Before we discuss the proper ways to take care of your farmhouse sink, let’s check out the different materials manufacturers use to create them.
First up is ceramic. Ceramic has a history going back thousands of years, as evidenced by the various Cypriot storage jars found in the Uluburun shipwreck and the Ancestral Puebloan pottery excavated by archeologists in the Mesa Verde National Park. But what exactly is this material called ceramic?
Traditional ceramic refers to any material created from metallic and non-metallic compounds (e.g. quartz sand, clay minerals, alumina, etc.) that are shaped and then fired at a high temperature to produce a hard, heat-resistant, and brittle object. Some examples of ceramics we use every day include earthenware, stoneware, porcelain, and fireclay. But we’re going to focus on porcelain and fireclay as these materials are commonly used in sink manufacturing.
Porcelain is created by mixing a clay mineral called kaolin (also known as china clay) and petuntse (also known as pottery or china stone). Kaolin gives the object its structure, while petuntse is responsible for the object’s hardness. Petuntse also lends porcelain its signature translucency. Once formed, the object is then fired in a kiln with a temperature reaching up to 2,650 °F.
The majority of porcelain sinks today are made of pure or solid porcelain, but some manufacturers now opt to cast porcelain over cast iron or steel to produce more durable kitchen sinks. Porcelain sinks, in general, are easy to maintain. They just need to be regularly cleaned with mild cleaners and a soft sponge or cloth to keep the surface sleek and free from scratches and food stains.
The downside is that solid porcelain and porcelain-enameled sinks can chip if you drop hard objects on them. The good news is the chipped portion can be repaired, so you don’t need to throw the sink out and replace it with a new one. It is also susceptible to stains when you leave food residues for extended periods. Plus, porcelain sinks are heavy, so you’re going to need some help if you’re planning to install one.
Another material used to make kitchen sinks is fireclay. Fireclay sinks are also made of kaolinite clays mixed with minerals like mica or quartz. The clays and minerals are mixed together and coated over with porcelain enamel. They are then fired in a kiln at temperatures reaching 2,000 °F.
Fireclay sinks are very tough and can last for many years if maintained properly. They are largely resistant to stains and abrasions thanks to their hard porcelain enamel.
Cast iron is another material used to make kitchen sinks. They are prized for their durability, and won’t crack or dent easily. They are scratch and stain-resistant, and they are available in a wide variety of colors.