History revels that a particular kind of clay was use for cleaning woollen cloth for nearly seven thousand years. The process of cleansing and thickening cloth is known as “Fulling” and a person engaged in its trade and practice is called a “Fuller”. Hence the term derived was “Fuller’s Earth“.
In prehistoric times whole wool and fleece were smelly and contained many sorts of impurities. To counter this problem the woollen industries used to soak pieces of cloth in some alkaline solution and then agitated it in a trough or vat containing slurry of Fuller’s Earth. Several rinses with clean water were given later to remove the earth, which carried away with it most of the grease, dirt, smell and fecal matter remaining in the raw wool.
Other ancient uses of Fuller’s Earth (Scientifically known as Calcium Montmorillonite) are:-
Fuller’s Earth was used in laundries for removing oil and grease from heavily soiled dungarees, work gear and the like. Fuller’s Earth was very effective for scouring and fulling as it is far less gritty. Indeed Fuller’s Earth is better than soap or solvents for cleaning heavily oil-soiled textiles, such as dirty mats from motor cars. It is now known that it helps to prevent redeposition of soil when present in a complex household laundry detergent.
Fuller’s Earth was mainly used at that time as an antidote to poison due to its superb adsorption properties. Including food poisoning and for the staunching of blood. Other uses included – a remedy for gastric disorders and diarrheas.
ADSORPTION OF ALKALOIDS
Some literatures suggest that Fuller’s Earth adsorbed alkaloids; it was especially effective in precipitating morphine from a solution of its sulphate. Fuller’s Earth was most active with caffeine, quinoline, nicotine, peperidine and adenine.
Fuller’s Earth tones up the skin. Improves the complexion. Smoothes out wrinkles. It has a softening and preservation action upon skin of hands and face. Is tender to all skin types. It is very effective in treating oily skin as a deep pore cleanser to draw out hidden oils and grime.
Twentieth-century beauticians are clearly well aware of a Fuller’s Earth paste’s capacity to draw oil or fatty matter into itself as it dries out.
In earlier times and mainly during World War 2 sore and inflamed feet were soothed in a dispersion of Fuller’s Earth in water.
Research during the war times established that Lewisite poison gas blisters healed rapidly when bandages containing Fuller’s earth powder were applied.
To remove stains or spots of DNOC (dinitroorthocresol), the agricultural spraying poison, Fuller’s Earth should be applied as a paste, allowed to dry and then brushed off, according to official advice.
Another way in which Fuller’s Earth is applied to the skin is a hot plaster for drawing pus and reducing inflammation.
Fuller’s Earth was used as a styptic; used in preventing dermatitis in dye houses by dusting onto the face after being given a base coating of cream.
Fuller’s Earth in veterinary practice is usually applied as a poultice in the cure of sore places on horses.
Fuller’s Earth has also been used in tooth paste and laxatives.
Application of Fuller’s Earth pastes need not, of course, be confined to the face and neck, though in the modern world Fuller’s Earth is also in vogue for washing hair. If you have oily hair it works like a miracle.
Other applications include treatment of bedsores and rheumatic joints.
Recently the pastes have been applied also to the whole body of models by artists and photographers who wish to see their female nude in a new way.
Fuller’s Earth must of course have served from very early times in household cleaning. Many books of household management have countless recipes of Fuller’s Earth.
A simple method to clean oil, grease spillage or kitchen stains from walls, wall-paper or floors is to spray it with dry Fuller’s Earth powder and leave for a while and wipe with a cloth. You can repeat the procedure if the stain persists. This is a very safe method as it will not affect the paint or colour of your wall paper.
For very stubborn stains you can spread Fuller’s Earth paste with water over the stain and leave it for 24 hrs, dust it later and wipe with a wet cloth.
Fuller’s Earth powder is also effective as a cleaner of porcelain, bone china and other crockery. A Fuller’s Earth paste also effectively cleans window and glass panes.
Fuller’s Earth paste can also be used to clean delicate fabrics with stubborn stains like that of blood.
There are some accounts of Fuller’s Earth power also being used in the manufacture of soaps used for cleaning clothes in saline water.
HOUSE PETS AND FURRY ANIMALS
House pets and furry animals can also be cleaned using Fuller’s Earth powder as it is a safe, non-toxic and naturally occurring mineral.
Fuller’s Earth is also widely used all over the world as cat litter, due to its high absorption capacity, deodorization properties, non-toxicity and natural earth colour which makes the animals feel at home while defecating.
SUMMARY OF CONVENTIONAL USES
- Since over a century and till date the major use of Fuller’s Earth is for decolorizing animal, vegetable and petroleum oils, fats, greases, waxes and solvents.
- There are even accounts of Fuller’s Earth being used to decolorize beer.
- Granular Fuller’s Earth is used to improve UV spectrometer readings and PNC values of petroleum base oil distillates.
- Cat litter.
- Cosmetic creams and face packs.
- Agricultural pesticide carriers.
- Manufacture of various catalysts used in the petroleum and chemical industries.