Hero image credit: KitchenAid.co.uk
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The black stainless steel style for kitchen appliances has been gaining popularity over the last few years. They are sold separately to regular stainless steel appliances. Companies may offer the same model in a variety of finishes including a black stainless steel version or develop completely separate product lines with unique features just for their black stainless steel line alone.
What Is Black Stainless Steel?
Black stainless steel appliances have a dark black outward appearance as opposed to the usual silver reflective stainless steel exterior. The black colouration effect is created by each manufacturer by adding different elements to the steel and using different methodologies to get the right look. There could be a wax or oil added to the metal or another element entirely to get the darker visual.
Alternatively, sometimes an oxide is prepared and applied with different heat levels and other elements instead of oil or wax, such as Magnetite, which creates a darker effect and a magnet response from the mineral too.
When completed, the black stainless steel is usually a bit more corrosive resistant and has a matt, darker appearance.
Is the Black Coloration Consistent Between Batches, Models or Manufacturers?
Each manufacturer has their own manufacturing methodologies with black stainless steel products. They may produce steel in large batches or small ones. The heat level, minerals, oils, wax and other elements used to create the visual change also varies too. This can be true between different years with a product range from a single manufacturer – i.e. they changed the process from the previous year’s models.
However, it’s most definitely true that the hue from one brand’s black stainless steel will differ from that of a competing brand. It naturally won’t be an exact match because the process used is different. Therefore, appliances typically are all bought from the same brand and it’s necessary to replace all major kitchen appliances at the same time too.
What’s the Attraction of Black Stainless for Homeowners?
Instead of owning stainless steel appliances that somewhat resemble silver in appearance, a trend developed to create darker interspersed with lighter areas within the kitchen. This gave these kitchens an almost space-age, Sci-Fi depiction complete with LED spotlights and the rest.Rather than having darker cabinets with recessed lighting but broken up by shiny stainless steel with the home appliances, choosing the newer black stainless steel kept with the darker colour palette. Also, the reduced reflection evident in the black treatment changes the whole appearance of a fridge, electric hob or other appliance installed in the kitchen.
The steel itself is the same, but it has been treated with other elements or materials to alter its appearance considerably from before. This doesn’t change its strength or durability though.
Does Every Black Stainless Steel Brand Sell Well?
The major brands like Whirlpool, KitchenAid, Samsung, LG, and Frigidaire all have black stainless steel models. However, not all sell as well. For some brands in the U.S. market, the black style has caught on and up to one-quarter or more of the market has gone this direction. However, in the U.K., it’s not as popular and hasn’t caught on as well. Perhaps in the higher-end kitchen installations, yes, but generally not so much.
Why might this be?
When changing kitchen appliances and style too, it’s necessary to replace all appliances at the same time if making the move to black stainless steel. Otherwise, it will just look out of place.
It’s likely that a complete kitchen remodelling project is done more frequently stateside and more often, the whole kitchen rather than just part of it. As such, there’s more opportunity to do wholesale changes that way.
However, in the British market, it’s often the case that the countertops are replaced as one task or an appliance is replaced to get an upgrade to the dishwasher, perhaps. Only when the kitchen looks quite dated or there’s a good chunk of spare money to invest will a homeowner do a full remodel of their kitchen and consider replacing all home kitchen appliances to match the new black steel design.
Is Black Steel a Fingerprint Magnet?
One of the downsides to stainless steel appliances is that they pick up oil on the fingertips and smears over the steel. Whether that’s from a child’s handprint experimenting with their reflection or just from regular use, it’s not the greatest. How does this differ with treated black stainless steel? Well, it’s still steel but because it’s got a darker surface and it doesn’t gleam in the same way, the fingerprints and smudges don’t show up anything like as much.
How Are Black Stainless Steel Appliances Cleaned Externally?
While they don’t pick up as many evident smudges and paw prints, they still do need cleaning on the exterior periodically to look their best. The best way to clean this type of steel without causing any damage to it is to use a soft cloth. The cloth can be microfiber or something else that’s soft but non-abrasive. This is preferred over a cloth with a rough fabric which would likely scratch the surface of the metal and remove part of the black coating from it.
Using the soft cloth, warm but not hot water is best used to wipe down the surface areas to clean them. Then dry the surface with a clean cloth and leave it immaculate once again.
Tip: Don’t leave spills or cooking remnants to dry and crust and become harder to remove later. The applied pressure and any stronger chemical-based cleaners required to get debris off the side of the appliance could well damage the black surface as a result. Wipe up early and often!
