Natural Stone Porous Materials Protection Cleaning D.I.Y.

Stone origins: Terracotta

The terracotta pots and other objects are made from has an interesting production process.

All of the natural stone examples we’ve previously discussed in our “Stone origins” series had one thing in common: They were the result of millions of years of intense, geological processes that formed them into the stones we know today. Terracotta is a little bit different.

What stands terracotta apart from the rest of these stones is that it’s a man-made stone. If it weren’t for human ingenuity, it simply wouldn’t exist. Whether you’re cleaning terracotta, sealing it or simply walking around on it, it pays to be aware of this fact.

Some background on terracotta

‘Terracotta’ is an Italian word, literally translating into “baked earth”. This should give you some hint as to its origins from the get-go.

Terracotta is essentially any kind of clay which has been fired, turning into a hard, often red or ochre material used to make pottery, statues and other objects. While terracotta may not be millions of years old like stones like granite, we have examples of terracotta artworks dating as far back as 6,000 BCE – so it’s certainly no Johnny-come-lately.

In terms of when it was used, terracotta appeared frequently in the art of ancient Greeks and Etruscans and Romans. Between the fall of ancient Rome and the Renaissance, it virtually disappeared in use, before making a big comeback.

The creation of terracotta

There are two chief ingredients to terracotta: Clay and water. Typically, first the clay is refined and has its impurities removed with the use of nets. Once adequately filtered, it is mixed with water, until it reaches an acceptable consistency.

At this point, the mixed clay is shaped, whether by hand or by machine. When it has been formed into the right shape and size, the clay is often left to dry in the sun for a few days.

The very last step in the process is the firing – simply a technical term that refers to the process of baking the clay in a kiln. Usually, the finished terracotta will take on a red or black color, depending on whether smoke is allowed to leave the furnace or not, respectively.

Terracotta comes in both glazed and unglazed forms. In either case, however, because of the clay that it is made from, it is quite porous, so surface protection is key for longevity. Try Dry-Treat’s META CRÈME™ for your terracotta feature.

Subscribe to our digest!

Get the latest digest of our helpful hints, tips, and ideas to keep your surfaces looking as good as new!