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

Nick Durante
by Nick Durante

Plumbing fixtures are only as durable and attractive as the finish that you choose. Brushed nickel and chrome are among the most common finishes for faucets and showerheads. So, what is better; brushed nickel or chrome fixtures?

Brushed nickel fixtures are easier to maintain than chrome because they don’t smudge easily. Fingerprints appear on chrome fixtures easily and you will need to clean them more often. Chrome fixtures are generally at least $10 cheaper than brushed nickel fixtures even though many homeowners consider chrome to be more stylish.

Both options are great and the cost difference between brushed nickel and chrome is minimal. It ultimately comes down to personal taste and whether you want your fixture to match the other metals in the room. Follow along as we explore the differences between brushed nickel and chrome fixtures.

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Brushed Nickel

Brushed nickel is a popular finish for many fixtures that looks similar to stainless steel. Manufacturers carefully apply nickel to a fixture and buff it to create a subtle, matte look. Brushed nickel fixtures are non-reflective and are known to compliment rooms with warm colors.

Professionals use either an electromagnetic or chemical process to ensure brushed nickel surfaces are smooth. Homeowners love brushed nickel both for the appearance the durability which is just as important. Water damage is a serious concern for plumbing fixtures, but that is not a problem with brushed nickel.


Chrome is a shiny and reflective finish that you can find in bathrooms and kitchens. Homeowners generally pair chrome fixtures with cool color palettes because of chrome’s reflective nature. The classic, shiny appearance of chrome makes it the most decorative finish for plumbing fixtures.

Professionals use a process called electrolysis to bond chrome to pipes and fittings. This process can ensure that the chrome will stay on the fitting through prolonged exposure to moisture. Chrome fixtures are attractive, durable, affordable, and can complement any color scheme.

Brushed Nickel Vs. Chrome

Brushed nickel and chrome are the two most common finishes for plumbing fixtures. Both finishes are durable, attractive, and close in cost. Let’s take a look at the key differences between brushed nickel and chrome fixtures to see how they compare.


Brushed nickel is the perfect finish for faucets because of its appearance and durability. Chrome is a great option as well, but it is easy to smudge chrome. Homeowners generally hand faucets more than other plumbing fixtures, so it would be hard to avoid smudges with chrome.

Smudges aren’t a problem with brushed nickel which makes them perfect for faucets. However, chrome fixtures are more stylish and can create contrast if you have stainless steel in the room. Brushed nickel looks similar to stainless steel and is ideal if you want your faucet to blend in.

Both brushed nickel and chrome are water-resistant and will hold up over time. Brushed nickel is the best choice for a traditional faucet. Chrome is a great option if you want your faucet to stand out, however, you will need to clean it more often.


Durability is important with showerheads, and that is why brushed nickel is the best option. The prolonged exposure to moisture and humidity in a shower requires the resilience of brushed nickel. Chrome showerheads are also durable and smudges aren’t as much of a problem as with faucets.

Brushed nickel can easily blend with other metals that you have in your shower. Showerheads with a chrome finish are more likely to stand out and contrast the rest of the shower. Chrome is the best showerhead option for style, and brushed nickel is the best option for durability.


The cost of brushed nickel and chrome fixtures only varies slightly. For example, a Build Essentials brushed nickel faucet costs $109, and a chrome model costs $99. A new brushed nickel Kohler showerhead costs $71 whereas a chrome showerhead costs $58.

The cost is so minuscule that it’s easy to focus on other differences such as style and durability. Chrome is considered one of the most affordable finishes despite its attractive appearance.


Brushed nickel fixtures are much easier to maintain than chrome fixtures. Chrome fixtures can be irritating to clean regularly because of how prone to smudges they are. A brushed nickel faucet can get dirty just as quickly as a chrome fixture, but it won’t be as noticeable.

Smudges can appear nearly every time that you use a chrome faucet, and that can be irritating. The faucet may not be dirty, but the smudges mean that you’ll have to clean it so that it looks good. Brushed nickel can also hold its finish longer than chrome which means you won’t need to refinish the fixture anytime soon.

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 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.

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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

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.

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