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What is the Difference Between Earthenware and Stoneware Clay?

When we look at earthenware vs stoneware and the differences between the two, we must first understand the unique properties of earthenware clay and stoneware clay. There are some key differences between stoneware and earthenware clay, which we will also identify in this article.

collection of brown pottery pieces


What is earthenware clay?

Earthenware is one of the most ancient types of pottery produced. It is made from a coarse grain clay and has been used for thousands of years throughout history for a number of different purposes. Over time, earthenware has been made from a type of clay known as red earthenware or, perhaps more familiarly, terracotta.

Earthenware clay is one of the easiest types of clay to work with and so is a suitable material for those just starting out on their pottery making journey. Perhaps the main difference between earthenware and stoneware is that earthenware is fired at a comparatively relatively low temperature. This makes earthenware clay much more porous and means that it is more susceptible to break or chip.

For practical use, earthenware is often glazed on its surface in order to strengthen and waterproof it. Although it is used for roof tiles and pots, it is less suitable for abrasive every day activities such as dinnerware as it lacks durability. One key advantage of earthenware is that it is typically cheaper than stoneware.


What is stoneware clay?

One crucial difference between stoneware and earthenware is that stoneware is a form of a pottery that is fired at a high temperature, and generally much higher temperatures than earthenware.

These high firing temperatures ensure that stoneware is a highly durable material, and much more durable than earthenware. Unlike earthenware, stoneware is non porous and so this lack of porosity makes it the ideal ceramic for dinnerware. As with earthenware, stoneware can undergo glazing to give it a smooth texture and glossy finish.

Stoneware is the perfect material to host food stuffs and therefore can survive well in a microwave or dishwasher.

stack of ceramic plates and cups


What are some of the key differences between stoneware and earthenware?


As mentioned earlier, perhaps the key difference between earthenware and stoneware is in their porosity. Earthenware is much more porous than stoneware. Without glaze, earthenware will soak up water. With glaze, earthenware can be put to more practical uses but does perhaps not offer the quality of stoneware.


Firing temperatures

The firing temperature of earthenware in a pottery oven or kiln is usually around or below 2012 degrees fahrenheit. Stoneware, however, is generally fired between 2150 – 2330° degrees fahrenheit. So, the obvious disadvantage of stoneware vs earthenware is that the high temperatures required for firing will consume more energy, although a lower temperature may mean that firing takes more time.



Stoneware is significantly harder and more durable than earthenware. The fact that earthenware is more porous makes earthenware pottery suited to finished items such as garden pots, which allows a certain amount of water to escape and helps to moisten the plant without saturation. Earthenware tends to have a natural thick cross section, so earthenware ceramics tend to be chunkier, but this does not lead to increased strength. In fact, one can mark earthenware with a finger or nail.



As with strength, earthenware is less durable than stoneware. Its porous texture ensures that it has a more brittle structure than stoneware unless it is glazed. Even when glazed, earthenware does not have the same durability as stoneware. This is why stoneware pottery is often used for practical and every day uses.



If you're looking for a budget clay to use on your pottery wheel, then earthenware clays are more likely to offer you value for money. With a slightly lower quality than stoneware, earthenware provides a great body for making pottery but without the associated costs.

decorated ceramic vases


What's best to use to fire your own pottery?

If you're looking to process and fire your own pottery, then earthenware is probably easier to handle than stoneware on the wheel. It also suffers from less shrinkage when fired and can be molded into a number of different and interesting shapes with relative ease.

As mentioned above, it's also worth considering that stoneware requires higher firing temperatures than earthenware and so more energy and cost is required for a finished piece. This is a particularly important consideration for potters in a home environment, where energy costs could be considerable.

You'll also want to consider what your end use is. If you're looking to make something decorative, or a pot for your garden, then earthenware is ample. However, if you are looking to make something with a regular, practical use complete with glazing that can survive the dishwasher or microwave, then you should look to use stoneware.

Finally, you'll want to consider the kiln or oven that you are using. Does it have the necessary heat output to effectively fire stoneware at the required temperature? Stoneware that is fired ineffectively will lead to a poor end product and so it's worth considering a more powerful home kiln if you intend to focus on stoneware products.


Stoneware vs Earthenware -which is best?

Ultimately, the decision about which type of clay is best to use boils down to what the intended end-use is for. For robustness and non-porous solutions, stoneware clay provides the ideal materials for such a project. For a less expensive alternative, where durability and robustness is not really a factor, then earthenware is perfect for your project.

If you are considering firing your own pottery, then take a look at our range of kilns at Soul Ceramics. We have a wide range of different kilns for different needs and would be happy to help should you have any questions.


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