Is Unglazed Pottery Food Safe?

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There is no limit to doubts on the matter of whether the pottery I am making and using is food safe or not. Similarly, many questions or doubts arise regarding the factor that if the unglazed pottery is food safe. Some say it is not food-safe, while a few claim it to be safe to use.


However, a clear-cut answer to your question is NO. Unglazed pottery may be free from harmful chemicals and toxins, but it’s not entirely food safe and capable of imposing danger to your health.


To solve more of your doubts on this matter, here in this article, we are going to focus on it. So, to know more about this topic, you need to stay hooked on to the end along with us. Now, let’s get started without buzzing around anymore.


What does food-safe mean, and how the pottery type is related to it?

Food-safe pottery means there is no risk associated with pot when you use it for food purposes. Most of the time, it is the harmful chemical of a bowl or pot material that comes in the way of good health. These chemicals can either give you instant health problems or ruin your health in the long term if you choose to intake them regularly. And the harmful pottery materials do that without your knowledge.


But food-safe pottery is free from such kinds of danger-causing chemicals. The usage of good quality materials makes it food grade so that you can easily use it for eating purposes without worrying about the infusion of toxins in your food. And this is exactly why you should take note of the type of pottery you are using for storing and eating your food.


Potteries are made from natural materials like clay. But later, it meets various kinds of chemicals such as lead, color, firing pollutants, etc. Besides, unglazed pottery is not waterproof and comes with a fragile nature, which is not safe for storing foods. Also, the clay components tend to break their bonds and mix up with the liquid when the pot comes in contact with it.


On the other hand, if glazed pottery that contains lead is used for food purposes, it can even cause cancer and several other health hazards. And that is why it is essential to know the pottery material that you are using for food purposes if it is going to impose any danger on your health or not.


What actually is unglazed pottery?

Before jumping onto the topic of whether unglazed pottery is food safe or not, it’s better to clear your ideas about what actually unglazed pottery is. Unglazed pottery or bisque-fired pottery is also known as biscuit pottery, and it refers to ceramic ware, which has not yet met the glazing process. The unglazed pottery can be of any form; it can be a bisque-fired clay, an unglazed earthenware, or a terracotta piece.



So now, have a look at the different types of unglazed potteries.

Unglazed Pottery Type


These are the kind of baked potteries that come with a reddish appearance.
These unglazed potteries are polished and painted with slips of red and white to create intricate patterns.
Polished Pottery
These are deeply incised unglazed pots styled with patterned arabesques.


These unglazed potteries are porous by nature. They have larger pores on the surface, which are enough to soak any liquid, thereby making the pots non-waterproof. Moreover, they have a rough texture, unlike glazed pots.


Why unglazed potteries are considered unsafe in the first place?

Unglazed pottery does not meet the necessary properties that are required to attribute ceramic ware with the food-safe tag. To better understand why unglazed pottery is unsafe, you need to have precise knowledge about how glazing can affect your pot. So, let’s have a look at it.


What glazing can do to your pottery?

Pottery meets several changes in its quality and texture when it undergoes the glazing process. A proper way of glazing renders a lot more changes to the pot or ceramic piece, which changes its entire look and character. Here are the effects that glazing can impart on the clay.


  • The glazing process forms a coating on the clay, which stays life-long and makes the pot durable. When the pottery is glazed, it gets an application of multiple layers of glazing. The glaze mixture is formed by whisking various components to make it thick. When this thick mix is applied to the pottery body and fired at a high temperature, it creates a protective coating on the pot surface, making the piece durable.



  • Glazing seals the pores of the pottery body and makes it waterproof. With the durable coating on the surface, the ceramic pot gets a new life, which further strengthens its texture and locks the porous nature of the pottery so that you can easily pour in water without worrying about the liquid seeping out.
  • The method of glazing makes pottery food safe. It creates a safety film on the ceramic ware, which makes the pottery safe for use in food purposes. However, the glaze must be free from harmful chemicals like lead. Lead-free glazing is perfect for making your ceramic ware food safe. Mayco Designer Liner Ceramic Glaze Writers can be a good choice in this case.
  • Glazing undoubtedly increases the aesthetic value of an ordinary pottery piece. Along with the creative glazing components, which are fired at a high temperature to make the glazing mix adhere to the surface, this process brings out a beautiful texture and color of the ceramic ware.
  • While glazing, the pottery piece gets exposed to the high temperature of the kiln for undergoing the firing process. This high-temperature application for a long time changes the ceramic material entirely. It strengthens the bond of the clay and makes the soft, pliable clay body stone-hard, which is durable and not-so-fragile.

What happens when you leave your pottery unglazed?

Now that you know how important it is to glaze your earthenware, it will be easier for you to understand what happens when you leave your pottery unglazed. So, let’s give it a read.


