Brushed Nickel vs. Chrome Fixtures: Which One Is Better?

Brushed Nickel vs. Chrome

A faucet is an often overlooked aspect of a kitchen or bathroom that makes all the difference. The design, style, and material that you choose are a big part of the room’s overall aesthetic. Two of the most popular materials are brushed nickel and chrome, but what’s the difference?

Brushed nickel is ideal if you want a durable faucet or showerhead that can pair well with warm colors. Fingerprints and smudges do not show up on brushed nickel fittings, so they require little maintenance. Chrome, however, is best paired with cool colors as it is reflective, but it’s also susceptible to smudges and fingerprints.

You may prefer chrome if you want to pair the finish with other metals in the same room. The brushed nickel goes with other metals as well, but chrome’s notable sheen makes it stand out. Let’s take a close look at these two notable finishes and how they stand out from one another.

Don't want to do it yourself?
Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.


Brushed Nickel

Brushed nickel is a finish in which nickel is carefully applied to a pipe or fitting. This finish is widely sought after by builder-owners looking with warm colors in the room in question. Brushed nickel has long been used in kitchens and bathrooms with warm color palettes, and they’re a match made in heaven.

Manufacturers will mechanically buff the nickel paired to the fitting to smooth out the fixture. Then, the brushed nickel is finished using either a chemical or electromagnetic process leaving it non-reflective and smooth. Brushed nickel is most commonly used for faucets and showerheads, and it is quite durable.

You don’t have to worry about water damage and erosion as brushed nickel has a lacquer finish. Brushed nickel is just as strong as it is beautiful, and it can tie any bathroom or kitchen together.


Chrome is unique from brushed nickel in how it’s made and how it ultimately looks when finished. Using electrolysis, chrome is bonded to a pipe or fitting so that it is strongly connected. Because of this strong bond, chrome can withstand consistent moisture and fluctuations in temperature.

Chrome differs from brushed nickel in that it is quite reflective and has a nice sheen. Because of that, it is traditionally paired with cooler color palettes, but it complements warm colors as well. Generally, chrome is considered to be more decorative than brushed nickel, but both finishes are quite attractive.

Difference Between Brushed Nickel and Chrome

Besides their appearance and application, brushed nickel and chrome are quite different from one another. Chrome compliments cool colors and brushed nickel complements warm colors, but the differences don’t stop there. Let’s take a close look at how brushed nickel and chrome are different from one another.


Believe it or not, there is little to no difference between the cost of chrome and brushed nickel. Both finishes are affordable considering their durability and appeal. For many years, brushed nickel cost more than chrome, but those days have been over for a while now.

A brushed nickel faucet from Build Essentials costs $109, and that’s a great deal. Chrome faucets from Build Essentials cost $10 less at $99. The difference in cost is so minuscule that choosing between the two comes down to aesthetics.


Maintenance is a factor with any household fixture, and that includes faucets and showerheads. Between the two, brushed nickel is much easier to maintain than chrome due to the finish. That is because chrome is somewhat sensitive to touch as it can amass fingerprints quite easily.

You may have to wipe your chrome faucets clean a few times per week if the fingerprints grow to be an annoyance. However, because brushed nickel is less reflective, that is not an issue at all. Brushed nickel faucets and showerheads are generally resistant to fingerprints and smudges.

Even though chrome needs to be cleaned more often, it is more durable than brushed nickel. With that said, brushed nickel is known to hold its finish longer than chrome, so there’s a bit of a tradeoff. You won’t need to worry about refinishing brushed nickel anytime soon like you may when it comes to chrome.


Brushed nickel is ideal for kitchen and bathroom faucets due to its resiliency. Bathroom and kitchen faucets are touched all day every day, and that leads to smudges. Because those smudges don’t register with brushed nickel, you are less likely to be annoyed by them or have to see them.

While chrome may smudge easily, it also draws the eyes more due to its reflective nature. This is especially true if it is among stainless steel where it will truly stand out. Brushed nickel faucets, on the other hand, does little to stand out amongst stainless steel and other types of metal.

Brushed nickel faucets are generally considered to be more traditional than chrome faucets. If you want a low-maintenance faucet that you won’t need to clean, go with brushed nickel. However, if you want a faucet that will stand out in your kitchen or bathroom, choose a chrome finish.


When it comes to showerheads, brushed nickel may be the better option for you. That is because brushed nickel can easily blend in with other metals that may be present in the shower or bathroom. However, strategically choosing chrome is a great way to create a contrast in the bathroom with your showerhead.

Another benefit of brushed nickel showerheads is how resilient they are to corrosion. This is important because of how much moisture fills a confined space in a bathroom. However, chrome is quite resilient as well and you’re less likely to have to worry about fingerprints when it comes to showerheads.

The price difference is more pronounced between brushed nickel and chrome when it comes to showerheads. For example, a brushed nickel Kohler showerhead costs $71, whereas a chrome Kohler showerhead costs $49-$58. If you want a showerhead that blends in with your bathroom, choose brushed nickel, but if you want contrast, go with chrome.

Is Brushed Nickel Better Than Chrome?

Brushed nickel is not better than chrome, but it certainly requires less maintenance. Most of the best faucet brands offer both brushed nickel and chrome finishes because they are highly sought after. Many homeowners make their choice between brushed nickel and chrome-based on aesthetic and not performance.

