What is the difference between diatomaceous earth and fuller’s earth?
Diatomaceous earth is a porous rock that occurs naturally. Because it is made of silica, it is very easy to crush this rock into a fine white powder that can be used for many different things. The diatoms in the rock are usually the fossils of algae. Fuller’s earth is a natural product that is sold commercially and has almost the same uses as diatomaceous earth. Even though they are quite different many people cannot tell the difference between them.
Fuller’s earth takes its name from the way it is used – it is mainly used by textile workers and fullers. It consists of clay that contains aluminum silicates and when it is crushed into a powder it is really absorbent. It is used to treat raw wool to take off any of the grease in the wool that may still remain. The pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries also rely heavily on the use product in the manufacturing process.
Both Fuller’s earth and Diatomaceous earth are found underneath the surface of the earth and have to be extracted through mining. Open cast mining is the only method that can be used because downcast mining cannot be carried out for porous materials. Although there are several places in the US where both types of earth are mined, Georgia and Florida are the largest producers.
It was Alfred Nobel who discovered that when diatomaceous earth was added to nitroglycerine, the result was dynamite. Other industrial uses for these products include filtration, pest control, as an abrasive material, for DNA purification and for thermal insulation. It also works as a de-wormer when added to feed for poultry.