No, dirt is not a mineral. To be a mineral, a material or substance has to meet five qualifications. Since dirt is not chemically consistent, is not orderly, and is organic, it cannot be a mineral.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain what the five qualifications are, and how it is that dirt fails to meet them.
Is Dirt a Mineral? (Explained)
What Are the Qualifications Dirt Has To Meet To Be a Mineral?
For a substance to be considered a mineral, the answer must be yes to the following five questions:
One: Does dirt exist in nature? Meaning, does dirt form on its own without humans?
Two: is dirt a solid?
Three: is dirt completely and totally inorganic?
Four: is the chemical composition of dirt consistent throughout all dirt?
Five: is the internal structure of dirt orderly and consistently so?
If you have any experience with dirt of any kind, you can already see why it is that dirt fails the test to be considered a mineral.
Does Dirt Exist in Nature?
Yes, dirt does in exist in nature. What we call ‘dirt’ takes on many forms around the world. If you were to walk out the back door of your house with a shovel, you could quickly find an area to dig to find some dirt.
The top layer is what we think of as soil, and is generally the best type of dirt for plans to grow in.
Underneath the top layer of soil, we find that the dirt changes, and becomes more hard and difficult to dig through. In some areas of the world, it is because the soil is very compacted.
In other areas of the world, it is because the dirt is actually composed mostly of clay.
Dirt is something that humans can make, but for the most part dirt exists naturally in nature without the involvement of humans.
See also: Can You Melt Dirt?
Is Dirt a Solid?
Dirt isn’t what you’d think of as a typical solid. Dirt is often lose and crumbly, and looks a lot more like sand than it does a chunk of granite.
The thing about a shovel full of dirt is that it can contain liquids, and it can contain gases.
Think of each of the small pieces that make up dirt. If you were to look at them through a microscope, you’d see them as the blocks and chunks that they are.
But you also see spaces between those various blocks. We don’t separate the gases from the blocks when we are shoveling dirt.
Dirt is a mixture. And while it contains solid components (as well as gaseous or even liquid components), we can’t confidently call it a solid.
Is Dirt Inorganic?
To answer this question, it really depends on where you get your dirt from and what the dirt is made up of.
The best dirt from growing plants in is full of organic materials, in many cases, living organisms.
At the chemical level, for something to be considered organic, it needs to have some carbon to hydrogen bonds (C-H).
Most dirt contains some organic materials, though it also contains inorganic materials, such as inorganic particulate matter from silicate-bearing rocks.
There might even be dirt out there that is completely composed of inorganic materials.
But because “dirt” as a substance is not consistently inorganic wherever you find it (like gold is, wherever you find it), then it cannot pass this question.
Is the Chemical Composition of Dirt Consistent Throughout?
No, dirt is made up of innumerable substances, from organic to inorganic materials. If you take a sample of dirt from a piece of land in France, it is going to be very different from a sample of dirt in Bolivia at the molecular level.
Is the Internal Structure of Dirt Orderly?
Dirt is very disorderly. This is a difficult question to answer really, because dirt is a mixture. Dirt is composed of potentially hundreds of different materials, with their own chemical composition and structure.
The materials that make up dirt are not chemically bound to each other, and behave in their own individual manners.
As a result, dirt cannot pass this question.
Summary: Is Dirt a Mineral?
No, dirt is not a mineral.
Is Dirt Rich in Minerals?
Depending on where the dirt is located, it can be full of minerals. You might have ground up limestone, basalt, granite, and more in your dirt.
Some dirt may have few minerals, especially if it is dirt that resulted from the decomposition of organic materials (like bark).
Interested in learning about whether other common materials are minerals, like: ice, air, plastic, steel? You can also check out our blog for our latest articles.