Chrome Plated vs. Polished Stainless Steel

When choosing bathroom products most accessories are available in a chrome plated finish. However, the majority of heated towel rails available come in a polished stainless steel finish. So, what is the difference, and can you tell the difference?


What is the difference?

The main difference between stainless steel and chrome plating is the composition. Stainless steel is a metal alloy comprising of iron and at least 10.5% chromium that is polished to a high mirror finish. Chrome (short for chromium) plating is pure chromium that is coating on the surface of another product such as galvanised steel or brass. This results in differences to the look, durability and uses of the two products – see more details below in the comparison chart.


Which is better?

As stainless steel is an alloy rather than just a plating it is much more durable and hardwearing than chrome plating. Overtime, chrome plating will corrode from water, heat element and contact with hot and cold air. The plating can also scratch, peel or flake off. Stainless steel is also easier to keep clean and much more resistant to staining, corrosion and rust than chrome plating.

Overall while chrome is less expensive and has a higher lustre finish, stainless steel is much more durable and will maintain it’s finish for many years to come.


If I have both chrome and stainless steel products will you notice the difference?

When looking at a chrome product and a stainless steel product side by side you will notice a difference. A chrome plated finish is a brighter, shiner finish while although stainless steel is polished to a high mirror finish is it slightly duller and darker than chrome. See comparison images below.

Polished Stainless Steel Towel Rail and Chrome Plated Tap


While you can visually see a difference between chrome and polished stainless when side by side the finishes are a close enough match that you will not notice the difference in a bathroom setting. For example, in the below bathroom the taps are chrome plated and the heated towel rails are polished stainless steel.

Chrome Plated Taps and Polished Stainless Steel Towel Rail