Satin Nickel vs Brushed Nickel

When browsing cabinet knobs, pulls, and handles, you’ll find that 3 of the most popular finishes actually derive from one main metal finish- nickel.  Nickel offers both aesthetic beauty and structural stability in the cabinet hardware world.  It wears well, and with proper upkeep can look almost new years after initial installation.

But there’s satin nickel, brushed nickel, and polished nickel.  The question is, what is the difference between the three?

Satin Nickel Vs. Brushed Nickel

Satin nickel isn’t technically a metal itself, but rather the nickel plating put on handles, pulls, and knobs with a zinc or brass base.  It’s typically applied through electrolysis and then treated with a lacquer to dull the nickel’s usually shiny surface.

Many cabinet hardware, faucet, and fixture suppliers consider satin nickel and brushed nickel to be the same finish.  True brushed nickel accessories, however, are brushed with a tool (such as a wire brush), which puts small abrasions on the metal, all going in the same direction.  This also takes the natural shine off the metal – but not as much as the lacquer on satin nickel hardware.

Satin Nickel Vs. Polished Nickel

Polished nickel cabinet hardware doesn’t receive the same treatment as satin and brushed nickel – there’s no lacquer and no wire brushing to dull the shine.  Therefore polished nickel tends to have a mirror-like shine similar to chrome.

Cost Comparison

While satin and brushed nickel are comparable in cost, both tend to be almost half the price of polished nickel handles, pulls, and knobs.  That extra shine adds some extra cash to the price tag!

Ability to Match Changing Decor

Most people give their kitchen and bathrooms a facelift every 5-7 years.  Some are small changes such as new paint color or more modern wall coverings or fixtures.  Others completely renovate outdated mirrors, light fixtures, and appliances.

While some exceptions exist, satin nickel cabinet knobs and pulls continue to complement most bathroom and kitchen updates. On the other hand, polished nickel’s high shine doesn’t always adapt to a changing environment. In fact, polished nickel can look downright cheap if mismatched with non-complementary paint colors, decorative accent pieces and faucet fixtures.  Over the long haul, satin nickel’s fresh, subdued look is more easily incorporated into other design schemes.

Regular Use Damage Potential

Satin nickel cabinet hardware’s medium sheen hides water spots, scratches and fingerprints. In contrast, polished nickel’s high shine cannot conceal even the tiniest of scratches, prints or spots. One small imperfection on a polished nickel cabinet accessory can often warrant its replacement. The same imperfection on brushed or satin nickel will generally not be noticeable at all.