How to Recycle and Reclaim Clay

The invention and use of clay has been around for thousands of years and is still being used to this day by masonry contractors to create durable and beautiful buildings for both residential and commercial use. However, another good thing about the material is that it can actually be recycled, and that is the process we will take you through here today, as well as discuss its uses in construction, given the inherent focus of this website.

Can Fired Clay be Reused?

People commonly come to us asking about the possibility or reusing fired clay, and whether it can be crushed, recycled and reused. That’s unfortunately possible as chemical changes take place during firing, and the water that was once in the clay is fired out. Maturity firing will include that clay particles melt after which they fuse together, and you can’t afterwards turn around and use it for other purposes. When you talk about greenware, there is a possibility for reusing that, since it has simply dried rather than fired. It basically means that you can’t just take your porcelain floor tile or ceramic tile and turn it back into clay that you can use for pottery, since the two have undergone extensive firing processes to make them as durable as they are, and make sure that their water-absorption rates are in fact very low.

There are different things that will affect clay’s ability to be recycled, however, including the type and condition. The clay that artists use can be recycled since it’s high-quality material, but lower quality stuff will not be reusable.

Let’s Go on To Take A Look at What Clay is Made of

Clay in its purest form is basically dirt. It consists of small pieces and it’s available in different colors too. The most common ones are yellow, red and brown. If you’re the type that likes to keep a vegetable garden, you’ll know how inconvenient it can be if you have a lot of it in your backyard since it will be practically impossible to grow those delicious things in it. On the other hand, it has a bunch of other uses where its texture and possibilities are perfectly suited for.

When it’s heated, it will become more durable as a consequence, and it has therefore been used and continues to be used in a whole range of different things including a lot of building materials. While dirt traditionally loses its shape when water is added to it, it can be made to hold things including both food and water, once it has been put through a kiln.

There’s evidence that the material has been used for pottery for more than 20,000 years, although the process is not just so simple as to go to your backyard and digging up clay and putting it in the oven, since there are often a lot of bi-products when you do that which aren’t going to help you create beautiful pottery. Moss, leaves and sand don’t add to the amazing properties of clay.

clay being formed


There isn’t just one type, but in fact 3 classes of clay that include iron and aluminum oxide, amorphic allophane and silicate layer clays. They all have different different things they’re good for. The different types will have different properties that make them good for one purpose or another.

What is Clay Used For?

Clay has many different purposes depending on the type. They can be used for  fine porcelain china, liners in landfills, ceramics (which was already mentioned), bricks and more. It also has filtering purposes. It not only can be made decoratively, but functionally it is used for both floors, walls, clay tiles for roofs and bricks. As you can see, it has a lot of purposes as building materials too.

How to Recycle Clay

Here is what you have come here for. The instructions on how you go ahead and actually recycle the clay. Pieces from broken greenware, throwing slurry or trimming scraps are all great pieces that can be recycled, although it’s still a process that will require some effort on your part before you can go ahead and use the material again. If you’re trying to save money, keeping these scraps around can be a great idea.

Building materials made out of clay will have been fired, however, and will therefore not be able to be recycled.

In the process of recycling it, you will however want to make sure that you’re not exposed to the dust that it can create, and it’s advisable to wear both a respirator mask and eye protection as a consequence.

To make it easier for the clay to absorb water, it’s recommended that the pieces are made smaller. A mallet can be used to create smaller pieces, but be aware that it could create significant amounts of dust as a consequence, and should therefore be done outside if possible. To keep the dust from escaping, you can put the pieces in a thick plastic bag before you use the mallet to break it. Make sure to look out so that the bag doesn’t suddenly end up having a hole in it.

Different types of clay should ideally be recycled separately so that you don’t mix their different elements.

Add the clay to water a little at a time to make it easier for it to absorb water. First, add 5 lb and then wait an additional 15 minutes before adding more. This process is also likely to cause dust to leave the bag, and should be done outside if possible.

