Bathroom Furnishings: How to Choose Correctly

The surfaces in the bathroom frequently come into contact with water. Some materials tolerate this better than others. But the choice is wide – it doesn’t always have to be the tried-and-tested white “bathroom ceramics”.

Hygienically smooth and shiny, it should be, and mostly white: But "bathroom ceramics" is not always ceramic. Steel enamel, wood, or acrylic vanities also come into question for tubs and washbasins
Hygienically smooth and shiny, it should be, and mostly white: But “bathroom ceramics” is not always ceramic. Steel enamel, wood, or acrylic vanities also come into question for tubs and washbasins.
Photo: iStock / Getty Images Plus / sl-f

The most important, in a nutshell

  • Bathroom equipment is becoming increasingly diverse and is constantly being expanded by manufacturers.
  • Sanitary ceramics are popular mainly because of their robustness. Even after several years, the surface does not show scratches.
  • In addition to ceramics, materials such as acrylic, wood, glass, and steel enamel are used.

What Does a Bathroom Need?

High-quality bathroom furniture, a walk-in shower cubicle, and chic bathroom accessories: when it comes to bathroom furnishings, it all depends on your taste. But what all belongs in it and from which material? Fittings are important bathroom components and have long since ceased to be simple fixtures because the bathroom is more than a purely functional room. Sanitary rooms are developing into essential home parts through individual bathroom furniture. Bathroom furniture manufacturers are constantly expanding the variety of products for bathroom furnishings. In addition to the material, the design is also becoming increasingly important. A simple ceramic bathtub is already too plain. A simple sanitary room has become a luxury item with different functions.

Bathroom equipment such as washbasins, bathtubs, showers, and toilets are often referred to as bathroom ceramics – but this does not mean they must be ceramic. Especially for washbasins, there are alternatives, from steel to natural stone. But ceramics, or more precisely sanitary ceramics, are particularly widespread. This durable material can be found in the vast majority of bathrooms. And not only there: kitchen sinks are also made of it. The variety of manufacturers offers bathroom equipment for even the smallest room.

Proven Mixture

The ingredients for classic ceramic bathroom fittings are always the same: clay, kaolin, quartz, and feldspar. Only the proportions vary depending on the manufacturer and sometimes from series to series. A liquid “slip” is produced from the raw materials with the addition of water, which can be poured into a mold made of plaster or plastic. The blank is then extracted and dried. After milling holes and smoothing the surfaces, the blank is enameled and fired in a furnace at a very high temperature – up to 1,300 degrees Celsius.

Robust and Hygienic

Sanitary ceramics have many advantages – first and foremost, their robustness. The hard surface is insensitive to scratches. If the bowls and basins are treated with care, they will still look new even after a long time. And they are comparatively easy to clean: Because the surface is very smooth, little dirt sticks to it. Even heat, such as boiling water, cannot harm it. A major disadvantage of ceramic bathroom equipment is its weight. In addition, the enameled surface can become pitted if it is knocked, for example, if heavy, hard objects fall. Chipped edges can be repaired, but this is not as easy as other materials. And if the entire sink is cracked, a new one is usually needed.

Extra Glaze

Many manufacturers offer coatings for their bathroom ceramics against dirt and lime, which facilitate cleaning. No matter what they are called, they act similarly and are based on the same raw materials: quartz, chalk, feldspar, and dolomite. Their glaze ensures that the water forms large drops and does not stand. Dirt and lime simply roll off the ceramic. This a practical thing because so the bathroom equipment stays clean longer.

Keeping Bathroom Furnishings Clean

If you still need cleaning agents, buying a typical bathroom cleaner and against lime, a vinegar cleaner is recommended. You should never use scouring powder or milk, or cleaners for faucets and steel. Drain cleaners should also not get on the surfaces but only in the drain. It is less harmful to the toilet because it is immediately diluted with water. In the sink, however, it can damage the surfaces.

Gladly White

What color is the sanitary ceramics? In Germany, bathrooms are predominantly white. But there are subtle differences: White comes in many shades, and each manufacturer has its tone. An expert can provide you with information on all tones during bathroom planning. Currently popular with ceramics is also a black bathroom. And, very modern: Matt black. Long ago, well-known brands offer entire series of sanitary fixtures, so you can rely on a uniform style when planning the bathroom.

