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Tue Jun 18 2024

Vitreous China vs Porcelain: Which is Better for Your Bathroom?

white ceramic sink with wide mirror

When renovating or building a bathroom, one of the critical decisions homeowners face is selecting the right materials for fixtures like sinks, toilets, and bathtubs. Two popular materials in the market are vitreous china and porcelain. 

Though they may seem similar at first glance, understanding their differences is important for making an informed choice. This article will delve into the characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages of Vitreous China and porcelain to help you decide which is better for your bathroom.

By understanding the differences and similarities between Vitreous China and porcelain, you can make an informed decision that best suits your needs and preferences.

Vitreous China vs Porcelain: Definition and Composition

Vitreous China and porcelain are both types of ceramic materials that are commonly used in a variety of products, from bathroom fixtures to dinnerware. Despite their similarities, ceramic sinks have distinct differences in their composition and characteristics.

Vitreous China

Vitreous China is a ceramic material glazed with a vitreous enamel coating. This coating gives the material its name, as it creates a glass-like, glossy finish.

The word ‘vitreous’ means ‘resembling glass’ (as in color, composition, brittleness, or luster). That’s because vitreous china involves the application of a glass-based enamel coating.

The vitreous coating is made from powdered glass that melts and fuses to the ceramic base during a high-temperature firing process. The resulting surface is smooth, shiny, and incredibly durable.

The primary components of Vitreous China are clay, feldspar, and quartz (sand or powdered glass), which are fired at high temperatures to create a dense, non-porous material.

After a long heating and cooling process with two firings, the material develops a vitreous enamel coating. This is what gives it a high-gloss finish that is highly resistant to stains and scratches, making vitreous enamel sinks more durable than porcelain sinks.

Due to its durability and aesthetic appeal, vitreous china is an excellent material for ceramic sinks for both residential and commercial settings.

Porcelain

Porcelain is another type of ceramic that is made by heating raw materials, generally including kaolin, in a kiln. A kiln is basically a high-temperature oven set to temperatures between 1,300 and 1,400 °C. 

The toughness, strength, and translucence of porcelain arise mainly from the formation of glass and the mineral mullite within the fired body at these high temperatures. It is highly durable, resistant to stains and scratches, and has a beautiful, translucent finish.

Porcelain is a popular choice for ceramic sinks due to several other key properties, including stain resistance, ease of cleaning, and resistance to harsh cleaning chemicals used on kitchen and bathroom sinks.

Vitreous China vs Vitreous Enamel vs Porcelain

Don’t confuse the material called porcelain with vitreous china or vitreous enamel.

Vitreous china is a specific form of porcelain that has been enhanced with a vitreous enamel glaze, which is made by heating powdered glass. This glaze is applied after the porcelain has been fired, creating a high gloss shine and protective coat.

Thus, vitreous china is especially suitable for bathroom basins and other plumbing fixtures. This glazing technique also helps vitreous china maintain a pristine appearance over time.

Think of these three materials as a quality progression. At the bottom, we have ceramic, made of fired clay. Next, we have the material called porcelain, which is ceramic fired at much higher temperatures to make it denser, stronger, and with a smooth finish.

This is what makes porcelain (rather than ceramic) ideal for bathroom basins. Finally, we have vitreous china, which is porcelain with an added coating of melted powdered glass.

If you need help with choosing the right material for your sink or bathtub, talk to the experts at Magnus Home Products and we’ll guide you through.

Vitreous China vs Porcelain: Appearance

Vitreous china has a glossy and smooth finish due to an additional glazing technique. The added glass-based enamel coating makes it highly resistant to stains. Known for its high gloss shine, bright white is a typical color, though other colors are available.

The addition of powdered glass in the enamel enhances the gloss and durability of vitreous china.

On the other hand, porcelain tends to have a natural, somewhat matte finish that is less shiny than vitreous china. The color is usually white, ranging from bright white to off-white or cream, with a slight translucency.

Both vitreous china and porcelain are common bathroom sink materials as they are hygienic and easy to clean. In conclusion, while both materials have their unique aesthetic qualities, Vitreous China tends to have a higher shine and smoother texture, earning it a slightly higher rating in terms of appearance.

For both materials, the heating and cooling process during manufacturing critically influences their properties and final appearance.

Pro Tip: The high gloss shine of vitreous china can reflect light beautifully, adding brightness to smaller or dimly lit bathrooms. This can make your space feel larger and more inviting.

Vitreous China vs Porcelain: Durability

professional laying ceramic tiles

When it comes to durability, both Vitreous China and porcelain have their strengths and weaknesses.

