Standard Historical Last Updated: Feb 10, 2014
ASTM D6572-12

Standard Test Methods for Determining Dispersive Characteristics of Clayey Soils by the Crumb Test

Significance and Use

5.1 The crumb test method provides a simple, quick method for field or laboratory identification of a dispersive clay soil. The internal erosion failures of a number of homogeneous earth dams, erosion along channel or canal banks, and rainfall erosion of earthen structures have been attributed to colloidal erosion along cracks or other flow channels formed in masses of dispersive clay (5).

5.2 The crumb test method, as originally developed by Emerson (6), was called the aggregate coherence test and had seven different categories of soil-water reactions. Sherard (5) later simplified the test by combining some soil-water reactions so that only four categories, or grades, of soil dispersion are observed during the test. The crumb test is a relatively accurate positive indicator of the presence of dispersive properties in a soil. The crumb test, however, is not a completely reliable negative indicator that soils are not dispersive. The crumb test can seldom be relied upon as a sole test method for determining the presence of dispersive clays. The double-hydrometer test (Test Method D4221) and pinhole test (Test Method D4647) are test methods that provide valuable additional insight into the probable dispersive behavior of clay soils.

Note 2The quality of the result produced by these test methods is dependent on the competence of the personnel performing it, and the suitability of the equipment and facilities used. Agencies that meet the criteria of Practice D3740 are generally considered capable of competent and objective testing. Users of these test methods are cautioned that compliance with Practice D3740 does not in itself ensure reliable testing. Reliable testing depends on several factors; Practice D3740 provides a means of evaluating some of those factors.


1.1 Two test methods are provided to give a qualitative indication of the natural dispersive characteristics of clayey soils. Method A is for natural soil clumps and method B for remolded soil.

1.2 These test methods are not applicable for soils with less than 12 % finer than 0.005 mm and with a plasticity index less than or equal to 8.

1.3 The crumb test method has some limitations in its usefulness as an indicator of dispersive clay. A dispersive soil may sometimes give a non-dispersive reaction in the crumb test. Soils containing kaolinite with known field dispersion problems have shown non-dispersive reactions in the crumb test (1)2. However, if the crumb test indicates dispersion, the soil is probably dispersive.

1.4 Oven-dried soil should not be used to prepare crumb test specimens, as irreversible changes could occur to the soil pore-water physicochemical properties responsible for dispersion (2).

1.5 The crumb test method, while a good quick indication of dispersive clay, should usually be run in conjunction with a pinhole test and a double hydrometer test, Test Methods D4647 and D4221, respectively.

Note 1In some cases, the results of the pinhole, crumb, and double-hydrometer test methods may disagree. Crumb test methods are a better indicator of dispersive clays than of nondispersive clays (3).

1.6 All observed and calculated values shall conform to the guidelines for significant digits and rounding established in Practice D6026.

1.6.1 The method used to specify how data are collected, calculated, or recorded in this standard is not directly related to the accuracy to which the data can be applied in design or other uses, or both. How one applies the results obtained using this standard is beyond its scope.

1.7 The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as the standard. The values given in parentheses are for information only.

1.8 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.

Contact Sales
Reprints and Permissions
Reprints and copyright permissions can be requested through the
Copyright Clearance Center
Book of Standards Volume: 04.09
Developed by Subcommittee: D18.06
Pages: 6
DOI: 10.1520/D6572-12
ICS Code: 13.080.20