Why Are Toilets Made of Porcelain?


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Gray and wooden bathroom with double sink

The toilet, a bathroom fixture that has been around for centuries, ever since 1696. While the plumbing system certainly benefitted from technological upgrades throughout its history, the toilet bowl itself remains relatively unchanged. The toilet bowl is still mainly made from porcelain for hundreds of years. So why exactly was the toilet bowl design never updated? Indeed there are other materials out there that can replace porcelain. Something more durable, perhaps? 

There is a good reason why porcelain is still the primary material used in manufacturing toilets – a couple of reasons. First, porcelain is incredibly easy to clean. Next up, it is hygienic and has excellent antimicrobial efficacy. Lastly, it is comfortable to use and cost-effective to make. 

As you can see, the three main strengths of porcelain are the main reasons why it is still the primary material used in creating toilet bowls. Sure other models incorporate plastic and stainless steel, but nothing beats the good old-fashioned and old reliable porcelain in this market. 

Why Porcelain is the Best Toilet Material

There are three significant functionalities that toilets need to have:

  • It needs to be able to flush consistently.
  • It needs to be waterproof and sanitary.
  • It needs to be durable.

Porcelain pretty much checks out on all three of these requirements, which is why it is still the primary material used in the toilet bowl industry. 

Other materials sometimes used in toilets do not hit all the marks. Plastic, for example, is highly susceptible to bacteria buildup. As a result, no matter how often you clean a plastic toilet bowl, the waste will eventually start to seep into the material, which will result in a very unsanitary toilet bowl. 

That is not the case with porcelain, as this material is completely non-porous, and cleaning it will be less arduous than its plastic counterpart. Additionally, the plastic toilet is more expensive to manufacture while significantly less sturdy than porcelain.  

Other Advantages of Porcelain Toilets

Ceramic toilet bowls in white. Plumbing trade in the store.

The porcelain toilet bowl is not only sufficiently sturdy and sanitary; it is also known for its exceptionally long lifespan. Standard porcelain toilets can easily last anywhere between 15 to 30 years and, if properly maintained, can last up to 50 years or more. Along with its affordable price, the outstanding lifespan of porcelain toilet bowls makes it a practical investment. 

White is associated with hygiene, cleanliness and purity which is why most toilets are white and porcelain is the perfect material to use for a pure white finish over natural stone or other materials that have impurities.

How is Porcelain Made?

A pretty common misconception is that porcelain is itself a raw material when porcelain is a mixture of several ingredients. Porcelain is primarily made from a combination of powdered feldspar, kaolin, and silicate minerals. Some porcelain manufacturing procedures also include additional components typically exclusive or patented by the manufacturer.

Porcelain is also not initially waterproof as it will need to go through a vitreous china process, which is a finish or coating that gives porcelain its 100% waterproof properties. Vitreous china is the glaze-like finish that gives porcelain its smooth surface, making it easy to clean. 

The entire process of creating porcelain takes multiple days to complete and requires someone with great attention to detail. In addition, each step will require several days in between to ensure that the porcelain achieves its peak durability. Also, each porcelain manufacturer tends to have their specific method of creating this material, to varying degrees of results. 

Below are the core steps in creating porcelain toilet bowls:

Molding

Manufacturers will need to have a mold to ensure that the toilet will have a definite shape and size. Some toilet bowls have unique designs that give these units a sleek and modern aesthetic. Once the porcelain slurry is ready, it will be poured into the mold and air-dried. Some manufacturers will speed up the drying process by placing the mold inside a low-heat drying chamber which significantly reduces the time for the porcelain to harden. 

Glazing

Once the porcelain toilet bowl is adequately dried, it will then go through a process that will remove imperfections via sanding the unit down and removing overflow segments. After the toilet bowl is sanded down, it will be glazed via vitreous china enamel. This glaze will give the porcelain waterproofing. 

Firing

The final stage of prepping porcelain is the firing. This process requires the model to be placed inside a fire kiln that can reach up to 1,220 degrees Celsius or 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason for placing the porcelain inside the kiln is to eliminate any remaining moisture and further harden the enamel surface and give its glossy finish. The porcelain is typically left inside the massive and extremely hot kiln for up to 18 hours or more. 

Once the process is completed correctly, the porcelain toilet will be ready for use. The entire and time-consuming procedure is well worth the wait. The result is a waterproof, durable, and glossy substance that is the most reliable material for manufacturing toilet bowls and other bathroom fixtures. 

Conclusion

As you can see, porcelain earns its spot as the best material for toilet bowls. It has maintained its spot as the number one toilet type for hundreds of years. It pretty much brings everything you need in terms of functionality.

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