Material

Key Characteristics

Durability and Usage

Vitreous China

  • Glazed with a vitreous enamel coating for a high gloss finish
  • Known for resistance to chipping, cracking, and staining
  • Popular for bathroom fixtures
  • Durable and withstands regular use
  • Susceptible to staining and damage if the coating is damaged
  • May not be as durable as porcelain long-term

Porcelain

  • Fired at high temperatures for strength and longevity
  • Resistant to chipping, cracking, and staining
  • Used for products needing heavy use
  • Extremely durable and can withstand heavy use without wear and tear
  • More brittle than Vitreous China, may chip or crack if mishandled

Maintenance and Cleaning

When it comes to maintenance and cleaning, both vitreous china and porcelain have their unique characteristics.

Vitreous China is stain-resistant and non-porous, which prevents bacteria and mold from growing. Use a non-abrasive cleaner and a soft cloth to clean ceramic sinks made of Vitreous China. Also, avoid harsh chemicals and don’t use steel wool or wire brushes to protect the gloss.

Porcelain, while also similarly stain-resistant and non-porous, lacks vitreous china’s high gloss. To clean porcelain ceramic materials, use mild detergent and a soft cloth. Mild abrasives are okay for tough stains, but it is best to avoid harsh chemicals.

Cost Comparison

When it comes to cost, both Vitreous China and Porcelain have a wide range of prices depending on the specific product, its size, design, and the brand.

Generally speaking, vitreous china can be more expensive than porcelain.

Material

Cost Range
(bathroom sinks)

Description

Vitreous China

$50 to $500

Vitreous China is a less expensive ceramic material to produce, leading to more affordable products

Porcelain

$100 to over $1000

Porcelain is made from refined clay and fired at higher temperatures, resulting in a denser and more durable product, which is typically more expensive than Vitreous China

In conclusion, if cost is a significant factor in your decision, Vitreous China may be the more economical choice. 

However, it’s important to consider other factors such as durability, appearance, and maintenance when choosing between Vitreous China and Porcelain.

Pros and Cons of Vitreous China and Porcelain

elegant bathroom with two vanity sink

Vitreous China

Vitreous China is a ceramic material that has been glazed with a vitreous enamel coating. This process gives the material a high gloss finish and makes it highly resistant to stains, scratches, and bacteria.

Advantages

  • Durability: Vitreous China is known for its durability. It is resistant to chipping, cracking, and staining, making it a long-lasting choice for bathroom sinks and powder room fixtures.
  • Easy to Clean: The glossy finish of Vitreous China makes it easy to clean and maintain and is also resistant to bacteria, making it a hygienic choice
  • Aesthetics: The high gloss finish gives Vitreous China a luxurious and elegant look

Disadvantages

  • Cost: Vitreous China tends to be more expensive than Porcelain.
  • Weight: Vitreous China is heavier than Porcelain, which can make installation more difficult.

Porcelain

Porcelain is one example of ceramic materials that is fired at high temperatures to achieve a hard, durable finish. It is known for its strength, durability, and resistance to heat and chemicals.

Advantages

  • Durability: Porcelain is extremely durable and resistant to heat, chemicals, and impact.
  • Versatility: Porcelain can be used in a variety of applications, from bathroom sinks to dinnerware and decorative items.
  • Cost: Porcelain tends to be less expensive than Vitreous China.

Disadvantages

  • Maintenance: Porcelain can be more difficult to clean than Vitreous China, especially if it has a matte finish
  • Installation: Porcelain can be more difficult to install due to its weight and brittleness

Fun Fact: Did you know that the name "porcelain" comes from the old Italian term "porcellana," meaning "cowrie shell," because of its similar translucent appearance? Porcelain's history dates back to ancient China, where it was first developed during the Tang Dynasty, making it a material with a rich global heritage.

Summary

Both vitreous china and porcelain offer unique benefits for bathroom fixtures and finishes. The choice between these ceramic materials boils down to personal preferences, budget, and specific bathroom design and functionality requirements. 

Vitreous china provides a classic, glossy look with excellent durability for sanitary ware, while porcelain offers unmatched versatility and toughness, suitable for a broader range of bathroom applications.

Regardless of your choice, both ceramic materials will contribute significantly to the aesthetic and functionality of your bathroom, ensuring longevity and ease of maintenance.

For a seamless renovation or construction process, consult with our design professionals to select the ceramic sink material that best suits your bathroom project. Let's make your bathroom a space and a statement of your style.