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Are you sure Perlite is anything to do with polystyrene ? After using it  broken up  in my compost for drainage I was told that these two products couldnt be more opposit . I was told polystyrene is a man made product where as pearlite is a natural volcanic discovery product ?

Now I'm confused! 


Interesting, seems I need to check more, thank you - I thought vermiculite was, is, the natural one and is volcanic - better information need methinks. 

Hi Bookertoo, Ithink I'm going to go with - '' If it does the job then use it '' - none of us can get wrong if we go along with that !  or can we !?


I reckon you are right there lucky3, I'll stick to vermiculite as I have been using it for years and am used to it - seems the best way to go about anything really!

Perlite is made from a naturally occuring volcanic glass which is heated to about 800 degrees when the moisture in the rock causes it to expand rather like popcorn forming little air bubbbles.  It is completely inert but good for both aeration and holding moisture I find it to be superior to the flaked silica of vermiculite as it is much longer lasting in heavy soils



gerrya -  isn't it interesting how different people have different experiences with the same thing?  I have always found that, for me, perlite is the one that deteriorates and goes to powder inthe compost, wheras vermiculite remains inert for donkeys years!!  Guess it doesn't really matter, neither appears to be made in a chemical laboratory and that will do for me, meanwhile we will stick to the product we know best.  Happy, albeit very wet, gardening to all - with perlite or vermiulite as the fancy takes you. 

HI folk,  interesting discussion with reference to vermiculite containing asbestos there cases of vermiculates that do contain traces of asbestos (tremolite) which is mined in Libby Montana and has been subject to a lot of debate in America.

However, generally vermiculite is an inert substance which has been processed to ensure it is safe to use.  If you are concerned I suggest that you check the manufacturers safety data sheet which will clarify the contents and aspects of the material.  This will be free available on the manufactures web-site and should put your minds at rest.


Sorry but free availability is absolutely no guarantee of safety e.g. CFCs, thalidomide and many other medicines, plus trans fats. These are but a few and the list is endless of things being unleashed on an unwary public and subsequently banned and/or withdrawn. A good rule of thumb might be that if you don't know what it is, don't use it. X


In which case Victoria, we would or would not use coffee, tomatoes, and many other things we currently regard as OK - as these and many others have been declared either deadly or carcinogenic over the years - just use carefully and with alot of common sense as we said earlier in this discussion.

Vermiculite is great for the plant roots, for the tiny seeds that need a little light, reducing weight in huge pots - I've been using it for over 25 years and so far it has done me no harm - at least, no harm of which I am currently aware. 

Breathing in any fine dust is never a good idea, use your vermiculite in well ventilated areas, damp it down soon as you've made up the pots and just be a normal, sensible person as the vast majority of us are - enjoy your gardening.  

I think Bookertoo is absolutely right. 

Free availability is, as Victoria says, no guarantee of safety. Yes there certainly are products which were said to be harmless and then have proved otherwise. 

A modicum of sense and careful usage tho should do away with most people's worries. There is no 100% guarantee to life and limb and nor should we expect it.The number of posters worried about growing plants with a reputation for toxicity are increasing - we all seem to be frightened to do or use anything these days and rely on "Government" to tell us what is good, or not so good, for us.

Yes, there are dangers lurking - a walk in the countryside, crossing a busy road, 

If you applied the "if you don't know what it is, don't use it " I can see most processed/fast food going down the toilet - before consumption I should add.......... not a bad thing overall


Isn't that why many of us are gardeners?  So we don't eat quite so many processed foods?

I do so agree about the nanny state telling us how to live, my parents, grandparents etc. never needed a date on some food to tell if it was safe, they applied experience and common sense - something that seems to be a dirty word these days.  Keep us all quiet and under the thumb, much easier to control that way!! Guess what, too many of us won't be 'controlled' for that to work - than goodness.

Regarding vermiculite again, I'm off to sow seeds, with the use of vermiculite to aid the process - the sun is shining, that can be fatal too, but it is too lovely to ignore.

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