Most people are familiar with the mineral talc. It can be crushed into a white powder that is widely known as "talcum powder". This powder has the ability to absorb moisture, absorb oils, absorb odor, serve as a lubricant and produce an astringent effect with human skin. These properties make talcum powder an important ingredient in many baby powders, foot powders, first aid powders and a variety of cosmetics.
A form of talc known as "soapstone" is also widely known. This soft rock is easily carved and has been used to make ornamental and practical objects for thousands of years. It has been used to make sculptures, bowls, counter tops, sinks, hearths, pipe bowls and many other objects.
Although talcum powder and soapstone are two of the more visible uses of talc they account for a very small fraction of talc consumption. Its hidden uses are far more common. Talc's unique properties make it an important ingredient for making ceramics, paint, paper, roofing materials, plastics, rubber, insecticides and many other products
USES OF TALC
Most people use products made from talc every day, however, they don't realize that talc is in the product or the special role that it plays.
Talc in Plastics
In 2011, about 26% of the talc consumed in the United States was used in the manufacturing of plastics. It is mainly used as a filler. The platy shape of talc particles can increase the stiffness of products such as polypropylene, vinyl, polyethylene, nylon and polyester.
Talc in Ceramics
In the United States in 2011, about 17% of the talc consumed was used in the manufacturing of ceramics products such as bathroom fixtures, ceramic tile, pottery and dinnerware
Talc in Paint
Most paints are suspensions of mineral particles in a liquid. The liquid portion of the paint facilitates application but after the liquid evaporates the mineral particles remain on the wall. Talc is used as an extender and filler in paints.
Talc in Paper
Most papers are made from a pulp of organic fibers. This pulp is made from wood, rags and other organic materials. Finely-ground mineral matter is added to the pulp to serve as a filler. When the pulp is rolled into thin sheets the mineral matter fills spaces between the pulp fibers, resulting in a paper with a much smoother writing surface.
Talc in Cosmetics and Antiperspirants
Finely ground talc is used as the powder base of many cosmetic products. The tiny platelets of a talc powder readily adhere to the skin but can be washed off easily. Talc's softness allows it to be applied and removed without causing skin abrasion.
Talc in Roofing Materials
Talc is added to the asphaltic materials used to make roofing materials to improve their weather resistance. It is also dusted onto the surface of roll roofing and shingles to prevent sticking. In 2011, about 6% of the talc consumed in the United States was used to manufacture roofing materials.
Other Uses of Talc
Ground talc is used as a lubricant in applications where high temperatures are involved. It is able to survive at temperatures where oil-based lubricants would be destroyed.
Talc powder is used as a carrier for insecticides and fungicides. It can easily be blown through a nozzle and readily sticks to the leaves and stems of plants. Its softness reduces wear on application equipment.