Fun fact: note how much porcelain shrinks during the firing process, which sucks out all the water. Here you can see the unfired bisque-ware on the right, and the smaller fired piece on the left. So why is porcelain so special? Its composition and the high temperatures at which it’s fired (2,650° F/1,454° C) make it incredibly strong, white, translucent, lightweight, and impermeable to water and germs. That’s why it’s used for hospital dishes, toilets, sinks, and tubs. Most household dishes are ironware or ceramic, which is yellower, heavier, opaque, and crazes easily (meaning it gets hairlike cracks in the finish that discolor and allow bacteria to build up under the glaze.)

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