When it comes to Pottery Clay, Stoneware and Earthenware are the most popular for beginner Potters. However, Potters often have to choose between them. So what is the difference between Stoneware and Earthenware clay?
The main difference between Stoneware and Earthenware is the firing temperature. Stoneware clay can be fired at temperatures up to 2,345°F (1,285°C) Cone 10, while Earthenware clay is fired at lower temperatures around 1945°F (1,063°C) Cone 04. Another big difference is durability. Stoneware is a more durable and denser clay, while Earthenware is a less durable and more porous clay.
This article will cover the differences and common uses of Stoneware and Earthenware Clay to help you make the right choice as to which clay is best for you.
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What Is Stoneware Clay?
Stoneware is a type of dinnerware clay fired at high temperatures from 2,167°F (1,186°C) Cone 5 to 2,345°F (1,285°C) Cone 10. The final product is durable and non-porous.
This clay is mainly ball-clay-based instead of kaolin-based. Stoneware also contains kaolinite (aluminum silicate), feldspar (used as a flux), and quartz (silica). Other clay minerals are added like bentonite, iron impurities, and small quantities of mica, Illite, and smectite. That’s why there are so many different stoneware clays to choose from.
These ceramic products are more opaque than china or porcelain due to the thickness of the material used in the clay. The stoneware name refers to the durability and appearance of the ware after firing at high temperatures (stone-like). These products also feature color patterns that look like natural stones in the end.
Although stoneware when fired to peck temperature, doesn’t require glazing. Most potters glaze it to ensure a more appealing finish.
Compared to other types of pottery, stoneware is one of the more recent options. The technique only originated around 1,400 BC in China. Porcelain is the only other type of ceramic fired at higher temperatures than stoneware.
The material is dense, hardy, and can resist all kinds of scratches, even those made by a steel point. The impurities in the clay used can give it the brown or grey color—when it’s unglazed. You can also find red black stoneware clay.
What Is Earthenware Clay?
Earthenware is clay fired at lower temperatures, typically around 1945°F (1,063°C) Cone 04 to 1828 (998°C) Cone 06. It is porous and does require glazing. This pottery style was one of the most popular in history. Pit-fired Earthenware was first developed around 25,000-29,000 years ago. This pottery style was one of the most popular in history.
The clay used in earthenware production typically has higher plasticity (molds easier) than the materials used in other pottery forms, like porcelain and stoneware. Its material has to be glazed to make it more watertight. However, glazing isn’t enough to make it waterproof, making it a poor choice for dishes that have to be in the water a lot.
Earthenware pieces are prone to chipping due to the lower overall strength compared to other pottery types. They typically have an orange, or red coloration because of the high amounts of iron oxide in the clay used for the process. You can also get White Earthenware.
Differences Between Stoneware and Earthenware Pottery
At a glance, it’s often difficult to tell the difference between these types of pottery. Glazing and the general techniques of the potter add to the overall confusion.
Some people try to distinguish Earthenware from stoneware by instinctively classifying most large pieces as the former. However, some potters can make thinner Earthenware. If the piece is unglazed, it’s often easy to differentiate between both types. The orange or red color pieces are Earthenware, but the White or brown options are stoneware.
For glazed pieces, you’ll have to look a bit harder to distinguish between them. A quick solution is the absorption experiment.
Identify Stoneware or Earthenware Clay Using the Absorption Experiment
The absorption experiment is based on the fact that Earthenware absorbs more water than stoneware due to the porosity. Your focus here is to dip both options in water and then calculate the rate of water absorption. Any piece that posts a 5-8% absorption figure is likely Earthenware. If there’s almost no absorption, the piece is likely stoneware.
Here’s how you can calculate absorption:
- Record the original weight of the pieces under consideration.
- Soak each piece in water for a day.
- Bring them out and check the new weight.
- Calculate the absorption percentage by dividing the starting weight in the first step with the new weight and multiplying by 100.
Avoid soaking pieces that can get ruined by absorption during this experiment. Only use expendable options.
Differences Between Stoneware and Earthenware Clay
Are you a DIY potter looking to work with any of these clay products? There are a few ways to differentiate between both options.
Earthenware clay contains coarser grains and has a little bit of plasticity. You’ll also find more impurities in it because it’s primarily sourced from riverbeds. It’s also easier to work with, for inexperienced potters.
