Stainless steel appliances are made from genuine stainless steel. Unlike clean steel or appliances made in other traditional colors such as white, black and off-white, stainless still is nonmagnetic. If you can place a magnet on the appliance and the magnet sticks, the appliance is not stainless steel.
Clean steel is made from carbon steel and finished with a laminate finish. This finish creates the look of stainless steel without some of the problems and cost of stainless steel. Unlike stainless steel, clean steel is magnetic.
Cleaning stainless steel requires diligence and, if you want to keep its original luster, specialized products. You can use products such as Elco Stainless Steel cleaner and Orange Glo to attempt to restore stainless' original look, but fingerprints and smudges can be difficult to remove from stainless steel appliances.
Clean steel offers an easier option for cleaning. Unlike stainless steel, clean steel doesn't hold fingerprints and smudges. Its surface can be easily cleaned using basic household products such as window cleaner or mild detergent.
While you can scratch stainless steel, these scratches will not rust over time as with traditional home appliances surfaces. Likewise, stainless steel cannot be stained by foods or dyes making it ideal for germ-conscious individuals.
Because clean steel has a laminate barrier that resists staining, if this laminate is scratched, rust and contaminates can settle inside the scratch. Otherwise, clean steel is as durable as most traditional home appliances on the market.
Most clean steel appliances perfectly emulate the look of stainless steel. While closer inspection will reveal that the appliance isn't stainless steel, the look is so similar that guests and, in some instances, even house appraisers won't notice the difference.
One of the biggest differences between stainless steel and clean steel is the cost. Buying clean steel appliances instead of stainless steel can save you more than $500 per appliance. A GE Energy Star Clean Steel 25.0 Cu. Ft. Side by Side Refrigerator retails for $1,299 as of 2009. The GE Profile Energy Star Stainless Steel 25.5 cu. Ft. Side by Side Refrigerator retails for $3,499 as of 2009.