Satin Nickel vs. Brushed Nickel: Which Finish Is Better?

The difference between satin nickel and brushed nickel isn’t immediately obvious, but they both provide a unique finish. Satin nickel gets its unique look from electrolysis and brushed nickel is distinct for its classic plated look. Whether it be the finish, style, or sheen, let’s take a look at the difference between satin nickel and brushed nickel.

Satin Nickel Vs Brushed Nickel

There are a lot of options when it comes to metal finishes. Nickel is one of the most popular of these finishes. If you are decorating or redecorating your home, one of the easiest ways to change a room’s feel, like a bathroom, or kitchen, is by changing the hardware and fixtures.

Satin nickel is a nickel-plated piece of metal that has been dulled down, and in some cases includes an additional coat of lacquer. Brushed nickel is plated and brushed with a metal brush consistently to give it a more unique finish. An electrolysis process is used for satin nickel to achieve its look.

So which one is better? Well, that might be a matter of preference; however, we intend to examine the pros and cons of each. Providing the pros and cons of each type of nickel will allow you to choose the one that’s best for you.

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Why Choose a Nickel Finish?

Nickel is a strong dense metal that gives off a refined appearance similar to stainless steel. You can make other metals and alloys stronger by plating them with nickel. The nickel element can be found in many things in nature, such as:

  • Rock deposits
  • Plants
  • Meteorites

This element is then added to different surfaces to create a nice ‘finish.’ It’s used to make objects more appealing, such as brass and aluminum.

Why Are Nickel Finishes Popular?

Nickel is a classic finish that has remained popular for obvious reasons. The metal itself is corrosion resistant. This makes it a perfect plating for water fixtures. This type of plating is typically used on brass, steel, and aluminum.

Popular uses for nickel finish include:

  • Kitchen faucets
  • Doorknobs
  • Bathroom fixtures
  • Kitchen fixtures
  • Cabinet hardware
  • Lighting fixtures

These are just a few examples of popular items with nickel finishes. They look great in bathrooms and kitchens. They also look great on things like exterior house numbers, machined parts, and metal light switch plates. The possibilities are endless when it comes to metal finishes. You can upgrade just about anything by adding a nice looking finish such as nickel.

The Difference Between Satin And Brushed Nickel

There are quite a few differences between satin and brushed nickel; besides the obvious of looking different, satin costs a little bit less. However, brushed nickel takes some maintenance to maintain its appearance, while satin requires very little.

To help you understand the differences, we have compiled this comparison chart below.


Satin Nickel Finish

Brushed Nickel Finish

  • Satin nickel finishes are usually a little less expensive.
  • Brushed nickel is more expensive.
  • Satin has a dull finish that does not show as many blemishes.
  • Options for a dark matte or semi-matte finish
  • Brushed nickel can show things like fingerprints, scratches, and water spots.
  • Brushed brown or gray metallic look- not a uniform type of finish.
  • Satin finishes require very little maintenance.
  • Brushed nickel must be wiped down often.
  • Satin uses an electrolysis process, sometimes, with lacquering.
  • More common in residential hardware- doorknobs, sink fixtures, lighting fixtures.
  • Brushed nickel uses a coating and a wire brush etching process.
  • More common in commercial settings- restaurants and commercial bathrooms.
  • Satin has a slight rose gold type tint to it.
  • The brushed nickel has a nice gray finish.
  • The satin finish has a dull look that could be considered vintage looking.
  • Brushed nickel gives off a more unique, crafted look due to the etchings.

Why Do Some Satin Finishes Look Shinier Than Others?

This has to do entirely with the final finishing process. If the satin is not lacquered, then it will have a more dull looking result. There a lot of cases where you may want an utterly dull finish.

Some satin fishes have a final lacquer, which makes them appear slightly shinier. These finishes look great when placed near other hardware or appliances that have more of a sheen to them.

Satin Or Brushed Nickel: Which Is Better?

This may seem like a matter of preference, but there are some reasons you may want to choose satin over brushed nickel. If you want your home to have a more unified look, you may want to replace the finish on your appliances so that they all have the same finish.

Satin nickel has a thicker amount of plating. This can make it somewhat more durable. If you are going for that shiny stainless steel type look but want the sheen to look a little duller, you may consider using satin nickel. Brushed nickel has a thinner layer of nickel plating, and in some cases, can scratch and look damaged with heavy use.

