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Stainless Steel Finish Coming Off: Why and What To Do

Stainless steel has become increasingly popular in kitchen goods, from stainless steel tumblers and mugs to stainless steel appliances. Many manufacturers apply a smudge-proof coating on top of stainless steel to add color or designs. Unfortunately, sometimes these stainless steel finishes start to peel off.

Stainless steel finish comes off due to scratches or cleaners. Sometimes, oils from our hands wear down the thin coating of polymer or acrylic. Fix a peeling stainless steel finish on appliances by using a permanent marker to cover tiny nicks. For tumblers, remove the entire coating with acetone.

This article will cover the causes of peeling stainless steel and what you can do to fix it. We’ll also discuss how you can prevent your appliances and tumblers from peeling. Read on to learn more.

Stainless Steel finish peeling off - what to do.

What Causes Peeling of Stainless Steel?

Stainless steel is a metal that includes chromium, making it resistant to rusting and tarnishing. In addition, it provides heat-resistant qualities. It’s used in the food and catering industry, as well as in kitchen accessories, including cookware, cutlery, tumblers, sinks, and appliances.

The peeling of stainless steel appliances, tumblers, and mugs is typically caused by scratches, abrasions, and harsh cleaning chemicals. In some cases, natural skin oils may wear down the polymer or acrylic coating over time.

Black Stainless Steel Appliances

Black stainless steel appliances have become increasingly popular in homes. Dramatic, dark, cozy kitchen decor is becoming more commonplace, and while it creates a pleasing aesthetic, it comes at a steep price — and it may not last as long as standard stainless steel appliances.

While black stainless steel appliances are made up of the same materials as stainless steel (chromium, iron, nickel, and carbon), it also includes a thin coating. The coating may be polymer or acrylic, and it creates the lustrous or matte black finish that consumers love.

Unfortunately, the polymer coating may begin to peel over time, even with minimal use. Acrylic finishes are prone to scratches and nicks, revealing the silver stainless steel underneath. 

These coatings are designed to create a smudge-proof finish to prevent unattractive fingerprints from covering the surface. However, this coating is pretty weak and may be stripped off with harsh cleaners. Even regular opening and closing may cause some of the layers to peel off with time due to the natural oils in our skin.

Several consumers have complained about different manufacturers, including Samsung, LG, and Kenmore, due to stainless steel coatings peeling on their appliances (source).

A class-action lawsuit was filed against Samsung Electronics America, Inc. for the same reason (source). The cover on their black stainless steel appliances flakes off, and even refrigerator magnets are causing scratching on these appliances.

The primary complaint is that black stainless steel appliances begin peeling within a year of use. This leaves unsightly patches of silver exposed on the once-black appliance. The appliance retailers refused to fix the problem, claiming that the damage was “cosmetic” and, therefore, not covered under warranty.

Stainless Steel Mugs and Tumblers

Even stainless steel mugs and tumblers utilize protective coatings to add color and designs to the surface of the container. Over time and with repeated use, the natural oils in our hands may begin to break down the coating, leading to peeling and scratches. In some cases, abrasive cleaners can scratch the surface, causing the acrylic to peel.

Fortunately, removing the unsightly coating from mugs and tumblers is much easier than it is to strip a large appliance completely.

How To Fix Peeling Stainless Steel

Fixing a black stainless steel appliance that’s peeling is a challenging task. There isn’t much that you can do to restore the appliance to its original appearance. However, there are a few things that you can try to get it looking better until you’re able to invest in a new appliance or replace the panel.

However, for tumblers and mugs, you can completely strip the coating off using acetone, which we’ll cover later in this section.

How To Fix a Peeling Black Stainless Steel Appliance

If you’re not incredibly concerned with aesthetics, you can cover superficial scratches or small peeled areas with a black permanent marker. For deeper scratches, you can reach out to the manufacturer for touch-up paint.

Don’t use generic black paint — this will make the “repairs” very obvious. Because appliance colors vary widely between manufacturers, you need to get an exact match.

Unfortunately, covering the peeled coating with paint or a marker isn’t going to restore the appliance to its original state. Therefore, if you’re incredibly concerned about appearance, it’s best just to replace the entire panel if it’s interchangeable. This may cost you anywhere from $200 to $500, depending on the model.

In severe cases of peeling, it’s best to replace the appliance if you have the funds. Brands such as Bosch don’t use cheap coatings or paint over stainless steel. Instead, they bake paint into the stainless steel, making it far more durable – but also making “repairs” more challenging (source).

How To Fix a Peeling Stainless Steel Mug or Tumbler

To fix a peeling stainless steel mug or tumbler, you can completely remove the coating and then redecorate it with paint and a clear coat or cover it with a sticker or decal.

Here’s how to remove the peeled coating:

  1. Place the tumbler on a protective surface. You may use an old towel, newspaper, a worn t-shirt, or whatever else you have on hand.
  2. Remove the tumbler’s lid. Set it aside. If there’s any liquid in the container, wash it with a mild detergent and ensure that it’s thoroughly dry.
  3. Ventilate the room. Open windows and turn on a fan. Acetone has strong fumes, so you’ll want to ensure that the room has enough ventilation to prevent inhaling the chemical.
  4. Dip a cotton ball into the acetone. Test an area where you want to remove the coating. If the coating comes off, continue on to step five.
  5. Use circular motions to remove the coating. Work in small, circular areas, rubbing the cotton ball on the coating until it’s completely removed.
  6. Wipe the coating off. Using an old washcloth or paper towel, wipe away the leftover film.
  7. Wash the tumbler. Once you’ve removed all of the coating, wash the tumbler thoroughly using a mild detergent and warm water. Rinse well and allow to dry.

After you’ve removed the coating, you may redecorate your mug however you please. If you’d like to get crafty with your tumbler, I recommend the Cup Turner Tumbler Heat Gun Set (link to Amazon). This set comes with everything you need to start decorating your tumblers and is available at an affordable price.

How To Stop Black Stainless Steel From Peeling 

To prevent black stainless steel from peeling, you’ll need to be very selective with what you use to clean it. Avoid the following cleaners:

  • Commercial oven sprays/cleaners
  • Ammonia-based cleaners (never use window cleaner on black stainless steel)
  • Steel wool pads or other abrasive scrubbing sponges
  • Vinegar (it may wear down the coating)
  • Powder cleaners (including baking soda — these are mildly abrasive and may damage the coating)

Instead, opt for a soft, clean microfiber cloth, warm water, and a few drops of mild dish detergent. I recommend Dawn Ultra Original Dish Detergent (link to Amazon). This dish soap is mild and non-abrasive, so it won’t ruin the coating on your appliances.

In addition to gently cleaning your appliances, avoid using magnets on black stainless steel.

Stop Stainless Steel Tumblers From Peeling

Prevent stainless steel mugs from peeling by only hand-washing them in warm, soapy water. Don’t put them in the dishwasher — the detergents and cleaning mechanisms are too harsh.

To prevent stainless steel tumblers from peeling after you redecorate them, ensure that the vinyl, paint, or other decal adheres properly by allowing them to cure for two to four days. Additionally, you may use a food-safe clear coating to seal everything — and again, only hand wash your tumblers!


Stainless steel is durable and resistant to corrosion, so it makes an excellent material for kitchen accessories and appliances. However, when a coating is applied to stainless steel, it may peel, flake, scratch, or chip, leading to an unsightly surface.

To avoid this, invest in a higher-quality product that utilizes better technology instead of polymer or acrylic coatings. Additionally, you can remove the coating from items like tumblers or mugs and redecorate them yourself.

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