Talc is a constituent of faults in a variety of settings, and it may be an effective weakening agent depending on its abundance and distribution within a fault. We conducted frictional strength experiments under hydrothermal conditions to determine the effect of talc on the strengths of synthetic gouges of lizardite and antigorite serpentinites and of quartz. Small amounts of talc weaken serpentinite gouges substantially more than predicted by simple weight averaging. In comparison, mixtures of quartz and talc show a linear trend of strength reduction at talc concentrations 15 wt % and enhanced weakening at higher concentrations. All of the strength data are fit by a modified version of the Reuss mixing law that allows for the dominance of one mineral over the other. The difference in the behavior of serpentinite-talc and quartz-talc mixtures at low talc concentrations is a reflection of their different textures. Lizardite, antigorite, and talc all have platy habits, and displacement within gouges composed of these minerals is localized to narrow shears along which the platy grains have rotated into alignment with the shear surfaces. The shears in the mixed phyllosilicate gouges maximize the proportion of the weaker mineral within them. When mixed with a strong, rounded mineral such as quartz, some minimum concentration of talc is needed to form connected pathways that enhance strength reductions. The typical development of talc by the reaction of Si-rich fluids with serpentinite or dolomite would tend to localize its occurrence in a natural fault and result in enhanced weakening.