What is the difference between Terracotta and Clay pots?


Terracotta is an Italian term for “Baked Earth”. Later it was introduced to English vocabulary. It is a type of slow-roasted or fired clay at high temperatures. Technically The name Terracotta represents the rusty red color clay articles.

The clay gets its beautiful color by continuous heating at a temperature above 600 degrees. Terracotta pots are red fired clay pots. The hot red color of a terracotta pot is due to the presence of iron ore in the clay.

What is difference between Terracotta and clay Pots
What is the difference between Terracotta and clay pots?

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What is the difference between terracotta and clay pots?

Terracotta and clay pots are very popular in gardening. Both types of pots are useful and effective for container gardening. These are the ideal choice for any home gardeners.

We know that Terracotta is a type of earthen clay pot. Does it mean Terracotta and clay pots are the same? or is there any difference between these two?

I think It is better to say they are the same but with some distinct differences. The common differences between a terracotta and clay pots are-

  1. A Terracotta pot is generally dark red or yellowish-brown in color whereas a clay pot can have any color. You can find white, black, blue, green, or any color clay pot or ceramics but terracotta is always bright red.
  2. Terracotta pots are very sonorous. It can produce a sharp metallic sound. Generally, most of the clay pots are sonorous otherwise they are not strong enough to hold the soil. The sharp sound indicates the compactness of particles in a terracotta pot.
  3. Clay pots or general ceramics are glazed to give lustrous look but terracotta is mostly unglazed. Glazing has a disadvantage for gardeners. The oils used for glazing fill the porous surface of the pot and make it waterproof. This is not good for plant growth.
  4. Terracotta pots are baked in the direct flame at 850-1100 degrees. The clay used for this purpose contains iron ore that gives the signature red color. Whereas Clay pots are baked at low temperature. Still, you can find clay pots with black burn marks.
  5. I can’t confirm this but for me, terracotta is stronger than other clay pots. Write down what’s your opinion?

My Favorite Terracotta clay pots on Amazon

Are Terracotta and clay the same thing?

Terracotta and clay Pots
Terracotta and Clay ots

Umm, Yes, terracotta and clay are the same but of different forms. Once we bake the clay, it becomes terracotta. Terracotta simply meany baked earth and earth is clay. Generally, terracottas are the Red earthen pots and articles.

So we can say that terracotta is a different type or a rather different state of clay. It is obtained by heating and burning the clay.

Terracotta Pots

Clay pots

  • Mostly Red or Brown in color.
  • Porous and Water absorbent
  • Unglazed
  • Produce sharp metallic sound
  • Baked at specific temperature: 850-1150 degrees
  • Always baked. Raw clay pots are not terracotta, even if they are red in color.
  • Many colors. White, blue, black, green, or any color you like.
  • Mostly Waterproof
  • Highly glazed, probably with oil and paints.
  • Sonorus but not as sharp as authentic terracotta.
  • No specific baking temperature. Different clay needs a different temperature to bake pots. Porcelain needs high temperature than others.
  • Unbaked clay pots are also available in the market.

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What is terracotta clay made of?

Generally, any clay can work for making terracotta. But the ideal should contain more iron to give the signature red-brown color. Let’s check out the details first.

What type of clay is terracotta?– The clay used for making terracotta is the iron-rich groggy clay. The term terracotta is referred to as the red porous product obtained by burning the clay. The history of terracotta pottery roots in Italy, ancient China, and India.

Some Popular Clay recipe for making Terracotta 

  • Redart clay 50%, talc 20%, goldart clay 10%, A.P. Green 10%, Ball clay 10%
  • Others: Redart 60%, AP Green 20% Kentucy OM #4 Ball clay 20%, talc 10%, 10% grog.
  • Redart 62.5%, OM 5%, Wollastonite 5%, Pyrax 5%, Frit 3195 3.3%, Bentonite 2.6%
  • Redart 70%, Saggar Ball Clay 50%, Lizella Red 40%, ball clay 20%, talc 20% wollastonite 5%
  • Ocmulgee 20%, AP Green 15%, Talc 15%, Narco fire clay 10%, wollastonite 10%, 30% grog, 10% red iron oxide, 3% Barnard clay.

Terracotta gets its quality and texture by the combination of a proper clay mix and the right temperature.

Is hardened clay terracotta?

Yes, Terracotta is the hardened clay. In fact, in Italy, the term terracotta is native to baked earth. It means anything that is made with clay and fired at low temperatures.

Interesting fact. It is called Terracotta only for the way it is made. The clay used is not responsible for the naming. Anything red and made with clay these days is terracotta.  The Actual terracotta is the hardened clay rich in iron.

Does terracotta clay dissolve in water?

No, Terracotta clay does not dissolve in water. Clay is basically the soil. It should dissolve in water but actually, it doesn’t. You can break terracotta into small pieces, even smaller than sand but it will not dissolve in water.

Interesting isn’t it? Clay or Terracotta pots and articles are made from natural clay but they are not biodegradable. You may think Why? In fact, I also think so and I found that answer.

The heat used to prepare terracotta actually compresses and converts the clay particles into irreversible quartz. Some minerals also get melt and fused with this quartz and make the terracotta compact and strong. It makes the particle waterproof and hence we can’t dissolve terracotta in water.

Ok, we can’t dissolve terracotta in water but if it gets enough time then definitely it will dissolve. Water is a universal solvent, this means it can dissolve anything even plastic. But this natural degradation may take 100 or even 1000 years.

References

  • http://www.lindaarbuckle.com/handouts/clay-earthenware.pdf

Sukant

Hi, My name is Sukant. I am an I.T professional. Gardening for me is not only a hobby, its a way of living life with nature. Due to my Family background as Commercial Farmers for more than 3 generations: I personally feel attached to the green. I am not an expert, I'm here just to share my 25 years of experience in gardening. Believe me Its always Refreshing.

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