  • As said earlier, glazing involves firing at high temperatures, which eventually improves the texture and clay bond of the pottery body. However, a bit of rawness may remain in the earthenware if it is not glazed adequately before firing.
  • Since unglazed potteries are porous, it makes the piece soak up water or liquid stored in it. Also, for not being waterproof, the clay body materials get directly exposed to the water or food contained in the pot, which is, of course, unhealthy.

  • This not-waterproof body of unglazed pottery is hard to clean or wash. And it tends to make room for bacteria and fungus, which are extremely harmful to health if you consume it through your food.
  • You cannot apply any dishwasher soap for cleaning unglazed pottery. And a regular water wash is not enough for cleaning the bowls or pots that you use for food purposes. So, it is undoubtedly dangerous to eat food on unglazed pottery.
  • Many potters use artificial colors or paints to decorate earthenware and leave the body unglazed, without providing any glazing over the chemical dyes. Paints usually contain a lot of elements, especially lead. So, when you use unglazed pottery made of harmful chemicals, it is undoubtedly going to impose some severe health dangers, which will be enough to make you fall sick. These chemicals also promote long-term health diseases.

In a recent study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, experts have expressed their concern regarding the safety of unglazed ceramics when people use it for food purposes. Their research involved close monitoring of the pots, which has shown the presence of lead in them.


As per the study, there exists no earthenware, that is 100% lead-free. So, it is hard to make clay utensils that are completely non-toxic and risk-free. However, before opting for the clay, make sure you have asked the manufacturer properly about its convenience and safety.


How to know if your pottery is food safe or not?



Here are a few tips that you can follow to know if your pottery is safe for food purposes or not. So, check out these tactics to know about the character of your pottery piece.


  • Always check for the labels of the pottery clay provided by the manufacturer:

Make sure you have gathered adequate information about the clay that you are using in creating the pottery piece. It’s better not to compromise your health. So, checking out the label provided on the clay package is the first thing you should do. And this factor is applicable to both glazed and unglazed pottery pieces.


  • Opt for a pottery test:

If you are not ready to trust your shopkeeper or have forgotten to ask for the details of the clay while buying, then merely opt for a test. You can buy a kit for pottery testing on your own or head to a lab for obtaining the safety results of your pot. However, the results for your unglazed pottery test may show you a chemical-free result, but that does not mean it’s food safe. So be very cautious while analyzing the pottery test report.


  • Take note of the decorations:

Pottery decorations with paints are quite popular and practiced by many potters to create a new kind of glaze-free look. But while doing so, one should consider the quality of the paint being used in decorating the unglazed earthenware. Most the artificial and synthetic colorants are formed of hazardous chemicals. So, be well-assured of whether the paint used is food safe or not.


  • Keep a check on the firing process of the unglazed pottery:

Unglazed pottery can only be considered food safe if it is fired at a super-high temperature. The high enough temperature changes the ceramic ware in significant ways. It makes the texture of the pot hard as stone. At the same time, it enhances durability in a maximized way, which makes the pottery waterproof to some extent.


Thus, it’s better to watch out for the firing process. If the pottery is bisque fired at a relatively low temperature, then undoubtedly it will not be food safe and tend to release dirt or toxin when you keep food in it.


How can you make unglazed pottery food safe?

Well, there are a few ways that you can apply to make your unglazed pottery food safe to a certain extent. Here’s what you can do.


  • Choose the right type of clay for making food-safe pottery:

Selecting the right clay and firing it at the right temperature can give you a food-safe result.


However, let’s have a look at the types of clays and their corresponding firing temperatures.

Clay Type

Cone Temperature

High-fire white stoneware
Cone 10
High fire stoneware
Cone 10
Cone 5-11
Midrange stoneware
Cone 4-6
Paper clay
Cone 4-10
Low-fire earthenware 
Cone 4-6
Non-firing clay
No firing required


  • Fire the pot at a very high temperature:

You need to upgrade the method of pottery firing if you are not doing it in the right way. You need to cook your clay properly at an extremely high temperature to make sure it is completely waterproof and safe to use.


In the beginning, cook the clay body for about 2 hours at a low heat of 200℉. The process should be followed by 2 hours of firing at a medium heat of 300℉. Then, fire it for a few more hours at a temperature of 300-400℉ in the kiln.



As we can see from the above discussion, unglazed potteries are not at all safe. They are undoubtedly eco-friendly and chemical-free, as they are the by-products of natural clay. But you cannot opt for unglazed bare clay utensils for food purposes. So, make potteries with proper glazing coats. However, there is no reason to entirely rely upon glazed ceramics because if the glaze itself is not food-safe, it will be more dangerous than the unglazed ones. Hence, be careful while creating pottery pieces for food purposes.


Happy sculpting!

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