What About the Scratching Issues with Stainless Steel and Black Stainless Steel Appliances?
The issue with scratching is a commonly asked one about stainless steel generally, but also black stainless steel specifically. It may be of most concern to parents with young children who like to draw on walls and might not realise the implications of running a pen or a coin up against a fridge door. A pet’s paw marks from jumping up on the fridge door is another possibility too. Alternatively, something as simple as wearing a casual jacket with zips or a pair of jeans accidentally rubbing against the fridge door’s surface is enough to cause a nick or short scratch.
With stainless steel, the metal can sustain a scratch but unless you look closely, it might not be possible to see it. But with a series of scratches going back and forth over the surface, the repeated whiplash effect in an arching shape is likely to be quite visible.
How does this compare to black stainless steel?
What you have to bear in mind is that while the steel is treated, it still usually ends up with a thin coating over the top of the original stainless steel; the steel itself hasn’t morphed into something else. Therefore, like any coating over something, scratch deep enough and what’s beneath will reveal itself! And the same goes for black stainless steel too.
Can Scratches Be Removed From Black Stainless Steel?
The basic answer to this one is no.
The steel cannot be retreated to replace scratched black stainless steel with a fresh coat. There are various practical reasons why this isn’t possible. The most obvious ones are the cost to do so and that the finish won’t necessarily match the rest of the appliance’s exterior (a frequent problem with car panel repairs/replacements and resprays following an accident too).
However, a bit like with a car, you can touch it up using a black stainless steel scratch remover. These aim to fill in the gap where the original stainless steel beneath can be observed.
Do bear in mind that it’s difficult to tell whether these products will do more harm overall. There’s also the possibility that using them will void the warranty provided with the product, so check your product manual to be sure about that before buying and using them.
Can the Finish Peal or Flake Off a Black Appliance?
Some manufacturers add a finishing layer over the top of the black stainless steel. This aims to protect it from harm. A few consumers have noticed that these protective finishes can begin to peel or flake off even high-priced appliances within a year or two.
It’s important to be aware that the peeling is considered cosmetic by the majority of manufacturers and as such isn’t covered under their typical warranty. Consumers need to inspect the warranty for the product they’re considering and determine the situation with a particular brand.
What Happens If One of the Black Hued Appliances Needs Replacing Years Later?
Just like with any new or newish design feature, one has to wonder whether it will still be available in a few years’ time when perhaps one of the appliances is out of warranty and past its useful life. At which point, you may be faced with having to replace the appliance and struggle to find a new one in the same style that will match the appearance of the existing appliances. Unfortunately, this isn’t a risk you cannot get away from.
Are There Alternatives to Black Stainless Steel Finishes?
An interesting finish that provides some of the attractiveness and colouration but in a lighter hue is slate. Slate has only previously been offered by GE and there’s a limited number of appliances available in this finish. As with black stainless appliances, if GE stops making slate appliances, replacing one with a similar-looking model is likely out of the question. Also, it doesn’t allow shopping around with other brands to see what they may offer if you’re already married to slate.
How to Decorate the Kitchen When Buying Black Appliances?
For cabinets, white colours work particularly well to offset the black hue of the appliances in the kitchen. Adding fancy handles featuring nickel or chrome provides a contrast to the white cabinet doors yet looks the part with the black appliances. With countertops, you want to try and incorporate the colours already in use. Therefore, a darker granite countertop material – perhaps black in colour – will be fine. Yet try to pick a countertop that has some white veins through it, so a white or cream kitchen cabinetry will look well matched.
Consider your lighting carefully too. The more dark or black surfaces you’re including such as a countertop, kitchen island or black appliances, the darker the kitchen will appear to be. You’ll need plenty of natural light, recessed spotlights and other lighting tricks because the heavier hues will naturally darken the whole kitchen if you’re not aware of that and plan for it properly.
One way to add some reflection and/or colour is to jazz up a long backsplash to spread the colour all along the back-wall area. It’s possible to add a significant dash of colour as a complete contrast to the rest of the kitchen and have it be appropriate when done right.
Founder of homeappliancegeek.com, avid cook, and lover of Asian food.
Signature dishes include Thai Red Curry, Chicken Saag, Bibimbap and Sushi.
Massive clean freak; a habit baked-in after spending 9 years in the catering industry.
The one appliance he couldn’t live without? Easily the dishwasher (total relationship saver!).