The Many Uses of Pumice
by Debra Karplus
Materials which occur in the natural world, opposed to man-made synthetics, are truly gifts to all living beings on earth. Pumice is a type of rock with a wide variety of uses; from construction to cosmetic, the versatility of this stone is truly amazing. Made from igneous rock, not sedimentary or metamorphic, pumice rock is full of holes and comes from volcanic rock, lava, and gases, and forms during explosive eruptions as it mixes with water and then cools quickly. Because it is porous, pumice will float on water making it an interesting material to utilize.
Commercially and in industry, pumice is a resource with a multitude of uses. Because pumice mixes well with other materials, it is sometimes used to make a lightweight concrete or it can be added to cement. It is often used as an abrasive in various types of polishes, and is also an ingredient used in the manufacturing of pencil erasers. Some sources state that as far back as ancient Roman times, innovative uses for pumice rock were discovered.
Don’t be surprised if you find pumice stone packaged and shelved on a visit to the grocery, pharmacy cosmetic department, or hardware store, also. Pumice stones are commonly used as exfoliates to assist in shedding excess dry skin. Because it is a mild abrasive, pumice is finely ground as an ingredient in many tooth pastes, and is in heavy-duty hand cleaners often sold commercially as lava soap. Additionally, pumice aids in the production of stone-washed blue jeans, those faded pants that appear to be aged but are purchased as new, never-worn clothing.
Natural resources must always be treated with respect. Geologists are working diligently to learn to understand and experiment with more possible applications for lava rock such as pumice; traditional Chinese medicine claims that pumice has many healing qualities. Perhaps someday, mainstream modern medical practices in America will discover and embrace new uses for pumice to supplement current commonly-used treatments.