Alternative: Mineral Casting

With another popular material or manufacturing process, you can hardly see the difference at first glance: mineral casting. Here, too, the surfaces of the bathroom fittings appear smooth, shiny, and hygienic. Mineral casting consists of 80 to 90 percent fillers such as gravel, quartz sand, or finely ground stone. The remaining volume is made up of binders, mostly epoxy resins. Unlike ceramics, products made of mineral casting are not fired. After casting, the material hardens in the mold. The process appeared only after 1970. Externally, the products look very similar, but they feel different. Mineral casting is considered a more “warm” material. And it is lighter than ceramic – this can be an advantage, especially for large sinks or bathtubs.

Mineral Casting or Ceramic?

In terms of robustness, ceramic has slight advantages: Mineral casting tolerates less heat – it can be damaged when it comes into contact with boiling water. And its surface is softer, so more susceptible to scratches. On the other hand, the material is easier to repair: Fine scratches can be easily polished away, while larger dents can be fixed. Any color and shape are possible, including playful designs. Mineral casting is about 10 percent cheaper than comparable ceramic products.

Other Alternatives

In addition to the two materials mentioned above, other materials are used in bathroom equipment. Manufacturers offer a wide variety of products in most materials. Steel enamel is relatively common, for example, in bathtubs – until the development of sanitary acrylic in the 1970s, virtually all bathtubs and shower trays were made of it. Acrylic is not as robust but much lighter. Glass is mainly used in showers, but wash bowls are also made of this material. More exotic materials include wood, concrete, or even natural stone. The concrete for the bathroom is surprisingly smooth and has a “soft” feel. Incidentally, it can be sealed to be just as hygienic as ceramic.

Tip: When planning your bathroom, you should not only decide based on appearance. You can also feel the differences: Go to a bathroom exhibition at a plumbing store and simply touch the different materials there. It’s often these moments that help you find your dream bathroom.

When it comes to glass in the bathroom, some people first think of shower enclosures. But the material can also be considered for vanities
When it comes to glass in the bathroom, some people first think of shower enclosures. But the material can also be considered for vanities.
Photo: iStock / Getty Images Plus / HT-Pix

Overview: What’s Available?

Steel Enamel

Bathtubs and shower trays are often made of enameled steel. But the material is also suitable for washbasins, for example. The composite material of glass and sheet steel is very robust, scratch-resistant – and recyclable. Its durability has many advantages; there is no need to worry about signs of wear, and the enamel can, at most, flake off in the event of hard knocks. The glass-hard surface is also hygienic; no bacteria can collect there. The weight is comparatively high: a tub made of steel enamel is about twice as heavy as one made of acrylic and for the same size. The materials also differ in price.


In the bathroom, glass is often used only for shower enclosures. But the material also comes into question for washbasins. These are made of particularly robust safety glass; with normal treatment, it can not be broken, nor can anything chip when hit. Whether as frosted glass, transparent or colored: thanks to its hard, smooth surface, glass is antibacterial and, therefore, very hygienic. It is mainly scratch-resistant and resistant to chemicals. Only stains – such as limescale – are more visible than on other materials. And: Glass has a relatively high weight. In terms of price, it hardly differs from classic sanitary ceramics. However, large glass washbasins are more expensive. Tubs made of acrylic are a lot cheaper.


A large part of the bathtubs sold today is made of acrylic. The Plastic can be shaped any way and is lighter than steel enamel. There are almost no limits to the design. The material is somewhat more susceptible to scratches and can discolor if it comes into contact with hair dye. Whether you prefer an acrylic tub or one made of steel enamel should not be decided on looks alone. The materials have a distinctly different feel. Acrylic is a good heat accumulator and gives a pleasant feeling on the skin. The bathtub rim feels rather warm when you sit down, while the surface of the steel enamel seems cold.


Wood as a material for the bathroom seems rather unsuitable. It’s true: soft types of wood swell when they come into contact with water – and water shouldn’t stand on harder ones either. If you find wood look in the bathroom, it is usually veneer or foil. Solid vanity cabinets, for example, made of oak, are popular. But you can also make a wood basin – like the entire bathroom and shower lining. The surfaces can be left untreated or simply oiled. If the basin is allowed to dry in between, a natural protective layer will form over time.

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