The hot new finish for major home appliances is black stainless steel—that's stainless steel with a sleek, dark finish. Although it's not nearly as popular as regular stainless steel, we've noticed that some of the new refrigerators and washing machines coming into our test labs right now rock black stainless. It's eye-catching, very different, and it's picking up momentum—slowly.
KitchenAid, LG, and Samsung introduced versions of the finish in 2015, followed by almost every other appliance brand. Black stainless quickly gained in popularity because it makes a statement. "Black is a hot look," says kitchen designer Dianne Aucello of Edesia Kitchen & Bath Studio in Burlington, MA. "I personally like it. Black stainless is a nice answer for people who don't want to clean stainless."
Millennials, who tend to gravitate toward contemporary kitchens, are the first group to embrace black stainless. And upscale appliance retailer Yale Appliance says that black stainless currently accounts for almost a third of its package sales. That's a big number, but it's not universal.
According to the 2017 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, 7% of homeowners are choosing black stainless appliances, while 72% are sticking with standard stainless steel, meaning that the black finish isn't catching up to regular stainless any time soon.
Black stainless isn't just one finish
After years of relying on traditional stainless, manufacturers may be trying to jumpstart appliance sales by pushing black stainless. However, consumers should be cautious: One of the big issues with the new finish is that every brand has a different take on it, making it hard to mix and match in a kitchen.
Frigidaire does black stainless with more of a spotted look. Samsung shows it shiny, with a nice grain. LG offers black stainless as well as the matte-finished matte black, both very attractive and fashion-forward. GE calls their color black slate, and gives it a neutral stone look that blends well and does a great job hiding fingerprints.
Is it a trend or a fad?
Regular stainless steel is timeless, with a professional, commercial look and feel. Is black stainless just as classic? While it provides a beautiful contrast to existing white or light gray cabinets and pale quartz counters, it also goes along with a move toward the dark side, with black kitchens showing up on design sites.
Caring for black stainless
While it resists smudges and doesn't require the frequent polishing some stainless appliances need, black stainless appliances also require careful maintenance. While fingerprints don’t show, scratches can be obvious, revealing the plain silvery stainless underneath. So, don't even think of putting magnets on black stainless, even though in most cases, they'll stick.
If you buy a black stainless appliance, treat it gently and clean it with a soft cloth. If scratches do show up, in many cases it’s possible to polish them out or do spot refinishing. Not everybody will want to go there, though.
If the manufacturers can overcome its propensity to scratch, black stainless seems poised to be with us for the long haul. And that's appropriate, because appliances can last for many years. No buyer wants black stainless to end up as the 21st century equivalent of outdated harvest gold or avocado green from Grandma's 1970s kitchen. Luckily, black stainless doesn't seem to be going that route.
How to use it in a kitchen or laundry room
You don’t need to buy a full black stainless suite to include the finish in your kitchen reno or new build. That's a good thing, because not every appliance is widely available in it. "I haven't seen range hoods or warming drawers in black stainless yet, but I look forward to it," Aucello says.
So black stainless steel is a qualified yes. Mixing metals is modern, so don’t be afraid to add a single black stainless appliance as a statement piece in a kitchen or laundry room where all the other machines are stainless steel. Sexy black stainless steel can add beauty and drama to your most functional space.