Is fuller’s earth biodegradable? (7 applications of fuller’s earth)

This article is aimed at addressing the question of the biodegradability of fuller’s earth.

In addition, it will also cover other areas such as:

  • Components of fuller’s earth.
  • Uses of fuller’s earth.
  • Advantages of fuller’s earth.
  • Side effects of fuller’s earth.

Is fuller’s earth biodegradable?

No, fuller’s earth is not biodegradable. It’s a natural product that is extracted from the soil and is made up of magnesium aluminum phyllosilicate and bentonite.

These chemical compounds are not organic and therefore are not susceptible to microbial degradation.

An organic substance is that which is made up of carbon and hydrogen atoms.

What is biodegradation?

Biodegradation is the process by which organic or natural products are broken down by various biotic and abiotic factors such as:

  • Water.
  • Sunlight.
  • Temperature.
  • Bacteria.
  • Fungi.


When water carries organic matter, it breaks it down into smaller molecules that are easily acted upon by bacteria and fungi.


Different materials are oxidized by light radiations at different rates.

UV radiations are the most effective radiations in the oxidation of materials.

Oxidized materials then break down into small particles which are then acted upon by bacteria and fungi.


Temperature causes the expansion and contraction of organic materials.

This causes the material to experience stress which in return results in mechanical breakdown.


Bacteria break down organic material through the process of respiration to form small particles which they use to acquire energy.

The most common and active bacteria include:

  • Pseudomonas.
  • Bacillus.
  • Mycobacteria.


They break down organic matter into small particles which they then assimilate into their body systems.

They include:

  • Yeasts.
  • Mushrooms
  • Molds.
  • Mildew.
  • Lichens.

Biodegradation occurs in 2 distinct ways.

Types of biodegradation include:

Aerobic biodegradation.

This entails bacteria and fungi breaking down organic matter by the use of oxygen.

The end products include water, carbon dioxide, small particles( small biomass), and energy.

This process is faster than anaerobic biodegradation.

Anaerobic biodegradation.

This entails the bacteria breaking down organic matter in the absence of oxygen.

The end products include water, methane gas, small particles ( small biomass), and energy.

This process is slower as compared to aerobic biodegradation although it is more efficient.

Steps of biodegradation.

Biodegradation occurs in three distinct steps:

  • Biodeterioration.
  • Bio-fragmentation.
  • Assimilation.


This is the first stage of biodegradation.

Organic materials are mechanically broken down by light, water, and temperature into smaller particles that are easily acted upon by bacteria and fungi.


This is the second stage of biodegradation.

Organic matter is broken down by bacteria and fungi, either aerobically or anaerobically.

Water, carbon dioxide, methane gas, energy, and small biomass are produced depending on the type of process.


It’s the last stage of biodegradation.

Involves the uptake of biomass produced into the body system of the bacteria or fungi to be used in various biological processes.

What are the properties of fuller’s earth?

The following are the properties of fuller’s earth.

  • It is mainly composed of hydrous aluminum silicates such as magnesium aluminum phyllosilicate ( attapulgite), montmorillonite, and kaolinite.
  • It gets shear thinning property (thixotropy) when saturated with water.
  • It is highly absorbent.
  • It has anti-inflammatory properties.

What are the applications of fuller’s earth?

Fuller’s earth has been employed by a man in many fields. The uses of fuller’s earth include the following:

  • It is used in the filling of raw wool ( cleansing of wool to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities to make it thicker).
  • It is used as an anti-poison in the treatment of paraquat poisoning since paraquat is known to break down in the soil.
  • It is used in the military to decontaminate the clothing and equipment of servicemen.
  • It is used in India to clean marble due to its high absorbent property, making the marble shinier.
  • It is used in litter boxes to make cat litter.
  • Due to the high absorbent property that makes it effective in removing oils and dirt, fuller’s earth is used in cosmetology and dermatology to make hair and facial products.
  • It is used in film’s special effects. It is used in pyrotechnics explosions and dust clouds due to its ability to spread higher and farther than most natural soils.
  • Fuller’s earth was used in world war II to reduce inflammations in legs.

What are the advantages of fuller’s earth to cosmetics?

Fuller’s earth is a common ingredient in cosmetics and dermatological products.

The following are the benefits of fuller earth to the body.

  • It is used to absorb excess oils and dirt from the skin pores, shrinking and tightening them. This makes the skin tight and firm 
  • Fuller’s skin is used as a skin toner, making the skin appear smooth.
  • Fuller’s earth removes dead skin cells, dirt, and oil from the skin’s surface. This unclogs the pores which enhances the absorption of skin creams and lotion into the skin.
  • Fuller’s earth makes the skin look more radiant and enhances skin brightness.
  • Fuller’s earth exfoliates the skin, preventing the build-up of dead cells and dirt on the skin’s surface. 
  • Fuller’s earth protects the skin against acne, pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. 