On the other hand, Stoneware clay has denser and finer grains. It’s a bit less plastic compared to earthenware, but it’s still easy to use. Grog can be added to both clays to make them more course.
When To Choose Earthenware or Stoneware Clay
The main factors to consider when choosing between Earthenware Clay and Stoneware Clay are the final product you’d like to create, the Firing temperature, and your ability to work with each one.
- Earthenware clay should be your preferred choice if you want to fire your clay at a lower temperature. It is more energy-efficient and easier on the elements in your Kiln.
- It’s easy to work with and has a lower shrinkage rate after firing.
- You should go with Earthenware if you’re looking to make an outdoor planter. It’s the right material because it can absorb water and keep your plants nourished even when your plant soil has dried out a bit.
- Earthenware clay is generally best used for pottery that doesn’t get a lot of handling because it’s less durable.
- You can still glaze your earthenware to use for direct food consumption. However, you can’t use most of them in the core food preparation process without risking damage to the ware or having some clay material get into your food.
- Although Stoneware clay has a higher shrinkage rate it is still good for beginners who want a clay body that is easy to work with and generally more forgiving.
- If you are firing at a higher temperature.
- You should also choose Stoneware clay if you want Food Safe Pottery that can hold liquids, go into the microwave, and dishwasher. Ceramic dishware in the market is typically made of stoneware for this reason.
- If you’re looking for a durable option that’ll get a lot of use, like making dinnerware pieces.
You can also check out The Differences Between Stoneware and Porcelain.
The Best Ways To Clean Stoneware and Earthenware
Like other ceramic ware in your home, you have to clean Stoneware and Earthenware from time to time. You will need to know if they are Dishwasher safe. Stoneware can withstand the dishwasher better than earthenware. Using the top rack is recommended.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Don’t Use Soap To Clean Earthenware
Earthenware is porous, so you need to be very careful about how you clean it. It’s best not to place them in the dishwasher. Don’t use soap in the cleaning process if it’s not a glazed piece. Soap can soak into the clay and contaminate any food served on the ware. Hot water and a brush are often enough to clean up Earthenware.
If you need to use a cleanser, it’s best to use baking soda or salt when scrubbing the pot. You can use baking soda paste to get rid of grime. You should also remember to avoid leaving the pot in water for too long. Otherwise, it’ll absorb water.
Soak Stoneware in Water
It’s easier to clean stoneware because you can soak them in water. However, the manufacturer might have specific instructions you should adhere to. You should also avoid using dishwashing liquid on stoneware. Although there’s a lower risk of the soap contaminating food, it’s still a possibility.
Use baking soda paste to get rid of any tough stains. You can also soak the piece in water for a while to soften hard stains or caked-on food particles. For greasy stains, rubbing some fresh lemon on the affected area is effective.
How To Store Your Earthenware and Stoneware
You have some flexibility when it comes to storing your stoneware pieces. You can put them away in the typical spaces for similar pieces without worrying about any kind of damage.
For Earthenware, store the pot in a cool, dry area that isn’t too humid. Leaving it in a damp environment can lead to mold formation in the porous ceramic material over time. For pieces with a lid, keep the lid separate from the body using a towel to ensure airflow inside the piece.
Can You Use Stoneware in the Oven?
You can use stoneware in the oven, even in the dishwasher, Microwave, and freezer. However, some manufacturers might have unique instructions for their stoneware due to the glazing approach used in the production process.
You should avoid exposing your stoneware to wild temperature swings. Such exposure is bad for the structural integrity of any such piece. So, moving it directly from the freezer to your oven, for example, is a bad idea. The stoneware might crack or chip. Always warm your Stoneware up with the oven.
Can You Use Earthenware in an Oven?
Typically, you should avoid using your Earthenware in an oven. However, some special designs can withstand time in the oven after being soaked in water for half an hour.
The same applies to using your Earthenware in the dishwasher or microwave. Again, it’s best to keep your Earthenware away from both the microwave and dishwasher unless the manufacturer has different guidance on the matter.
Stoneware pieces are the more durable and waterproof pottery materials. Still, the more porous earthenware pieces are great for outdoor pots and decorations.
If you’re looking to lean one way when stocking up your kitchen, stoneware is the better option. When you’re thinking of the best home for your house plants, earthenware pieces are typically best.