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Common Uses of Porcelain

Common Uses ofPorcelain

When you think “porcelain”, does your mind go straight to your bathroom? That’s not surprising seeing as many bathroom floors and components are made of porcelain.


Porcelain is a type of ceramic material that has a multitude of applications. These range from the construction of bathroom floors to art to insulation on high voltage electrical cables.

You’ll even find that gorgeous pottery and art pieces from throughout history are made entirely of porcelain materials.In this post, we’re going to go over some of the most common uses of porcelain along with why it’s used in those applications. Let’s get started!

What Is Porcelain?

Porcelain is a subtype of “ceramic” material. It’s defined as being very hard, non-porous, white in color, very high in strength, and resistant to both chemical and thermal shock.

Porcelain was discovered and first truly used by people in the Tang Dynasty around the year 618 AD. It took people a long time to begin using porcelain for building and other uses because it requires such high temperatures in order to be made. The firing temperature for porcelain depends on the type you’re talking about, but a general range is between 2,200 and 2,650 degrees Fahrenheit.

Those temperatures were almost impossible to reach at earlier points in history, which is understandable: 2,650 degrees Fahrenheit is about the point that melts glass! The components of porcelain depend on the specific type, which can include hard paste, soft paste, and bone china types.

They usually contain a mixture that includes various amounts of feldspars, quartz, kaolinite (a type of clay-like material), and China stone (in specific types of porcelain).

Building Materials

Porcelain is often used as a type of building material, most often in the form of porcelain tile. There are two subtypes of porcelain tile used for building materials: glazed and through-bodied. Glazed porcelain tiles have a glaze coated over the top of the tile that acts as a “finish” to add color and/or design to the tile. These tiles are most often used for decor, color, and design instead of for practical purposes.

Through-bodied porcelain tiles lack that glaze over the top. These are most often used to create floors, back-splashes, walls, and countertops. Since they don’t have a glaze that would be easily rubbed off/worn down after constant use/wear, it works well in these areas.

Because of the hardness and toughness of this material, they’re highly durable for high-traffic areas. This also makes them perfect for both flooring and countertops. They’re also non-porous, which means they don’t absorb stains, water, or odor.

Since they are non-porous and generally non-absorbent, they don’t absorb harmful bacteria or substances. This is another bonus for countertops and floors that are often exposed to such substances.

Bathroom Applications

It’s these same qualities that make porcelain a perfect option for bathroom tile and other bathroom applications.

Porcelain cannot rust and does not absorb water. This makes it perfect for bathrooms where water is inevitable and expected.

This is also why some toilets and sinks are also made of porcelain. Porcelain is more easily molded into various shapes compared to than other material types. This allows it to form the odd and necessary shapes of sinks and toilets.

Porcelain is also easy to clean thanks to its various qualities listed earlier. This is essential for bathrooms (imagine a superabsorbent carpet in there instead of easy-to-clean porcelain tile? Yuck). This along with stain and bacteria resistance makes it the perfect choice.

Fun fact: the belief that bathtubs are made of porcelain is actually incorrect. While the color and feel of the material is quite close, modern bathtubs are usually made of acrylic materials or fiberglass reinforced polyester materials. Some tubs are made of porcelain enameled cast iron or steel, but not pure porcelain.

Electrical Insulation

We mentioned earlier that porcelain is thermal shock resistant, but it’s also a great insulator for high electrical voltages as well.

It’s often used in electrical engineering on high-voltage cable terminals, and insulation of antennas.

The American Ceramic Society even states that porcelain and other ceramic-based materials are essential for the electrical components and functioning of smartphones, computers, cars, televisions, and more.

Porcelain Art

We’ve gone over quite a few practical applications, but not all uses of porcelain are necessarily practical! Porcelain has long been used by artists as a material for sculptures, decorative bowls, vases, and more.

Porcelain dolls were common in the mid- to late-19th century Europe. They’re now considered to be valuable pieces of art and cultural history in Germany, Italy, France, and other European countries. Painted porcelain pottery (say that five times fast) was also quite popular in both Europe and Asia. Most porcelain pottery during these time periods, and throughout Chinese and Japanese history, was painted after the pots were fired.

This was to allow the paint to be fired at a lower temperature in order to preserve the color and pigment of the paint. When the paint is applied before the initial firing, it must be fired at the very high temperatures porcelain requires.

This leads to colors appearing dimmer and, sometimes, becoming a different color altogether. This causes porcelain pottery to have a distinct appearance compared to other types of painted pottery/art.Chinese and Japanese porcelain and ceramic pottery is world renowned as well.

Porcelain also became a staple of the Chinese economy for thousands of years beginning in the Tang Dynasty that began in the year 618.

So while you might not be using porcelain to create a doll for display, it’s interesting to know that something that lines the floors of your bathroom is also an important cultural material that shaped everything from art in the 1800s and our modern-day electronics!