The accumulation of oils and dirt on the skin surface attracts pathogenic bacteria that cause skin infections such as acne and pimples.

Fuller’s earth contains anti-inflammatory properties that aid in reducing inflammations related to acne and pimples.

  • Fuller’s earth is used to soothe the skin and treat sunburns. The substance contains exfoliating and antiseptic properties which help in soothing and healing sunburn.
  • Fuller’s earth is essential in producing thick and shiny hair due to its high mineral content.

The minerals help in nourishing the scalp, boosting hair health, and protecting the hair from damage. 

It moisturizes the hair and strengthens the hair follicles.

  • Fuller’s earth is used to clean the scalp by removing dirt and oils. It also removes dead skin cells on the Scalp.
  • Fuller’s hair prevents split ends and hair breakage by removing impurities pollutants and impurities that result in hair damage.
  • Fuller’s earth contains minerals such as magnesium and zinc which nourishes the hair and also makes it stronger by tightening the scalps.
  • When used with fenugreek seeds, fuller’s earth hydrates and exfoliates the scalp, removing dead skin cells, dirt, and oils, and thus preventing dandruff.

What are the precautions to observe when using fuller’s earth?

Using fuller’s earth requires certain precautions because different hairs and skins have different properties.

The following measures should be observed while using the fuller’s earth:

  • Make sure to wash the fuller’s earth-based face mask off while it is tacky to the touch. If the mask is left to harden and dry, it will wick away the moisture from the skin, causing itchiness.
  • Fuller’s earth-based should only be used once or twice a week. Overusing the mask damages the skin and also over absorbs the oils from the skin.
  • After washing fuller’s earth off, it is advisable to always apply a moisturizer.
  • For people with dry skin, fuller’s earth should be applied together with an oiling agent such as face oil, honey, or milk.
  • For people with sensitive skins, it is advisable to mix fuller’s earth with Aloe Vera gel or rose water to prevent inflammation.
  • Fuller’s earth should be stored in an airtight container or refrigerator to maintain its freshness.

What are the side-effects of using fuller’s earth?

For all its advantages, the fuller’s earth contains several disadvantages. They include the following:

  • Due to its high absorbent property, the fuller’s earth can absorb a lot of oils and water from the skin, dehydrating the skin.
  • Fuller’s earth can cause allergies to some skin types.
  • Ingesting fuller’s earth can cause kidney stones and clog of the intestines.
  • Inhalation of fuller’s earth can irritate the respiratory tract.
  • According to a study, fuller’s earth can cause eye irritation if it’s in gel form and can cause lung damage and skin irritation.

Is fuller’s earth eco-friendly?

Yes, fuller’s earth is a natural substance that is obtained from clay. It does not contain any pollution to soil or water.

Fuller’s earth is sustainable as it is readily available in clay and therefore can always be mined.

The biggest disadvantage of fuller’s clay is rendering the land derelict due to over mining the clay. 


This article has answered the question of the biodegradability of fuller’s earth.

It has also covered other areas such as:

  • The composition of fuller’s earth.
  • The applications of fuller’s earth.
  • The disadvantages of fuller’s earth to hair and skin.
  • The side-effects of using fuller’s earth.

For any questions or comments please use the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): is fuller’s earth biodegradable?

Is fuller’s earth the same as Multani Mitti?

Yes, fuller’s earth is one of the most popular substances that is used in India. It is also referred to as the Multani Mitti.

What is the difference between fuller’s earth and diatomaceous earth?

Fuller’s earth is a compound of magnesium aluminum phyllosilicate (attapulgite), montmorillonite, and bentonite.

Diatomaceous earth on the other hand is made from accumulated microscopic amorphous silica skeletons of photosynthetic algae called diatoms.

Is fuller’s earth edible?

No, fuller’s earth is not edible. When ingested, it causes kidney problems and irritation to the respiratory tract.


Akanksha Shah Sanghvi. ( April 30, 2021). Beauty Benefits of Fuller’s Earth and How to Use It.

Retrieved from:

Hawkins, A. B.; Lawrence, M. S.; Privett, K. D. (September 1986). “Clay Mineralogy and Plasticity of the Fuller’s Earth Formation Bath, UK” (PDF). Clay Minerals. 21 (3): 293–310. Bibcode:1986ClMin..21..293H. doi:10.1180/claymin.1986.021.3.04. 

Robertson, Robert H. S. (1986). Fuller’s Earth: A History. Volturna Press: Hyde, Kent. p. 385. ISBN 0856060704.

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