Black Stainless Steel Appliances: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Black stainless steel appliances in brick walled kitchen

The Spruce / Francesca Maiolino

Black stainless steel appliances may have crested the top of the trend curve a few years ago, but it's a trend that has been stubbornly slow in declining. Unlike some home design trends that crash and burn, black stainless steel is still very much around, and for good reason: Black stainless steel has a timeless appeal that holds up well. 

Yet, that doesn't mean that black stainless steel appliances are perfect or that they work for all homes. Like anything else, they have their pros as well as their cons.

Black Stainless Steel Appliances Background

Black stainless steel and traditional silvery metallic stainless steel are exactly the same material, except for one thing. Both are made from that unique mixture of iron, chromium, silicon, nickel, and carbon that renders corrosive steel into a rust-proof material. The difference is that black stainless steel is coated with highly durable black protective polymer-based paint.

Black stainless steel owes its origins to metallic finish stainless steel appliances. Around the early 2000s, the white, almond, and cream-colored appliances of the 1990s began to make way for a more futuristic look inspired, in part, by restaurant kitchens. This was silvery metallic stainless steel. It was around that time that professional-quality appliances began to find their way into consumer-level kitchens, and stainless steel fit right in place.

By the 2010s, silvery colors gave way to black across the entire spectrum of appliances, including ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers, and more. Black stainless steel appliances were less dramatic and showy—by intent. That's because the other component of black stainless steel is its sheen: flat or matte, and anything but glossy and glowy.

Combining black with matte turns ordinary ranges and washers into domestic works of art and dials up their cool factor. Not only are matte finishes stylish, but they’re also practical since fingerprints and minor stains disappear or are minimized on flat finishes.

Black Stainless Steel Appliance Pros

Timeless

Black is a universal color that crosscuts through all style iterations. While it does have its minor design trend ups and downs, it’s just about the most trend-proof color out there. Black can be a prominent statement color or it can background other colors.

Matches Nearly Every Other Color

Black isn’t just a primary color; it’s one of the very few primary colors that can be matched with other all other shades. Black matches well with both warm and cool neutrals. It also goes with gray, brown, white, beige, and navy.

Nearly Smudge-Proof

No appliance surface hides all smudges. But black, combined with the matte sheen, does a remarkably good job of hiding most smudges and fingerprints. Black matte ovens tend to hide the inevitable smoke damage over the door quite well.

Easy to Clean

Metallic-finish stainless steel requires special cleaners. Because black stainless steel is coated, it can be cleaned with warm water and a soft rag or with non-abrasive kitchen cleaners. Never use brushes with bristles or abrasive cleaners as this can lift the polymer-based paint coating off the surface.

Black Stainless Steel Appliance Cons

Might Not Always Be In Fashion

Though black stainless steel is a trend with solid underpinnings, it’s still a trend. If you’re concerned about keeping up with the latest looks, you may want to wait until black stainless steel comes around the next time. As always, what comes around, goes around. Black’s trend cycle is likely to be shorter than with other colors.

Different Black Coatings May Clash

When pairing black stainless steel appliances from different manufacturers, these blacks may not match—either in shade or in sheen. For this reason, it’s best to stick to the same brand when purchasing a collection of black stainless steel appliances. The difference in two different black matte appliances can often be more disconcerting than when black is paired with a completely different color.

Deep Scratches Will Show

Metallic-finish stainless steel resists scratches well because it is a solid, homogeneous surface. If it gets scratched, there is more of the same material underneath. By contrast, black stainless steel is coated. Scratches in the coating show the material underneath—quite visibly, too, since the lower surface is shiny steel.

Tip

Most manufacturers of black stainless steel appliances sell touch-up paint in small quantities to cover up nicks and scratches. Be sure to use the brand-specific paint rather than purchasing a universal paint meant for any matte black appliance.

Some Marks Are Visible

As with any dark-colored appliances, lighter-colored smudges and marks will show against the dark surface. Since this is inevitable, be ready to wipe up light or white marks with a microfiber cloth or a soft rag, along with warm water and mild soap.