When you’re designing a kitchen, you might notice that some of your hardware options look pretty similar. What’s the difference and how do you choose? Two of these materials are polished chrome and polished nickel. They look similar but are different enough that you should consider the characteristics of each one before making a decision.

What is chrome?

Chrome, short for chromium, is a chromium veneer that’s electroplated over a metal object, like a cabinet handle. It’s usually decorative, but it can also provide benefits like corrosion and rust resistance and an increase in the hardness of the surface. It also makes the surface easier to clean because it’s practically as smooth as glass. Chrome hardware is sophisticated and slightly retro, with a bright, shiny mirror surface.

What is polished nickel?

Polished nickel is not quite as mirror-shiny as chrome, but the high-polish variety offers a nice sheen. Like chrome, it’s also made with a metal core and a veneer, in this case, nickel. It’s corrosion-resistant and strong. Many homeowners love nickel for its longevity and resistance to regular wear and tear. Nickel is also quite versatile. You can find nickel options for virtually every hardware design out there.

What’s the difference?


The primary difference for homeowners is the difference in color. Chrome is typically colder, giving off an almost blueish hue, whereas polished nickel is warm with a slightly yellow hue. So, depending on the color scheme and overall theme of your kitchen, you’ll want to choose the hardware material that gives off the right color and shine. There are also some differences in the care and wear of each over time. Both need to be frequently wiped down. For nickel, frequent cleaning prevents discoloration from grease and oil. For chrome, it eliminates fingerprints that can be highly conspicuous on the shiny surface. Nickel tends to tarnish over time, but a lacquered finish can slow that process. Chrome can appear dull when damaged. Lower-quality platings can become flaky. If the plating is damaged, the metal core is susceptible to rust.

When to Use Polished Chrome

Chrome works well in kitchens with cool colors, white, grey, or black. The retro appeal also works in mid-century modern kitchens. If you’re going to choose chrome, make sure you can get a high-quality chrome from a reputable supplier to prevent flaking and rust. A high-quality chrome that’s taken care of will look great in your kitchen for years.

When to Use Polished Nickel

The warmer tones in polished nickel work well with more natural and earthy themes, including wood, stone, and many different paint colors. Because it’s so durable and doesn’t show fingerprints and scratches quite as easily, polished nickel is the better choice for homes with small children and pets. Give it a quick wipe when you clean your kitchen to keep the color bright.

January 27, 2021 — Chris Sanchez