Talc is a mineral, magnesium silicate hydroxide, that many associate primarily with talcum powder, but its uses are vast. Its use by humans dates back 15,000 years ago, when cave dwellers used it as a component in their paints. It takes millions of years to form this softest of rocks. Modern uses vary from industrial uses like paint, tiles and paper to personal uses like chewing gum, thanks to talc’s unique set of characteristics.
Talc is actually a rock, and can come in a variety of shades other than white, including gray, pink, blue, violet, green and even black. It is resistant to heat, electricity and acids, which makes it valuable for many industrial purposes. It has a hardness rating of one, meaning it can leave a mark on paper. It feels soapy to the touch and has a luster that can be dull, pearly or greasy.
Talc features several properties that make it a diverse mineral. Its platyness — that is, being formed of plates — gives it a softness/non-abrasiveness, printability, anti-sticking/anti-caking and barrier effect. It also has electro-insulating properties for use in things like wires and cables. Talc’s inertness is put to good use in premixes, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. This diversity of characteristics makes it an important mineral for industrial uses, and ideal for things such as lab countertops and electrical switchboards.
Thousands of years ago, the Egyptians and people in India used talc as a beauty agent to help lighten their skin and during the Tang dynasty in China talc wasy used in glazing pottery. Modern uses for talc include cosmetics such as body powder, like talcum powder. Industrial uses include supplies for manufacture, such as ceramic tiles and roofing, as well as commercial uses like olive-oil processing, fertilizer and animal feed. You can even find talc as an ingredient in certain sweets and chewing gum.
Talc has several household applications. You can add it to gloss paint for a matte or eggshell finish. Athletes can use the absorbent mineral on their hands to prevent blistering, and this same principle can help you break in new shoes. Mixed with an epoxy resin, talc can be used to repair chipped tiles. Get your crystal glassware squeaky clean by washing it with a mixture of water and talc, or use talc to restore wet pages in a book to brand new.