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?

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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!

This Post Has 41 Comments

  1. Diane

    I was a little surprised when I first realized our magnets wouldn’t stick to our new fridge. But rather than try to find a way to stick everything up again, I started to really appreciate the nice clean uncluttered look. I get a little frustration over this, but in the end, I find it kind of comical that it is such a big deal to a lot of people. They are just magnets, get a magnetic white board or something ????

  2. Larry H

    Try super (rare earth) magnets if the side of your refrigerator is exposed. You can buy them online or at Home Depot. They would not stick on the front of my SS refrigerator but work well on the side. Inexpensive. 3-pack for $3 to $4.

  3. J

    Magnets will leave marks

  4. Troutslayer

    We recently purchased a a Frigidaire S/S Gallery model.This refer was sold as S/S however magnet s did stick to it.The sides and back were obviously steel.The sales person didn’t know that it wasn’t because he also tried to sell a spray can of S/S cleaner .So I think smudge proof equals faux S/S.

  5. Evelyn

    Interesting that the author’s focus is on acceptance and workarounds instead of what the real issue is. It’s not the product that is advertised i.e. stainless steel. At what point do we call out the manufacture’s false claim and false advertising??

  6. Christina

    Question: My husband says decorative magnets will “stain” the “stainless steel”. Is this true?

    1. Domestik Goddess

      I find this a bit of an odd question, Christina, as the whole problem with stainless steel is that decorative magnets don’t work on that surface without doing some kind of workaround such as we talk about in this article. Is it possible that your husband may be thinking of one of those stainless steel “look alike” surfaces that are used on some appliances, possibly a synthetic film or something of the sort? Or a magnet that’s been stuck onto a stainless steel appliance using some sort of adhesive? Perhaps one of our readers will have other knowledge, but honestly, I’ve not heard of any problem with magnets of any sort causing a stain on stainless steel by being in close contact with the appliance and not quite sure how one would manage it!

  7. SB

    We are getting a new Samsung SS fridge and I was looking for other alternatives for my magnets and came to your site. I checked the Choopa Board site and found this: >>Important Note: NOT RECOMMENDED FOR GE Profile, GE Monogram, Thermadore AND some SAMSUNG Stainless Steel appliances. Suction cups will not adhere to these brands for longer than a couple hours. Do not purchase if applying to these brands.<< Also they were out of stock on both sizes. I checked on reusable putty and lulalu clips – mixed reviews on both. Don't know what I'm going to do now.

    1. michelle

      Thanks for this tip! I have a GE profile fridge and almost asked my kids to get me the Choopa Board for Christmas. I miss my fridge magnets. :(

  8. Polly

    I wanted a country-retro kitchen, but I got stuck with a monstrous stainless steel fridge. I decided to make a collage of vintage family photographs and vintage valentines, using double sided tape. I covered the entire front of the fridge, and it looks great! The only downside is that if you decide to change the collage, it may be difficult to get the tape off.

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