Guide: Ceramic Pottery vs. Porcelain

More often than not, “ceramics” is used as a blanket term to describe both pottery (earthenware) and porcelain. While they might warrant the confusion, it’s important to distinguish between the two so that proper care can follow. In this blog post, we go through the main differences between pottery and porcelain, and care instructions for each type so you can make the most out of your very own ceramic piece. 

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Pottery is a vessel made of soil as the main ingredient. Compared with porcelain, its soil has lower density and weaker hardness, so it is often made thicker in actual production. Although the thickness is relatively thick, the overall weight of the vessel becomes lighter because of the low density. In addition, because pottery tends to absorb water easily, it can change the appearances of the vessels and leave some odor after multiple uses. The texture is not completely uniform either. Instead, each vessel can present a unique warm expression. The softness and different appearance are the characteristics of pottery. 

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The semi-porcelain has the characteristics of pottery and porcelain at the same time. Compared with porcelain, semi-porcelain is more absorbent. The texture of cream color matches well with various glazes, and can present a variety of rich colors. Like pottery, it can present a warm and moist appearance.

Porcelain pieces are fired with stone powder. Compared with pottery and semi-porcelain, porcelain is fired at high temperature, so the clay body is firmer and has higher hardness and durability, so it can be presented with a thinner thickness. Porcelain has almost no water absorption, so they can be used for a long time. It is widely used in various fields. It is a material with a simple appearance and does not need additional maintenance.

Main Differences

The major difference between ceramic pottery and porcelain is the composition. Ceramic pottery pieces are made mostly of natural clay, a few organic materials, and water while porcelain pieces instead have a light mix of clay, a lot of kaolin (the element that makes porcelain tighter), silica, quartz, feldspar and various other materials. Because of this, porcelain ends up being denser, smoother, less porous, finer, durable, and translucent than pottery clay.  

Before First Use

Because pottery is more porous than porcelain, and the clay body less dense than porcelain, pottery pieces tend to absorb water, oil and liquid from food. It could also tend to get stained by the color from food. It's recommended to perform the steps below to kind of seal the pores on the pottery pieces.

  1. Put a white, plain cloth towel on the bottom of the pot, and place the pottery pieces directly on it. Fill the water that used to rinse rice to the height of the vessel.

  2. After simmering on low to medium heat until boiling, switch to low heat to keep it in a non-boiling state and simmer for 20 minutes. If it is in a boiling state at this time, it may cause the bottom of the pot or vessels to collide with each other and cause damage. Please pay attention to the state of the rice washing water.

  3. After turning off the gas, take out the vessels and let them cool down before rinsing them with water.

  4. If the vessel is not completely filled with starch material after a single treatment, repeat the above steps.

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Care Instructions

  • It's important to let the vessels be fully air-dried after use. Even if the surface appears to be dry, most of the water will remain inside, so please turn the pieces upside down, do not stack them, and place them in a place that can be exposed to sunlight for half a day to a day. Wait until the vessels are completely dry before putting them in the kitchen cabinet.

  • Please try to avoid leaving food in the vessels for a long time after eating to avoid staining or odor on the piece. It's recommended to clean it immediately after use, and to store the pieces after they are sufficiently dry.

  • All ceramics may be cracked or damaged due to excessive temperature differences. Please do not directly soak the vessels in cold water when they are in a high temperature state.

  • Please leave enough room between each piece in the dishwasher to avoid collision.

  • To reduce odor and food stains stuck on pottery: add 4 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 liter of water, and soak your pieces in the above solution for a period of time (please adjust the amount of baking soda and white vinegar according to the intensity of the smell).

Some of our ceramic products to explore: Sheng Ceramics, The White Slip Covered Tazza, Ceramic Mt. Fuji Japanese Rice Bowl, Three Legged Ceramic Cup, and the Ceramic Lab Plate

Porcelain products (mostly semi-porcelain): Origami Dripper, Japanese Side Handled Teapot, Ceramic Rice Bowl, Japanese Ceramic Plate