Porcelain and ceramics tiles: What are the differences?

These two types of tiles are often used interchangeably. Tile shops usually have a category of “porcelain and ceramic tiles”. But are they really the same? Then why are there two words to describe the same products? 

In this article, we want to provide more information on the differences between porcelain and ceramic tiles. If you are considering using any of them for your project, this can work like a buying guide. 

To begin with, it makes sense why they are often used together. Porcelain and ceramics are made from similar materials, for similar purposes, and have similar functions. They even look very much the same. You might mistake them for one another.  You can even use the same cleaning products for both of them. 

But there are some differences that you should know before choosing the right material for your project. 

Bare in mind that there are never good or bad materials. It all depends on your needs and your project. 

a bathroom wall with pink picket tiles

Crackle Pink Decor Picket Porcelain

a kitchen splashback with red an white Moroccan porcelain tiles

Moroccan Snow Mix Ceramic

Main Differences 

For technical purposes, how the two materials are set apart comes down to qualities such as water absorption and hardness.

Porcelain tiles are supposed to have a 0.5 (or lower) water absorption rate to be qualified as porcelain, whereas ceramic tiles have a slightly higher water absorption rate (less than 7%). 

The difference between the two decreases when glazed. Porcelain tiles are almost always glazed, but ceramics sometimes don’t receive glazing. 

For porcelain tiles to achieve this density, a kind of kaolin clay mixture is used that is purer and much finer than the ones used for making ceramic tiles. Also, the clay often contains quartz and other natural minerals to ensure it can be heated at a higher temperature (around 1200 -1400 Celsius) and the final product is fine-grained. 

Ceramic tiles are produced at a lower temperate (around 900 Celsius) and fewer minerals such as kaolin and additive materials are used in making the clay. Therefore, ceramics tend to be less impervious than porcelain tiles. Although once glazed, their water absorption level decreases. 

A bathroom with grey porcelain tiles flooring and walls.
Evo White Concrete Porcelain
Craquele Soft Pink Bevelled Spanish Subway Ceramic

Craquele Soft Pink Bevelled Spanish Subway Ceramic


In recent years, the technology for producing porcelain has advanced so much that you can find the porcelain lookalike for almost any material. From natural stone to terrazzo tiles and cement. They are easy to maintain and are far cheaper than the actual materials. 

For instance, porcelain marble kitchen countertops are very popular nowadays. They look exactly like marble without all that cost! 

Marble look porcelain

A living room with black marble-look porcelain tiles with gold veining on the floor.
Nero Portoro Gold Italian Porcelain 
Terrazzo look porcelain 
A bathroom with a bathtub. Pink terrazzo-look porcelain tiles and green porcelain tiles are installed on the walls.
Traviso Bianco Italian Porcelain

Ceramics usually have a certain kind of texture. That texture brings out a nice feel to the place. For example, Moroccan tiles are one of the most popular ceramic tiles. They have a variety of patterns and colours. That kind of pattern is also possible with porcelain. Most designs and looks are possible with porcelain, but ceramics will have a certain kind of texture that porcelain does not. 

Maintenance and Cleaning 

When it comes to maintenance and cleaning, both ceramic and porcelain are easy to clean and maintain. Similar products can be used for both if the ceramic tiles are glazed. Make sure your ceramics are glazed before using abrasive products. We recommend using Lithofin products for cleaning porcelain and ceramic tiles.

Porcelain can withstand very abrasive and acidic cleaning products, which makes it very easy to maintain. You can use our recommended Lithofin products for cleaning porcelain and ceramic tiles. For more info on how to maintain porcelain and ceramic tiles have a look at this article.

The major advantage of porcelain and ceramic tiles is that they have a very low water absorption rate unlike some natural stones such as travertine and limestone. 

Ceramics are softer than porcelain and their water absorption rate is slightly higher, therefore, maintaining them needs a little bit more effort. That’s why porcelain tiles are more popular for bathroom areas where there is a lot of humidity and ceramics are more common for feature walls and hallways. 

a wall with green kitkat porcelain tiles laid in herringbone style. There is a black table and a stool in the image.
Stix White Herringbone Porcelain Mosaic

Overall, they are both relatively easy to maintain. The one thing you want to do in keeping your tiles well throughout the year is to make sure no water and humidity is remaining on the tiles. Always keep an eye on ventilation. 

Temperature and Water Resistance 

Porcelain is more resistant to water and denser because of the extra mineral materials and the higher temperature it is heated in. They do have good resistance to high temperatures as well. Although, they are not recommended for extreme cold or hot temperatures. In Australia, you can use porcelain tiles outdoors as long as the slip rating is high enough. 

Ceramic tiles have high heat resistance and that’s why they are a favourable choice for countertops. If they are not glazed, they tend to be very susceptible to water absorption. For example, if the back side or sides are not glazed, you need to ensure those areas are not touching any water. 

In general, porcelain has better water resistance than ceramics but in terms of heat, they are almost the same. 

Slip Rating 

Both ceramic and porcelain tiles can be highly slippery materials. 

This is what makes them so easy to maintain. Their surface does not hold any liquid or moisture on it.  

However, nanotechnology porcelain tiles are being produced now that have higher slip ratings that are useful for bathrooms. 

a yellow sign with the words "Caution Wet Floor"

This varies from product to product and makes them suitable for one environment and unsuitable for another. 

Generally, gloss ceramic tiles are slippery and used for walls only. Porcelain tiles may have a wider range of use with a higher slip rating. 


Price Differences 

When it comes to cost, porcelain and ceramic tiles are both in the same price range. However, porcelain tiles are slightly more expensive. 

Some feature ceramic or porcelain mosaics may be costly, but overall, they are both economic choices with great practical uses. 

How To Choose Between Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles 

If you are in a situation where you need to choose between ceramic or porcelain tiles, you need to consider a few factors. 

There are no right or wrong answers, but considering these few things could help you make a decision. 

Visual appeal is an important factor. See which tiles appeal to you the most. Some ceramic tiles have very unique and classic looks that some people find appealing. 

A kitchen splashback with green ceramic tiles
Zellige Blur Moroccan Porcelain

The environment of the tile application is an important factor to consider. If you want to tiles an outdoor area, ceramics are not a great choice. And if you want to choose porcelain, you need to make sure they are not slippery. 

A kitchen splashback with grey ceramic tiles. There is a black bucket on the counter.
Cloudy Grey Moroccan Ceramic

Also, you should think about maintenance. If you want to use the tiles in a high-traffic area, you want to make sure they are easy to maintain. Both porcelain and ceramics are easy to maintain. However, ceramics should be glazed to increase their water resistance. 

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