Sleek, shiny, stainless-steel countertops: They’re the standard in restaurant kitchens, but are they a practical choice for home kitchens? Sure, they’re strong, durable, and easy to maintain, but they’re not typically the first choice of countertop for the average homeowner. Nonetheless, stainless is worth considering if you’re planning a kitchen remodel or if you end up touring a home with these countertops.
Here’s the kitchen countertop lowdown in terms of cost, care, and more.
Pros of stainless-steel kitchen countertops
“Stainless-steel countertops are ideal if you’re worried about bacteria and cleanliness,” says Debra Johnson, home cleaning expert at Merry Maids. Why? Metals are nonporous, “and therefore are antibacterial and stain-resistant,” she says. Stainless steel is also resistant to rust.
“For years now, I’ve been known for using metal for countertops,” he says. “For those of us who enjoy a clean kitchen that can literally be sprayed down, stainless steel is the way to go.”
Furthermore, you can set a hot pot on the surface (you can’t do that with a countertop made of wood). No more hastily throwing down a trivet before you pull a roasting pan out of the oven.
A stainless-steel kitchen countertop is also aesthetically pleasing and will suit a variety of design styles: modern, rustic, industrial, and more. Homeowners appreciate that the counters come in a variety of finishes, including brushed, mirrored, antique matte, and hammered—and you can match your countertop to a backsplash, kitchen island or sink.
You can also coordinate your cabinets with stainless steel, especially if you use a saturated hue. Bold cabinet colors in jewel tones work well because this highly reflective surface can keep your kitchen feeling spacious and bright.
Cons of stainless-steel countertops
They may be stainless, but they’re not resistant to scratches or dents. “Be warned: Even setting your car keys on top of them can scratch this countertop surface,” says James.
If you want a flawless countertop, you’ll have to be vigilant. “If you’re the person who wants everything to be without blemish, I’d say: Run quickly from this option,” warns James.
That said, a brushed stainless-steel finish will hide scratches, and a higher grade of metal will be more scratch-resistant. So if you’re set on having this type of countertop or backsplash, go with one of these options.
Another annoyance you’ll have to deal with on a near-daily basis is wiping away fingerprints. If you have stainless-steel appliances, we know you can relate.
Stainless steel does “require constant wiping down, as fingerprints end up everywhere, and don’t seem to ever fully go away,” says Johnson.
Beyond that, some people find that stainless-steel counters, sinks, and a backsplash can end up looking cold. The constant clanging of bowls, pans, and silverware on stainless steel while you’re cooking and washing can get annoying and is likely to be worse than it would be on marble, granite, tile, or wood countertops.
Stainless-steel countertop care
To keep your stainless-steel counters and sink looking good, you won’t have to invest in a special cleaner or stain remover—at least not for everyday maintenance. Johnson recommends wiping the surface down with warm, soapy water and a microfiber cloth.
“Then rinse the material and wipe down with water to remove the soap residue,” she says. “To dry, wipe down with a fresh microfiber cloth.”
You may want to use a stainless-steel cleaner a couple of times a month, following the directions on the bottle. And definitely avoid harsh cleaners, unless the label says they are specifically formulated for use on a stainless-steel countertop.