plating, anodizing, & finishing Q&As since 1989
Is nickel-plated flatware safe?
Q. Hello there,
I came across some threads about stainless steel flatware and toxicity and found your email. I recently got my 18/10 stainless steel flatware set nickel-plated because I prefer a more satin/matte finish instead of a super shiny finish. The result looks beautiful but when I used it, it had a very strong metallic flavor that I can still taste hours later. It got me looking into the safety of nickel-plated flatware and I couldn't find a clear answer. Is this safe to eat with or is it toxic? Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.
July 10, 2023
A. Hi Marisa. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but although I believe it is not toxic, I think it is a bad idea.
As for actual toxicity, it's not a problem -- stents implanted in arteries are often nickel: it's not a toxic material. As for 'taste', the CDC says "Nickel and its compounds have no characteristic odor or taste" (www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tfacts15.pdf), but I can't argue with your personal experience.
Unfortunately, some people (perhaps as many as 20% of females) are allergic to nickel, such that it can cause skin rashes. Even more unfortunate, the allergy is an acquired one and stays with you for life, such that even if you've had no problem so far, it's possible that you will become allergic to nickel if you keep using it.
I personally think the best answer is to switch to silverplate. It may not have quite the look of satin nickel, but it definitely has a soft, matte, white, look compared to stainless steel.
Another alternative might be clearcoating your nickel plated flatware. It would probably have to be re-done with some frequency and you'd need to find a food-safe clear coat. I believe Protectaclear from Everbrite [a finishing.com supporting advertiser] might be one such, but you should probably talk to Everbrite about that.
Luck & Regards,
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
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