energy and spark.

They go excellent with other matte surfaces, such as countertops and cabinets, by adding contrast and character.


Cleaning glossy subway tiles is generally much more straightforward than cleaning matte tiles. To clean these tiles thoroughly, you will need warm water and a mild cleaning agent. Since the surface of these tiles is so smooth, all that it takes is a single wipe to remove any stains. Nevertheless, there are some minor difficulties in the glossy design as well. Water stains or detergent marks will be much more visible once they dry up, especially with darker tiles. For that reason, it is crucial to finish cleaning your glossy tiles with a microfiber cloth to ensure no marks appear.

If you spill fluids on your glossy subway tiles, never leave it unattended, even if it is just water. Clean the spillage immediately with a sponge or a mop and dry the surface with a microfiber cloth.

Where Are They Used?

Since glossy subway tiles are so straightforward to maintain, they will be an excellent addition to high-traffic areas with a lot of humidity, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Glossy subway tiles are an excellent solution for smaller rooms such as hallways, tiny bathrooms, and entrance areas because their reflective properties create an illusion of a larger space.

If your kitchen is a bit smaller, with insufficient light, installing a glossy subway tile backsplash will help open up the space and create a transitional look. These tiles are excellent for rooms where rustic meets modern, creating a warm yet energetic space.

  • They can make any room seem more spacious and brighter
  • Straightforward to clean and maintain
  • A perfect blend of modern and rustic
  • Excellent at adding more energy and character to a dull room
  • Any imperfections will be more visible
  • Tend to be slippery
  • Unsuitable for rooms where the reflection may be distracting

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Subway Tile Patterns

Whether doing a kitchen backsplash or bathroom remodeling, you will need to decide on the pattern of your subway tiles. Since these tiles have such a simple and minimalistic form, there are multiple ways to stack them and create a unique design. There are various possible patterns to choose from and each one will give your space a unique look. The most common and popular patterns used in kitchens and bathrooms are:

  • Classic Brick Layout
  • Vertical Running Bond
  • Stacked Bond
  • Vertical Stacked Bond
  • Herringbone Pattern
  • Diagonal Herringbone
  • Basket Weave Layout

These are just a few of the many available options. While following these simple yet stunning designs, you are always free to play and customize your subway tile design to your own liking.

subway tiles patterns
Image By: Fire Clay Tile Examples of Subway Tile Layout, Lynn Friedman, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

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Which Subway Tiles Are Right for You?

After learning about each type of subway tile, you may wonder which type to choose for your home. Both tiles have an interesting and unique design, yet the finish makes them differ a lot. Your decision will only depend mostly on the purpose these tiles will serve and the room where you want to install them.

For a kitchen backsplash, a glossy subway tile may be a better choice simply because of the frequent splashes during cooking. You will want a tile with a smooth surface that will be easy and quick to clean.

For the bathroom, it would be best to install matte subway tiles. There will be frequent water splashing in the bathroom, especially shower stalls, and matte subway tiles are excellent at hiding water stains. These tiles also have anti-slip properties, making them excellent for constantly wet or humid areas.

If you are thinking of installing subway tiles in your hallway or entryway, it would be best to go for glossy since they do an excellent job at creating a feeling of a much larger space. They will add more natural light with their reflective properties, making your hallway brighter and more welcoming.

When installing subway tiles on your patio or balcony, the matte subway tiles are the right choice for you. These tiles will be pleasing and neutral to the eye, while a glossy finish may be too reflective for open space. The same goes for offices or study areas—matte tiles are recommended because they have a calming effect.

Matte Subway Tiles Glossy Subway Tiles
Appearance Soothing, calm, and neutral. Minimalistic and vintage style. Energetic and bright. Rustic style with a modern twist.
Maintenance Harder to clean. Better at concealing stains. Easier to clean. Stains are more visible.
Uses Larger rooms with plenty of natural sunlight. Excellent for bathrooms and kitchen floors. Excellent for patios. Smaller and darker rooms. Excellent for kitchen backsplashes and areas with frequent spillages.

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Matte and glossy subway tiles are excellent choices for any type of home, whether modern, rustic, vintage, or traditional. Since these tiles are so versatile, they offer a wide range of aesthetics. Owners that choose the glossy type of tile tend to go for a more lively and energetic option that will bring in as much natural light to the room as possible. Owners that need a peaceful and calm place tend to go for matte tile.

After reading about the features of each tile, hopefully, you can choose which one is better suited for your home.

Featured Image Credit: (L) yarmrtsnk, Shutterstock | (R) Kues, Shutterstock


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