Pillow cases or sheets can be used inside the bucket, which makes it easier to get it out once the clay has absorbed all the water. As it starts absorbing more water, you will see the material starting to break down, and you can stir the clay which has been reported to keep it from smelling. Mixing the mixture can help in the process and make the whole thing more uniform, and faster. You don’t need any advanced tools to do so. As the material sits, it will slowly become more uniform, and excess water will start rising to the top too, which can make it easier to remove also.

People use different methods for getting rid of this excess water, including using either a sponge or sucking it with a baster, although you could possibly come up with more ideas too. The advantage of using a piece of fabric for this process is that you can hang it and the excess water will drip out while the clay stays inside due to its thicker consistency.


Although you have drained the water that was lying on top, the material is likely still too liquid to do anything functional with it at this point. It’s commonly spread across an absorbent surface such as wood or something else, and when enough water has left that it can be pulled off the surface, it’s now time to flip it over, which can vary depending on how warm it is, how liquid the material was and the external conditions such as the temperature and humidity too. The higher the humidity, the longer it will also take to dry. The better the air circulation, the faster you will also find it drying, and if you have left it outside, make sure htat no materials such as leaves or other things end up falling on it by using a breathable fabric of some sort.

Make sure that you continuously check on the clay so that you know when it has the right consistency for the intended purpose.

What are the Pros and Cons of Using Clay For Building Materials Such as Brick Homes?

Since we’re still all about construction, we want to take you through some of the construction purposes, and how you can use the recycled clay for different purposes, although you probably won’t have enough to make a whole new brick house.

When you go around your average neighborhood across the US, most homes have had siding installed on them. There’s even a bunch of them that have had faux bricks installed, which is not the same as actually using brick to create the support of the home.  Clay’s natural and versatile appeal makes it an important building material that is still widely used.


Clay is a sustainable material containing natural raw materials to have them made, and there isn’t any of the other nasty stuff in them that is being added to a lot of other materials to give them their desirable qualities. Do you remember asbestos siding for instance, and how it still means there are a bunch of Mesothelioma cases being fought? You can’t just remove that stuff without being extremely careful, and the advantage is you won’t have to think about those dangers when going with brick. The lack of allergens also means that it will help ensure good air quality too.

Economic over the Long-Term

Its many different properties means this will end up becoming an economic decision to go with because it doesn’t have the high maintenance costs associated with a thing like wood siding, for instance. While wood siding contractors will also argue that there’s a bunch of advantages to using that material, it might be true, but it also has significant drawbacks when it comes to maintenance. For instance, cedar siding needs to be stained every 2-3 years to keep it from deteriorating.

Great Insulating Properties

Its great insulating properties will help keep your energy bill down, and you will only feel the consequences even more if you’re living in an area that has extreme weather patterns, both warm and cool.

Beautiful to Look At

They come available in a range of colors, shapes and designs to be able to enable the design possibilities you may be looking for. The availability of colors is everything in between black and white, and their textures are also many, and different, including smooth or rough.

Hailed For Their Durability

You can expect this material to last well over 100 years, which you can’t say about a lot of building materials, which is also one of the reasons why copper roofs are used by some homeowners. Rather than basically having to replace every part of your home on a continuous basis, an outer brick frame creates a strong foundation for a house that will be there for decades. A lot of very significant buildings are all made from brick.  Weather-resistance and fire-resistance makes it an option to consider.

It’s More expensive

When that’s been said, you can’t get around the fact that a brick house will be more expensive to initially put up.

Brick House vs Wood House

To also do justice to wood, we’ll include a brief section on the advantages of using wood. As mentioned by MassRealty, brick tends to add more value to a home, which in turn makes the home easy to sell too. You know you’re buying something that will stay there for a long time.

Wooden homes are significantly cheaper to put up and faster too, and the material is lighter, and it can be more convenient to go for. Erosion can end up being a problem for brick, while wood will better deal with it. It’s also more flexible, and you aren’t able to move a brick home the same way either. Although termite damage isn’t a concern when you’re building in clay.

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