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Stainless Steel and Fridge Magnets: 7 Solutions

Whether it’s your family message center, an ever-changing scrapbook page, your photo gallery, or a do-it-yourself collage of spontaneous artwork, the front of the refrigerator is one of the most important pieces of real estate inside your home.

Oh, but those stainless steel appliances that look so elegant and modern? They’re a problem. Because it’s true — and the sales guys won’t think to warn you — your magnets won’t stick to most stainless steel refrigerators.


Photo: DairDair

Designers and decorators and magazine editors don’t quite get it. And I guess the appliance makers don’t either.

They may think we should revel in a pure clean uncluttered fridge front, but guess what?

We don’t.

We don’t want to live with a blank-faced fridge.

We love our fridge magnets — the holiday souvenir magnets and giftshop impulse-buy magnets, the tacky ad magnets from the pizza take-out, magnetic note pads, plastic alphabets, and strange glue-smeared scraps of felt on magnetic tape, made by loving preschool hands — all of them!

Our magnets help us to organize and celebrate our family’s daily lives. Right there at eye level — right in the heart of the house.

What the home appliance manufacturers need to do is sit down in my kitchen for a cup of coffee and look around. Maybe in your kitchen, too. Definitely in my friend Kathy’s kitchen…

Then maybe they’d begin to understand why North America resounds with the wail — “My fridge magnets won’t work on stainless steel!” And then maybe they’d get their act together to give us the one feature in a refrigerator that’s needed above all others: the ability to decorate the front of it with magnets.

Does it matter?

I say, yes.

So I’ve looked into this stainless-steel-fridge-magnet issue a bit, and here’s what I’ve turned up: 7 solutions!

None of these alone is the one perfect solution to your stainless steel fridge art crisis, but there are enough ideas here that some sort of mix-and-match fix should be possible:

1. Different Fridge:

Not all stainless steel appliances are created equal, however. Okay, this is science stuff and makes my eyes glaze over, but it seems to have something to do with the different amounts of nickel in the metal alloy that’s used to face the appliances that we call “stainless steel” appliances.

The good news is, some stainless steel fridges will, in fact, work for fridge magnets — especially if the magnet is fairly strong. The most magnet-friendly appliances have a thin sheet of stainless steel as a decorative face over a metal core that’s more ferromagnetic — meaning a metal that magnets will stick to.

If you haven’t bought a fridge yet, take a few magnets to the store and test the attraction before you make a final buy.

2. Different Side:

Many “stainless steel” refrigerators are made differently on the front than they are on the sides. If your fridge magnets won’t stick to the door, try the side of it — if your kitchen arrangement allows easy access to it, of course.

3. Different Appliance:

Or try the dishwasher, or another convenient appliance. For some reason — perhaps because the smaller expanse of metal on the face doesn’t need to have the same strength as a whole big fridge door, your non-fridge stainless steel appliances seem to be more likely to want to play nice with the magnets.

This is great, if all you want is to put your plastic alphabet magnets out for the little kids to learn to spell while you’re making dinner… but it’s not a great solution for those of us who love the ever-changing eye-level Metropolitan Refrigerator of Art.

4. Different Surface:

You can get magnetic paint and make yourself a new magnet display place from a convenient cupboard door, or even a section of wall. I like this idea very much, and a painter pal tells me that the magnetic paint does work very well.

You might even get a can of blackboard paint, too, and paint yourself a half-and-half magnet board and chalk board.

The only problem there is, in a small kitchen, you might not have the blank wall space to spare.

Oh, and you’d still have a great big bare shiny cold medical-looking stainless steel fridge, just beggin for some crayon art and a souvenir magnet from Niagara Falls…

refinished fridge 5. Same Fridge Only Different:

Instead of replacing your old, magnet-friendly fridge with the hip new stainless steel you crave, at the cost of your art display, consider a refinishing job.

A good cabinet shop may be able to fit a new stainless steel panel to the front of your existing fridge, depending on the model and its age. If the new face-panel is thin enough, your magnets should still be able to work.

Or there’s a liquid stainless steel brush-on coating that’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a new fridge if all you really need right now is a kitchen decor update.

It goes on a lot like paint, they say, but if that’s more of a do-it-yourself job than you’re keen to take on, I’ll bet the Yellow Pages can find you a professional painter or refinisher who’s done it a dozen times and can make your old fridge look like new stainless steel. For about $50 plus labor.

And your beloved magnets will still work on your fridge.

6. Different Sticky:

Some people say you should just use sticky tape, or reusable putty or those Lulalu clips or, who knows, a wad of chewing gum… well, maybe not the gum… but something other than magnets, anyway, to post your photos and memo-notes on the fridge.

That’s not a bad idea, and it gives a great excuse to go browse in the office supplies store! The down side: you don’t get to use and display your magnet collection.

choopra board 7. Different Metal:

So, if you go the tape-and-sticky-gum route for your fridge display, and you still want to show off your magnet collection — or if you’re bound and determined to use those magnets on the fridge, no other surface will do — there’s something called the Choopa Board that could be your fridge’s new best friend.

It’s a metal board that comes in three different sizes (and two colour options: white or stainless steel) with suction cups on the back. You stick one to the front of the fridge, then stick your magnets on the Choopa Board.
Problem solved!

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31 comments… add one

  • Wayne 2013/06/02, 11:17 pm

    Pay special attention to solution number 7! Lise

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