Stainless Steel vs. Composite Sinks: Which Should You Choose?
If you’re fitting a kitchen there’s one item that you simply won’t be able to live without – a sink. We need a source of water if we’re to do any cooking or washing up, and a tap without a basin attached would be, let’s say, less than ideal…
Broadly speaking, the budget end of the market can be divided into two categories – composite sinks and stainless steel sinks. For a detailed look at all types of sinks, click here. The former is made from a combination of granite dust and plastic resin. This allows the sink to have the appearance of stone whilst retaining all of the practical advantages of moulded plastic. The latter is formed from a sheet of stainless steel which is ‘punched’ into shape using an industrial press.
Whist either of these technologies will serve capably in a kitchen, each has their relative merits and demerits, which should be considered by those looking to install a new sink. Let’s take a look at some of them.
The first factor most people consider is the cost of the sink. When it comes to the price there is variety in both camps.
The cost of both composite and stainless steel sinks can run into the hundreds of pounds, especially when you increase the size of the sink and the intricacy of its design. For instance, the graphite composite sink pictured below is at the higher end of the market at £219.00 (at the time of writing at least – please accept our apologies if this has changed when you look!)
However, at the lower end of the market you could pay as little as £70 for a composite sink or £50 for a stainless steel sink.
Browse composite sinks
Browse stainless steel sinks
Composite sinks offer a far greater variety than their stainless steel counterparts. By adding dye to the plastic resin when the sink is cast a whole slew of different colours can be achieved.
Whilst we’d never want to put the stainless steel sink down, when it comes to colours, your choices are limited to one.
Although you can choose from a number of different finishes, stainless steel sinks come in, well, stainless steel. If you’re looking for a bold colour for your kitchen sink, they will therefore be unsuitable. That said, the characteristic shine of stainless steel is pleasantly neutral and will sit nicely within a range of kitchen colour schemes – indeed, many colour schemes are designed with stainless steel in mind.
We’ve already seen that some sinks can be produced more cheaply than others. In the case of stainless steel, this economy evidences itself by producing an almighty racket whenever you turn on the tap.
In order to minimise material costs cheaper stainless steel sinks are made from very thin sheets of steel. This thinness makes the material much easier to move and vibrate. The basin can therefore act like a drum, amplifying the impact of water (or any dropped object) on the bottom of the sink. This effect might be particularly noticeable at night when a dripping tap in the kitchen downstairs might be audible even when you’re upstairs lying in bed!
Thankfully, this is one respect in which newer stainless steel sinks have made considerable improvements over their predecessors, with 16 and 18-gauge sinks becoming commonplace. Composite sinks are much harder and less flexible, so the vibrations caused by a dripping tap are deadened. But whilst this hardness might eliminate the problem of noise pollution, it has its own problems.
If you do a lot of washing up in your kitchen sink, then you’ll at some point have had a mishap. Most of us (barring a ninja-like few) have occasionally had a moment of clumsiness and dropped a plate or a cup into the sink. In such instances, our choice of material can make the difference between shattered and intact crockery.
Being made largely from granite, composite sinks are harder than their steel counterparts. Therefore, they’re much less forgiving than steel ones when accidents happen, which even at heavier gauges, will flex enough to preserve your plates whenever you drop them.
Of course, you’ll want to think about how you’re going to use your sink. If you wash your delicate dishes and glasses using a dishwasher this consideration won’t be quite so weighty.
Composite granite sinks are formed using enormous heat and pressure. They’re able to resist stains, scratches and heat – but they’re not invulnerable to such things. Hot pans risk warping the surface of the sink and knives being dragged across it might leave marks.
By contrast, stainless steel sinks are able to withstand high temperatures and they’re obviously far less prone to stains. Despite this, they’re not impervious to damage. A stainless steel sink will pick up fine scratches over its lifetime. Though these scratches will likely not be visible unless you’re looking for them, the shining nature of stainless steel will make any blemishes all the more apparent. Similarly, allowing droplets of water to stand inside the sink might cause water spots to form.
We’ve looked at some of the ways that stainless steel might suffer damage over time. But just how can this damage be reversed? Fortunately, it is possible for the damage to be undone.
Going over the sink with a very fine wire-wool brush can help eliminate those fine hairline scratches. Once this is done, you can polish the surface using baby oil. If water stains have formed, they can be removed with vinegar, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide, depending on the severity of the staining.
Cleaning a composite sink requires a little more finesse and delicacy. You’ll want to avoid harsh, abrasive substances. Bleach, for example, might discolour the sink, as might ammonia, food colouring and drain cleaner. Frequent, gentle cleaning is almost always preferable to occasional ‘deep’ cleaning – use a micro-fibre cloth and hot soapy water, and dry thoroughly once you’re done.
Each of the sinks we’ve discussed here has their strengths and weaknesses but with the right care and attention either can serve fantastically well for many years.
Made your choice?