Design Tips For Satin Nickel

We have a few design tips for using satin nickel. In the end, it is ultimately a choice of preference; however, these tips might help give you some ideas.

Tips for choosing satin nickel finishes:

  • Use satin nickel for easy cleaning. If your household or establishment has a lot of hands that use your hardware, you may consider using satin. It’s easier to keep it clean and doesn’t show quite as many fingerprints.
  • Choose this type for a more vintage look. Satin has a more vintage or traditional look to it. It is excellent for ranch themes or farmhouse themes.
  • Satin nickel plated items are more common. This type of nickel is more common and a lot easier to find. It has more sustainability than brushed nickel items.
  • Since satin finishes are not as shiny as stainless steel. You may want to use this fact to your advantage if you want to achieve a more traditional design.

Design Tips For Brushed Nickel

Just like with the satin nickel finish, brushed nickel has its place in the world. Here are some designs tips to give you an idea of how brushed nickel could work for you.

Tips for choosing brushed nickel finishes:

  • Brushed nickel has a more unique look to it. It shows a little more craftsmanship than a satin finish. Consider this when you want something to look fancy.
  • Brushed nickel provides a more modern look. If you’re going with a modern theme, then brushed nickel will be the finish of choice. It is used in most modern commercial settings and looks good in new style homes.
  • Choose brushed nickel to provide more character to your home or business. The brushed etching makes light and shadows bounce off of it more than a dull satin finish does. This can make for a more attractive looking piece.
  • Go with your gut feeling. We all have our own tastes, and for you, that may be brushed nickel plating over satin nickel.

Mixing Satin And Brushed Nickel

Suppose you love both the satin nickel and the brushed nickel, and you’re torn between both of them. A great idea would be to mix both of them in your rooms. For instance, you can have a satin nickel coating for your light fixtures while having brushed nickel for doorknobs. This helps make your home or commercial space much more appealing than if you were to choose just one type of finish.

Additional Tips For Mixing Satin And Brushed Nickel

  • Don’t use more than three finishes for a single room. Obviously, if you use just satin and brushed nickel, you don’t need to worry about this. However, if you’re wanting to add chrome to the mix, we recommend you don’t add more than that. Mixing more than three finishes can make a room look unappealing.
  • Use the same finish for the same fixtures. Let’s assume you have a double-sink vanity in your bathroom. You won’t want to add satin nickel to one and brushed nickel to the other. Use the same type of finish to match the other faucet.
  • Choose the satin nickel for the light fixtures in a bright home. If you have a lot of whites or shiny flooring in your home, it’s a good idea to choose satin nickel as the finishing on your light fixtures. Having the reflected light bounce off your walls and floors back onto your light fixtures can be extremely overwhelming.
  • Brushed nickel is excellent for your home’s character. If you decide to mix your finishes, then it’s a good idea to add the brushed nickel to areas you want to stand out. Using your bathroom as an example, brushed nickel would look great on your faucets and doorknobs.

Related Questions

Is nickel plating the same as stainless steel?

They are not the same. Nickel-plated finishes are not as durable as stainless steel. Nickel-plated items cost less and will show more defects than stainless steel. Stainless steel is excellent for heavy-use kitchens.

What other items use nickel plating?

Nickel plating is used in a lot of other items besides household items, such as:

  • Automotive parts
  • Exterior hardware
  • Brewery fittings

It is also used on appliances and other specialty items.

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Our Takeaway

When choosing whether satin or brushed nickel is better than the other, you need to assess your preferences and goals. The best choice for you will highly depend on what exactly you’re trying to do with your space.

For instance, if you need a more matte-look, then satin nickel would be the best choice for you. However, if you’re looking for more of a crafted, etched look, then the brushed nickel would be best.

When it comes to satin nickel versus brushed nickel, the choice of finish is not a ‘one-size-fits-all.’ The best action you can take in this situation is to take the time to learn and understand your goal at hand. By understanding your goals, you will be able to choose what’s best suitable for your needs.

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Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners and home improvement enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and gardening tips with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance, cleaning your carpet, or even putting up a fence, we've got you covered.

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