Porcelain vs. Enamel Sink: What Is The Difference?

Kitchen and bathroom sinks come in various materials, from natural stones, like granite or quartz composite, to metals, like stainless steel or cast iron. Among the abundant list of choices, you’ll find porcelain and enamel sinks, both of which are popular picks for kitchens and bathrooms alike.

Porcelain and enamel share a few similarities, including their strikingly similar appearance. So, are they the same thing? What is the difference? Is one better? This article answers these questions and more, so continue reading to learn more!

What Is Porcelain?

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Porcelain is a popular material for a number of different products. It’s the exclusive material for toilets and is commonly used for kitchen and bathroom sinks, although we see it more so in the latter. 

Traditionally, porcelain is made of two vital ingredients: kaolin and petunse. Kaolin, also known as china clay, is a type of silicate material that gives the material its plasticity. Petunse, also called pottery stone, gives porcelain its hardness and translucent appearance. 

Pros And Cons Of Porcelain Sinks

As with most products, porcelain has a few pros and cons. A few of the high points of the material include:

  • Wide range of options for kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Holds up well over time
  • Diverse array of color options
  • Low maintenance

On the flip side, a few drawbacks of porcelain sinks include:

  • Susceptible to chips
  • Can be vulnerable to stains
  • Fairly hefty, can make installation tricky

Porcelain Sink Maintenance

With proper care, a porcelain sink will last for many years. However, regular maintenance is essential to preserve the beautiful, glossy surface of the sink, as it is susceptible to chips and stains. 

It’s essential to clean the sink daily with a mild cleaning solution. Use two tablespoons of dish soap mixed into a gallon of water. Scrub the sink with a soft cloth or sponge, as an abrasive sponge will damage the surface. This helps remove the buildup of soap scum, grease, dirt, and food scraps. 

Then, rinse the sink with warm water and dry it thoroughly with a soft towel to avoid water stains. 

What Is Enamel?

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Enamel is another common sink material. However, enamel sinks aren’t made solely of enamel, as that wouldn’t work very well. Instead, these sinks are usually made of cast iron or stainless steel, then coated in a baked-on enamel finish. 

The result is an enameled cast iron or stainless steel sink that is surprisingly durable. Like porcelain, enamel sinks usually feature an attractive, glossy finish that complements the surroundings. 

Enamel is composed of clay, feldspar, quartz, silica, and color pigments. The resulting powder is applied to iron or steel casting, then fired at extremely high temperatures. The high firing temperature gives a solid, durable finish. 

Pros And Cons Of Enamel Sinks

Enamel sinks feature a few different pros and cons. A couple of the primary benefits of enamel sinks include:

  • Extremely durable
  • Not susceptible to cracks or dents
  • Smooth, glossy finish

On the other hand, a few of the downsides to enamel sinks include:

  • May chip or scratch
  • Susceptible to stains
  • Can be heavy (especially enameled cast iron)
  • Strong or abrasive cleaners may wear away the enamel coating
  • May have issues with rust if the enamel coating wears away

Enamel Sink Maintenance

Caring for an enamel sink requires a bit more work than a porcelain sink but is still relatively simple. To clean the sink, use hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda in the bottom of the sink, then spray a few drops of peroxide over the baking soda. 

Using a non-abrasive sponge, gently scrub the interior surface of the sink. If there are any red stains, rust, etc., use a lemon quarter to remove them. Cut a lemon into quarters, then swipe the wedge around the problematic areas. It cuts through the mars in the enamel, leaving you with a clean, glossy sink. 

What Is The Difference Between Porcelain And Enamel?

Bathroom Sinks

The main difference between porcelain and enamel falls in composition. While porcelain sinks are generally solid porcelain without any frame underneath, enamel sinks require a support frame underneath. 

Enamel sinks usually feature stainless steel or cast iron underneath, so their overall composition looks considerably different than porcelain. Because of the frame between the layers of baked-on enamel, these sinks tend to be pretty hefty, whereas porcelain sinks might be somewhat lighter. 

It can be tricky to visually tell the difference between porcelain and enamel, as both share a similar appearance. Both sinks often come in lighter or neutral colors, especially white, which can complicate trying to tell them apart. 

How Do I Know If My Sink Is Porcelain Or Enamel?

There’s one quick and easy way to determine if your sink is porcelain or enamel. This plays on the primary difference between the two: porcelain is solid, and enamel coats the metal underneath. 

The sink will be magnetic since the enamel covers a steel or iron frame. So, if a magnet sticks to the sink, you probably have an enamel sink. If the sink is unresponsive and the magnet doesn’t stick, the sink is probably porcelain. 

Is Porcelain Better Than Enamel?

Bath Sinks

In some cases, porcelain might be a better option than enamel. For instance, enameled sinks tend to be relatively hefty and may require extra support. So, if your sink or vanity doesn’t have room for supports, a porcelain sink may be the better pick. Porcelain is a common material for pedestal sinks, as it’s lightweight and durable. 

On the other hand, there are some scenarios where enameled sinks are the better choice. For example, a porcelain sink might not be strong enough if you want a farmhouse or apron-front kitchen sink. Enameled cast iron or stainless steel offers the durability and heftiness necessary to get the job done.

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