Satin Nickel and Stainless Steel are two common choices for home hardware. While they are similar in appearance, there are important differences between the two. Whether you should use one or the other depends upon your budget and what area of your home you are remodeling or building.
Satin nickel, according to the House of Antique Hardware, is a nickel plating commonly used on brass. Often nickel is plated between copper and chromium for aesthetic purposes. A thin layer of nickel is applied to the outside of the inner metal using a process called electroplating. Nickel is more resistant to corrosion than copper or brass, which is why it is commonly used to plate more easily corroded metals. When finished, it has an appearance similar to those of stainless steel or brushed aluminum.
Stainless Steel is an alloy. According to the Australian Stainless Steel Development Association, "stainless steel" is a generic term used for steels containing more than 10.5 percent chromium. Like, satin nickel, stainless steel resists corrosion. The chromium in the steel reacts with oxygen, forming a thin, invisible layer of chromium oxide on the surface of the steel. Scratches to this film then, are able to self-repair, as long as the steel is exposed to oxygen.
Corrosion is the deterioration of a material due to exposure to the elements. The atoms of the metal either leave the metal entirely, or form new compounds with the surrounding oxygen or other gases. The most common form of corrosion is rust, which forms when iron reacts with oxygen in the air. Corrosion weakens structures, eventually causing them to break or fail. Both satin nickel and stainless steel resist corrosion.
The greatest difference between the two is that satin nickel is a veneer, and stainless steel an alloy. A veneer is a thin covering over another surface. In practical terms, this means that with repeated wear through handling or cleaning, satin nickel will eventually wear away, exposing the underlying metal. It is important to know whether this underlying metal resists corrosion. By contrast, stainless steel is the same substance all the way through. Using stainless steel hardware means that its resistance to corrosion will not change over time.