Properly Disposing Of And Recycling Glazes

A Picture of a Cartoon Man Disposing of Glaze Safely

An important part of pottery is properly disposing of and or recycling your glazes. Glazes are awesome to play with, from dipping to painting. It’s so much fun to decorate and see what the end result will

be after firing your piece. The more you glaze, the more leftover glaze you’re going to have. Your glazes may still be good, but you no longer want to use them. So what do you do with them? If you decide to dispose of your glaze, please refrain from throwing it down the drain. It’s bad for your pipes and the environment. Here are few Glaze Recycle and Disposal tips to help you lessen the impact on the environment.

Different ways to Repurpose Your Glaze

  • Adding Gum Solution
    If your glaze is too thick, a gum solution can be used to bring it back to life. Adding a gum solution prevents glazes from cracking. Add a 1/4 cup of purified water to each Tablespoon of gum solution. You can also add gum solution alone to old or smelly glazes. It’s best to add small amounts at a time and wait at least a day. Remember in pottery nothing is rushed.
  • Keep Your Glazes Fresh
    There is no expiration date on glazes, for the most part, they don’t go bad. The only way glazes can go bad is if they get contaminated with dust, dirt, and other unwanted particles that may get in your glaze. If that happens, you can even try and save it by running it through a sieve.
    A sieve is a bowl-shaped tool with tiny holes. It’s good to get in the habit of running your glazes through a sieve before every use. Of course not when your glaze is brand new. Using a brush to push the glaze through the sieve helps to homogenize the glaze and get rid of any lumps. You can also pass your glaze through a coarse sieve first then a fine sieve, or even twice for a smoother mixer.
  • Just add water
    Glaze can sit for years and harden.  Glaze ingredients do not dissolve.  All you have to do is add water and set it aside for a day or two. The elements are suspended in water. Mix well and apply. Batches or bottles of glaze should be mixed thoroughly before each application. No glaze should be left on the bottom. You may want to test-fire first before apply to your piece.
  • Get Creative and Combine Your Glazes
    Have a container to put your used glazes in, then test it and see what you get. Keep in mind if you have different leftover glazes you may want to have several containers for dark glazes, light glazes, safe food glazes, and non-food safe glazes. Make a label of each container and keep tightly covered.
  • Donate your glazes
    If you have a glaze that you just don’t like anymore and you don’t want to dispose of it. It’s totally worth making a few calls to see if an art school or church could use it. Maybe a follow potter would want it.

Disposing Of  Glaze

If you choose to throw your glazes away, there are several ways of doing it.

  • Fire it up
    You can pour your unwanted glaze into a pot and fire her up. Once the glaze is fired it won’t seep into the ground and adversely affect the environment.
  • Take it to the dump
    Call to find out what the regulations are in your area because they vary state by state, even country. In some areas, glazes are treated the same as paints.
  • Evaporate your glaze
    Allow the glaze to sit out and evaporate leaving the hard pigments in the bottom of the container. Cover the container, so moisture doesn’t allow it to seep into the environment and dispose of it properly either the garbage or waste management.
  • Soak it up
    Nontoxic glazes can be mixed with kitty litter, sawdust, or oil dry. Place the glaze in a plastic bag and also dispose of it properly either the garbage or waste management.

Pre Fired Toxic Ingredients to Look Out For

A Picture Of Toxic Ingredient Words

Most glaze manufacturers label their glazes AP which means Non-toxic. AP glazes are used in schools and are safe for children to use.
Others are labeled CL which means Cautions Required for health and safety proposes. CL will contain a heavy metal of some sort.

If you decide to throw your old pottery glaze away, it’s a good idea to check and make sure it doesn’t contain any of these ingredients.

  • Thallium
  • Arsenic
  • Barium
  • Lead
  • Silver
  • Zinc
  • Beryllium
  • Vanadium
  • Mercury
  • Cadmium
  • Molybdenum
  • Selenium
  • Nickel
  • Chromium
  • Cobalt
  • Antimony
  • Copper

If your glazes have any of these elements in them, you should dispose of them properly. Remember every State is different. It’s worth checking with Waste Management in your area and see if they have proper disposal for hazardous waste. There may also be a dumping area you could use.

What’s in a Glaze

The number of different glazes to choose from is awesome. Knowing what’s in your glazes is important when it comes time to recycling or disposing of them.

Most glazes are made up of these main ingredients

  • Fluxes are materials, usually oxides, used in glazes and glasses to lower the high melting point of the main glass-forming elements, which are usually silica and alumina.
  • Silica most generally found in nature as quartz. In many parts of the world, silica is the major ingredient of sand.  It is a glass-former and the principal ingredient in pottery glazes. Silica is not toxic. It is only harmful to the lungs if inhaled over time. Healthy lungs are capable of getting rid of small amounts of silica.
  • Alumina is a substance that is resistant to heat material. It helps the glaze’s expand and contract harmoniously, thus assisting the glaze in conforming to the clay.
  • Colorants are added to create color. Different metals are used like nickel, lead, red iron oxide, cobalt, carbonate, and copper carbonate. Which can create an array of colors depending on other materials that they combine with and the temperature they are fired. The different types of colorants are the main factors that contribute to the differences in glazes. The colorants come in the form of metal oxides and are essential for glaze colors to develop.

In the 21st century, most glazes are safe to handle and non-toxic, but of course, there a few exceptions. With that said, if you are not sure about the contents of your glaze, it’s best to treat it like paint if you decide to dispose of it.

A Few Precautions When Working With Glaze

Even if your glazes are non-toxic, you still have to be careful when spraying or mixing powdered glazes.

Powdered glazes are great for storing. You can store your glazes forever without having them dry out and harden. When it’s time to use your glazes, just add water. It is important not to inhale the glaze while mixing it into liquid form. Glaze has more silica then clay and is harmful to your lungs. As a rule, you should wear a mask whenever you are handling glazes in powdered form.

Spraying glazes on puts a beautiful finish to your pottery. The particles are not harmful to your hands but you may still want to use rubber gloves. The particles are harmful to your lungs over time. A mask or respirator is strongly suggested when spraying a piece of pottery. A little common sense goes a long way.

POTTERY CRAFTERS THOUGHTS… The great part of pottery is that you don’t have to waste. You can reclaim, recycle, or repurpose almost everything you use.

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