Monday, May 21, 2012

“Porcelain” Tile: ??

I learned some things this last week. Always good to learn something new and what I learned may be if interest to all you weekend-warriors, or wives of would-be-weekend-warriors, or husbands thereof, I suppose.
Porcelain tile. Sounds rather exotic, doesn’t it? When I hear ‘porcelain’ I immediately think of the figurines on my Grandmother’s dresser. These were the pieces the grandchildren were forbidden to touch. I really don’t think about floor tiles. So here is what I learned this week:
Porcelain is ceramic. This means it is made from clay. Porcelain is made from a very particular, refined, and usually white clay. This Kaolin clay is  mixed with quartz ferrous sand and fired in a very hot furnace. The heat causes particles in the mixture to turn to glass. That is an incredibly simplified version of the process, but I think it provides insight into the finished product. 
Porcelain doesn’t absorb much moisture. It is ‘impervious’, which means that it has an absorption rate of .5 percent or less. Compare this to cement at 5 to 10 percent. Minimal moisture absorbency does not mean it won’t stain, but it does mean it resists cracking at low temperatures.  
If the porcelain is polished, the pores on the surface of the tile are opened, and the tile becomes more susceptible to staining. So, this tile is often glazed, which involves an additional firing and a product added to the surface of the tile.  If the porcelain is left natural, it is considered “unglazed,” “unpolished,” or  “through-body.”  The color of the tile is through-out the whole tile, chips and dings are much less noticeable than on glazed tiles.
Keeping porcelain clean involves frequent vacuuming with a soft brush attachment or  dust mopping. Warm water and mild cleaning products only, please, and do not allow these products to dry on the floor - they may stain natural porcelain. Don’t use bleach, ammonia  or acids, oil-based detergents or wax cleaners. 
You will pay more for high-quality porcelain tile than box-store ceramic but the advantages are durability, resistance to staining, and resistance to chipping and cracking.
Every wonder why we call the dishes made of good porcelain ‘China’? Because that is where the process was developed. 

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