When you decide between brushed nickel and chrome, take a look at the room that the fixture is going in. If you have many warm colors in the room in question, then you are best off putting a brushed nickel faucet or showerhead in. The non-reflective nature of brushed nickel goes with warm colors like peanut butter and jelly.

However, if you have cool tones, such as blue, the reflective surface of chrome will fit in perfectly. Brushed nickel is generally only $10-$15 more than chrome, so the price is not a major factor in the decision. Most brands carry brushed nickel and chrome variants of the same faucets, so compare the two based on your aesthetic.

Does Chrome Go With Brushed Nickel?

Believe it or not, chrome and brushed nickel go well together, and both finishes are to blame. Because brushed nickel is so neutral and non-reflective, it can pair well with other finishes, such as chrome. For example, some of the best handheld showerheads are chrome and can be perfectly paired with a brushed nickel showerhead.

If you’d prefer to have a shiny shower head, you could choose chrome and pair it with brushed nickel faucets. Or, you could choose chrome for the pipe fittings and brushed nickel for the showerhead for a less shiny finish. After all, one of the key benefits of brushed nickel is that it goes with other metals.

Both brushed nickel and chrome go together with stainless steel well. Some homeowners say that mixing finishes doesn’t look good, but chrome and brushed nickel are a match made in heaven.

Brushed Nickel vs. Chrome vs. Stainless

If you want a distinct modern look, then stainless steel may be the choice over chrome and brushed nickel. Stainless steel is somewhat of a perfect middle ground between chrome and brushed nickel in its style. Or you could simply choose stainless steel appliances and pair them with brushed nickel or chrome fittings and faucets.

You can get creative and have fun when pairing different metals in a kitchen or bathroom. Brushed nickel blends in quite well with stainless steel as it does with many metals. However, if you want to create a contrast, you can choose stainless steel appliances with chrome faucets and finishes.

Ultimately, stainless steel is more durable than both brushed nickel and chrome finishes, but only by a small margin. Stainless steel does not fall victim to rust, and that alone can make some homeowners choose it over chrome or brushed nickel. You don’t need to choose one over the other, and they all pair together quite well.

Related Questions

Does chrome rust?

Chrome finishes are ideal for protecting against rust, but they can still fall victim to rust. This primarily occurs when oxygen mixes with moisture, often in a combined space, such as a bathroom. Scratches and damage can also contribute to rust forming on chrome showerheads and faucets.

Is stainless steel or chrome better?

Stainless steel is stronger and more durable than chrome, but chrome generally looks better. Homeowners typically choose chrome due to how attractive it looks, and less because of durability. With that said, both stainless steel and chrome are durable and can withstand moisture, heat, and damage.

Will brushed nickel tarnish?

Brushed nickel can tarnish despite being considered one of the most durable finishes. When brushed nickel starts to tarnish, it typically develops a milky sheen that is easy to spot. This is most common for brushed nickel showerheads as bathrooms experience a high volume of moisture over time.

Is bushed nickel hard to keep clean?

No, brushed nickel is not hard to keep clean because it’s resistant to fingerprints and smudges. Scratches, dents, and general wear and tear can occur with brushed nickel, but it’s hard to notice. Compared to chrome, you won’t often have to clean brushed nickel as it rarely shows signs of being handled.

Should chrome be waxed?

No, you should avoid using wax on chrome at all costs to keep it in good shape. Wax causes the surface of a chrome faucet or showerhead to effectively suffocate as wax seals it. This can lead to the chrome deteriorating and looking bad, so water and a towel are all you need to clean it.

Does vinegar harm chrome?

Over time, yes, vinegar can harm chrome and make it lose its reflective sheen. This is because vinegar is an acid, and long-term acid exposure can degrade chrome. If you need to use vinegar, avoid using it often as the chrome finish will deteriorate with continual use due to the acid content.

Is brushed nickel rust resistant?

Yes, brushed nickel is rust-resistant, but it can eventually become rusty. This is even truer if the brushed nickel in question is located in a bathroom. The most rust-resistant metal and metal finish is stainless steel which is known to maintain rust resistance.

Don't want to do it yourself?
Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.


What Did We Learn?

Brushed nickel is slightly more durable than chrome, and it is less maintenance when it comes to cleaning. This is mostly because smudges and fingerprints are invisible on brushed nickel, which cannot be said for chrome. However, chrome also provides a distinct and reflective shine that you cannot get with brushed nickel finishes.

If you have a bathroom or kitchen with a warm color palette, brushed nickel will compliment it more. However, cool color palettes are best complimented by chrome finishes for faucets, pipe fittings, and showerheads. Brushed nickel is often only $10-$15 more expensive than chrome, and that’s because it’s considered more modern.

Both chrome and brushed nickel last for years, but you need to care for them. Avoiding waxing or washing either finish with vinegar as it can degrade the finish quickly. Ultimately, your choice between brushed nickel and chrome comes down to personal taste, and both are great finishes.

Nick Durante

Nick Durante is a professional writer with a primary focus on home improvement. When he is not writing about home improvement or taking on projects around the house, he likes to read and create art. He is always looking towards the newest trends in home improvement.

Recently Published