Stainless Steel Sink vs. Porcelain: Which One Is Better?

Stainless Steel Sink vs. Porcelain: Which One Is Better

You have plenty of choices if you’re in the market for a new kitchen sink. Numerous brands offer various kitchen and bathroom sinks in several colors, designs, materials, styles, and price points, so there’s something out there for every aesthetic preference. 

However, selecting the perfect sink can be overwhelming with all these choices. Which material should you choose? What size is best for your home? Do you want a single-basin sink or a double-basin sink? Each question brings up an important aspect to consider, but this article shifts the focus to materials. 

More specifically, stainless steel and porcelain sinks. Both materials are solid choices, but which one is better? Let’s find out. 

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is one of the most popular materials for kitchen sinks, if not the most popular option. These sinks are durable, easy to maintain, and relatively cheap compared to other materials, so their popularity is no surprise. 

Stainless steel sinks are widely available in numerous styles, designs, and price points, so most folks don’t have any issue finding something to meet their expectations. These sinks are made of varying gauges of stainless steel, which represents the thickness of the sink and directly correlates with the product’s overall durability. 

Thinner gauges, usually around 22 to 24-gauge steel, dent much easier than their thicker comrades, so they’re generally cheaper. Thicker gauges, typically between 14 and 18-gauge steel, are considerably sturdier and hold up well for years, so they cost more. 

Thicker gauge sinks are standard in commercial kitchens, where durability is of utmost importance. Thinner gauges are more common in residential settings, as they’re the less expensive options. The best thickness for a stainless steel sink is somewhere in the middle, usually around 16 or 18-gauge steel. 

Pros 

As you debate between porcelain and stainless steel, consider each of the pros and cons of the materials. Notable upsides of stainless steel include:

  • Incredibly durable
  • Long-lasting
  • Versatile
  • Widely available in numerous designs
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to certain sink materials (granite, copper, fireclay)

Cons

Like any other material, stainless steel has a few downsides. Here’s what you should consider:

  • Lack of color variation (generally only available in silver)
  • Susceptible to scratching
  • Noisy when using the sink to wash dishes

Porcelain

Porcelain is another standard pick for kitchen sinks, although it’s more popular for bathroom sinks. Made of kaolin and silicate material, porcelain is durable and long-lasting. These sinks aren’t new on the scene, having been around for decades, yet still remain popular. 

Porcelain is easy to clean, durable, and hygienic due to its nonporous surface. Generally, these sinks feature a white or cream color, but you can buy them in unique colors to match your home’s color palette. You’ll probably need to put in a special order to buy a different colored porcelain sink, but it’s doable. 

Some of these sinks are solid porcelain, whereas others feature a base material, such as steel, iron, or fireclay. If there’s a base material involved, the porcelain portion is simply the outer coating covering the material underneath. 

Pros

Like stainless steel, you should consider a few pros and cons of porcelain. Here are a few advantages to keep in mind:

  • Low maintenance
  • Easy to clean
  • Wide range of colors
  • Durable
  • Long-lasting (with proper care)
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other sink materials

Cons

On the flip side, porcelain sinks aren’t without drawbacks. Here are a few potential downsides:

  • Susceptible to chips and cracks
  • Potential for staining
  • Can be heavy, making installation tricky

Porcelain vs. Stainless Steel: A Head-To-Head Comparison

With the basics of each material in mind, let’s examine each option in a head-to-head comparison. 

Durability

The durability of porcelain or stainless steel sinks hinges on their composition. Stainless steel sinks with lower gauges are more durable than their thinner counterpart, as the thicker steel withstands heavy use better. For a residential setting, 16 or 18-gauge steel is ideal, as it’s somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, offering solid durability at a reasonable price. 

On the other hand, the durability of porcelain sinks depends on whether the sink is solid porcelain. Porcelain sinks with a steel or cast iron core are much more durable than their solid counterpart. Solid porcelain sinks are susceptible to chips and cracks, but those with a base material are less susceptible to these occurrences. 

Longevity 

Stainless steel and porcelain last for decades with proper care and maintenance. As long as you avoid harsh scrubbers and abrasive chemicals and treat the surface with care, your sink should last for many years. 

Porcelain sinks usually last around 25 to 30 years, although those with a cast iron core typically last slightly longer than steel cores. Stainless steel sinks, on the other hand, will last anywhere from 15 to 30 years, depending on the gauge of the steel. 

Pricing

Porcelain and stainless steel sinks feature similar pricing. On average, stainless steel sinks cost between $250 and $450, whereas porcelain sinks cost between $250 and $500. However, there are a few outliers in each bunch.

For example, a regular, single-bowl undermount stainless steel sink usually costs around $300. However, modern designs, apron-front sinks, or sinks with multiple bowls can cost as much as $2,000 in some cases. 

Or, consider porcelain sinks – for an enameled porcelain single-bowl sink, you’ll probably pay around $300. However, if you choose a specialty color, an apron-front design, or a sink with multiple bowls, you might pay as much as $1,500. 

The installation costs are similar for each option, although porcelain sinks can cost more to install if they’re heavy (cast iron core). 

Installation

The difficulty of installing these sinks depends on the weight and mounting style. Heavier porcelain sinks, such as those with a cast iron core, will likely need extra support in the base cabinet, so installation can be trickier than a stainless steel sink. 

Stainless steel sinks are usually lightweight and easy to install, although the simplicity level can fluctuate based on the installation type. For example, drop-in sinks are incredibly easy to install, whereas undermount sinks are a bit more challenging to install. With a drop-in sink, the hole in your countertop doesn’t need to be as perfect as a cutout for an undermount sink, as the rim hides the cutout edges. 

Maintenance

If low maintenance is the name of the game, both materials are excellent options. Stainless steel can scratch, and porcelain can stain, but other than that, cleaning is relatively straightforward. Steer clear of abrasive scrubbers for cleaning stainless steel and avoid harsh chemicals for porcelain. 

Noise

While you might not consider noise when selecting a kitchen sink, keeping this aspect in mind doesn’t hurt. Stainless steel sinks are thinner than porcelain sinks, so they vibrate when water, dishes, or other items come into contact with the sides or bottom. This can make the sink noisy when you use it, even if it has dampening pads built into the design. 

Porcelain sinks are thicker than stainless steel, so noise due to vibration isn’t a concern. The material naturally muffles sounds, making it a quieter alternative to stainless steel.

Is Porcelain Better Than Stainless Steel?

Porcelain isn’t necessarily better than stainless steel. For some folks, a porcelain kitchen sink might be the best choice. But for others, stainless steel might be the more sensible option. Ultimately, it comes down to your needs and what you’re looking for in a sink. 

For example, if you appreciate the looks of a fireclay farmhouse sink and aren’t overly thrilled with their price tag, you could consider a porcelain farmhouse sink. They may be priced lower than fireclay, so you could get a similar look for a lower price. 

Stainless steel might be the better option if you want long-lasting durability and prefer to avoid installing extra supports for your sink (such as what is necessary with a heavy porcelain sink). It’s hard to go wrong with either material (as long as you pick a good-quality sink), so choose whichever option works best for your home. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Stainless Steel Or Porcelain Easier To Clean?

Both materials are relatively low maintenance – cleaning is simple, as long as you stay away from abrasive cleaners and scrubbers. Mild cleaners are best for stainless steel sinks, but there’s a bit more flexibility with porcelain sinks. 

You should avoid using abrasive scrubbers stainless steel, as it’s susceptible to scratches. Porcelain isn’t as susceptible to scratches or abrasive scrubbers, but harsh chemicals can wear down the enamel over time, so it’s best to use mild cleaners.