Everything You Need To Know About Gypsum

Gypsum is everywhere and in everything around us. It’s readily available in all corners of the world, and we guess it’s already within arm’s reach in your home without you even knowing it.

The sheer amount of uses for this mineral is astounding. This is due to the properties that make it capable of many things. Just one of those properties is its binding ability which is why gypsum is present in so many everyday objects.

Even though it’s so widespread, many people know nothing about this mineral. That changes today because, in this article, we will finally clarify why it plays such an important role in our lives. We’re also going to describe its many uses and its chemical and physical properties such as gypsum color.

What is gypsum?

Gypsum is one of the most abundant naturally occurring minerals. It’s composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate, and its chemical formula is CaSO4.2h2O. We already mentioned it’s available in all parts of the world, and it’s possible to find it in layers of different kinds of sedimentary rocks.

This mineral forms when water evaporates, thus allowing oxygen to bond with sulfur. This creates sulfate that bonds with water and calcium. That’s how you get gypsum and its different forms.

Gypsum has been used extensively by ancient civilizations for thousands of years. Just one example is the ancient Greeks, who used selenite (named after their moon goddess Selene) in the windows of their temples. It’s also important to note that even the name itself is derived from the ancient Greek word ‘’gypsos’’, meaning plaster. 

Another example of a different type of gypsum is alabaster. This mineral has been used for thousands of years in ancient Egypt to make bowls and vases.

Gypsum is too soft for hard use in this form, however, as it’s so soft that you can scratch it with a fingernail. 

Today, gypsum is mostly used in a form of powder, which you get when you grain down the mineral into a powder and boil it to remove any moisture. Once the water is added back into this powder, it’s possible to unlock its magical binding properties.

Interestingly enough, this process was discovered by ancient Egyptians who used it in the construction of their monumental buildings that survive to this day.

Gypsum color

In its original form, this mineral is colorless. More commonly, gypsum color is white or gray. In some cases, gypsum color can even be everything from yellow to pink. These varieties of gypsum color, however, are an exception, not the rule, and usually occur due to the presence of other elements during the formation of gypsum.

Uses of gypsum

While you can already tell that gypsum is used extensively in construction, its use is even greater than you probably assume. For example, filmmakers in the past quickly recognized how white gypsum color is a perfect replacement for on-set snow. So if you’re a film buff, you’ve probably looked at gypsum whenever you saw snow on a film.

When talking about the most common uses for gypsum, there are many. For example:

1. Construction industry

Gypsum is everywhere since it’s a crucial component of Portland cement, meaning that any building you lay your eyes on contains gypsum to some extent. The role of gypsum in the production of cement is crucial as it prevents the flash setting of the cement.

However, that’s not the only use of gypsum in construction. For example, it’s also perfect for manufacturing wallboards for ceilings and walls. Additionally, gypsum is also an important material in plaster, which, as you know, is a mainstay in almost every construction project.

We also have to mention drywall, a simple board with a gypsum core, and a paper exterior. If you live in the US, you’re probably surrounded by gypsum, as drywall is the most widespread construction material used for interior walls, ceilings, and partitions. 

Additionally, drywall is not only popular because it’s easy to decorate, but the gypsum plaster in drywall is also a capable fireproofing material.

2. Food industry

Gypsum is not referred to as a wonder mineral just because it’s an effective binding agent, it’s also safe for human consumption. This is why it’s also a component found in many food products. For example, gypsum is often added to dough during baking to minimize stickiness. The presence of gypsum in the final product increases the calcium content, which is a definite plus.

If you’ve ever eaten sushi, particularly silken sushi, you ate gypsum, as it’s often used in this type of dish as a binder.

Additionally, it’s also found in canned goods as well as ice cream, among others.

3. Hygiene products and cosmetics

Gypsum is one of the key ingredients of toothpaste due to its binding properties. It is also an important ingredient in different cosmetic products, such as makeup and face masks, and hair products, such as shampoos and conditioners.

4. Art. dentistry, and orthopedics

How are these three connected? Well, all of them use something called plaster of Paris to great effect.

By exposing gypsum to a high temperature you get a quick-setting form of gypsum plaster. Once you add water into the mix, you can sculpt the plaster into anything you want and it will harden once dry.

These properties are useful to artists who prefer using plaster of Paris when they need to sculpt something very quickly. However, it’s also used to immobilize broken ribs, and even used in dentistry to create dental casts.

5. Fertilizer

Gypsum is also a great fertilizer. Due to this mineral’s high calcium sulfate content, many people use it to improve the soil for agriculture. High amounts of calcium sulfate mean gypsum is a perfect cure for calcium deficient soil. 

On the other hand, if the soil has salt damage, just a dash of this mineral can help remove the excess sodium and thus restore the ground to its healthy state.

Gypsum is also great for breaking up heavily compacted clay soils by transforming tightly packed ground chunks into smaller pieces, making the ground more porous and healthy.

Some grounds are also deficient in sulfur, which plays an important role in photosynthesis. Again, gypsum can be applied to the soil to enrich it with sulfur.

The most versatile of all minerals

We hope we’ve managed to spark a newfound appreciation for this mineral. Now that you’re familiar with everything, from the chemical composition to gypsum color, you’ll have an easier time appreciating its versatility.

Next time you are brushing your teeth while looking at yourself in the mirror hung on drywall, you might stop to appreciate gypsum, a material that’s been a mainstay in our lives for thousands of years.