The Pros and Cons of Black Stainless Steel

Get the 411 on this trendy appliance finish to see if black stainless steel is the smart choice for your home.

What’s black and cool and red hot all over—in appliance showrooms and up-to-the-minute kitchens and laundry rooms? It’s black stainless steel, the modernistic finish gaining popularity for refrigerators, washers and dryers, stoves, and dishwashers, currently available from such manufacturers as LG, Bosch, Frigidaire, Samsung, KitchenAid, and GE. While black stainless isn’t yet close to toppling traditional stainless steel from the top of the major appliance scene, it’s definitely on the upswing, and not just for its sleek good looks. But before ditching your old-school white or familiar stainless steel in favor of this up-and-comer, you’re wise to consider the pros and cons of the new black finish. Read on for all you need to know to make an informed decision.

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PRO: Black stainless steel is resistant to fingerprints and smudges.

One of the biggest drawbacks to traditional stainless steel is how smudges and fingerprints seem to multiply across its metallic surface, meaning extra work for you to keep it looking flawlessly clean. Black stainless steel, however, is much more resistant to smudges, fingerprints, streaks, and water spots. And when the finish does need a touchup, it’s easily accomplished with a damp cloth and a bit of gentle liquid dishwashing soap or a homemade stainless steel cleaner featuring diluted vinegar—no need for special cleaners or wipes.

CON: It’s prone to scratching.

The black surface is created with a colored acrylic coating across regular stainless steel that unfortunately scratches fairly easily. That means any ding or nick—from a piece of furniture, a child’s bike, even a laundry basket—could remove the coating to reveal the silvery stainless steel underneath. Such scratches are glaringly obvious, marring the beauty of a pricey appliance. And while some manufacturers offer touchup kits to hide the scratches in stainless steel, it’s generally very difficult to restore black stainless steel to its original pristine appearance.

PRO: Black stainless steel complements today’s popular color schemes.

Just as basic black works well with virtually every color in your wardrobe, black stainless steel complements many design concepts and color schemes—largely because it “feels” a bit warmer than traditional stainless steel. Black stainless steel appliances are beautiful against white and gray in all their variations, which designers are touting for today’s clean, contemporary kitchens. Yet the new finish also suits natural wood tones as well as most paint colors, including brights.



Black Stainless Steel Trending in Appliances

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CON: Different manufacturers’ black finishes can clash.

Surely you’ve seen how a pair of black pants with a greenish undertone can clash with a black shirt that has a reddish undertone. So don’t assume that all black finishes are the same and will automatically look good together. Black from one brand may not match black from another because each has a slightly different undertone. To avoid an off-putting look, buy all new appliances at the same time from the same brand.

PRO: Black stainless steel is very trendy.

If you like to be the first on your block to show off any new trend, then you’ll love the fashion-forward appeal of black stainless steel. With its cutting-edge vibe, it makes clear that your taste is securely anchored in the 21st century, not hanging on to decades past. That’s also a strong consideration if you plan on selling your home in the near future, and you live in an affluent neighborhood where potential buyers will be expecting the latest look.

CON: Trends come and go.

The downside of adopting the latest trend is that sooner or later, something newer will take its place. After all, when was the last time you saw an avocado green fridge in someone’s kitchen? Although trends in interior design don’t change with the seasons, as they do in the fickle fashion world, within a few years, black stainless steel appliances might eventually date your kitchen or become difficult to replace as manufacturers drop the finish in favor of whatever replaces it.

PRO: Black stainless steel serves as a statement piece.

Just as interior decorators will use a dramatic piece to create a focal point for the living room, a black stainless steel appliance can serve as the statement piece in your kitchen. And as open kitchens continue to become the norm, and serve as the entertaining hub of the home, such a statement piece becomes more important. With choices ranging from soft and matte to sleek and shiny, a black finish is a sure attention-getter and a way to spice up a space that might otherwise be seen as utilitarian.

CON: You’ll pay more for black stainless steel.

Regular stainless steel costs $100 to $250 more than the same model of appliance in white and, not surprisingly, you’ll also pay a premium for trendier black stainless steel. While prices vary considerably from brand to brand, as a general rule, expect to pay around $200 to $300 more for the same model appliance with a black stainless steel finish instead of regular stainless steel.