What is Pumice Used For?

By Jay Leone

Pumice is a naturally-occurring rock that has many practical applications. It can be obtained in large chunks or thin powders. While most of the world's supply of pumice is used in construction materials, it is also widely used as an abrasive in cleaning supplies both for personal use and for use around the home.

Formation

Pumice is volcanic rock that is produced when lava with high water and gas content is thrown from a volcano. The light, rocky mineral is formed as a result of lava cooling and hardening. Pumice rocks are filled with small gas bubbles. Lava that hardens more quickly results in the formation of volcanic glass instead of pumice.

Facts

Pumice is usually light in color, high in silica and low in iron and magnesium content. Pumice is light enough to float on water but will sink as it becomes waterlogged. The term "pumice" usually refers to large pumice stones; pumicite is a fine-grained ashy version of pumice which formed in the presence of higher gas levels.

Uses

Nearly three-quarters of all pumice and pumicide that is produced annually is used in lightweight construction materials, such as concrete block and concrete. The remaining pumice produced is used in horticulture, landscaping and the manufacture of abrasives. Along with being used on the body, pumice is used to grind and polish glass for televisions as well as to clean and prepare metal on circuit boards. Dental cleaning pastes often contain some level of pumice.

Personal Use

Pumice is widely used as an abrasive in soaps and cleaners. It is considered one of the softest abrasives on earth. Pumice is safe to use on the body because it is a natural mineral and is non-toxic. It can be used to remove grime and dirt as well as to exfoliate the skin. Pumice is also used in its natural rock form to wear down calluses and remove dead skin on the feet and hands.

Sources

Pumice is mostly found in areas with volcanic fields, as it is a type of volcanic rock. Currently, fifty countries around the globe produce and manufacture pumice. The world's largest producer of pumice is Italy, followed by Chile, Greece, Turkey, the United States and Spain. In America, the bulk of pumice used for production comes out of Arizona, California, Oregon and New Mexico.