Navigating the choice for spill absorbents

SpillPro on 20 December 2018

Spills of oils, fuels or chemicals can happen at any time in workshops, industrial sites, mining operations and auto repair shops. While it is always best to prevent a spill wherever possible, it is important to be prepared to respond quickly and efficiently when they happen.

Absorbents form an important part of any spill response. They soak up the spill making it possible to dispose of safely and protecting the environment from contamination. However, there are many different types of absorbent and different absorbent products too. How do you choose the best absorbent for your application?

Browse SpillPro’s range of absorbents here.

Oil and fuel, hazchem and general-purpose absorbents

The first question to ask when choosing an absorbent is - What type of liquid will I be absorbing? The answer to this question will determine whether you need an oil and fuel, hazchem or general-purpose absorbent.

Oil and fuel absorbents are selective. They only absorb hydrocarbons even if there is water present in the spill. This is obviously more efficient than absorbing everything because the entire absorbing capacity is devoted to the harmful material.

Hazchem absorbents are used for aggressive chemicals like acids and bases. SpillPro hazchem absorbents neutralise the chemical and encapsulate the liquid.

When your application uses multiple types of product, general-purpose absorbents may be more suitable. They are used for small amounts of oil and fuels, water-based chemicals and coolants etc.

Types of absorbent material

There are three types of sorbent material commonly used for spill response and clean up.

Natural organic sorbents absorb 3 to 15 times their own weight. Examples are peat moss, straw, sawdust, cotton and feathers.

Natural inorganic sorbents absorb 4 to 20 times their own weight. Examples are clay, vermiculite, glass wool, sand and volcanic ash.

Synthetic sorbents can absorb up to 70 times their own weight. They are man-made materials like polypropylene. Synthetic absorbents have the advantage of having a long shelf life.

types of absorbents

Where to use different absorbent products

Absorbent socks are short cylinders of absorbent material that can be moulded to any shape. They are suitable for containing spills to prevent them from spreading, while absorbing them at the same time. Socks are often used in hard to reach places where other absorbent products may not provide adequate protection.

Absorbent pads have a high absorption efficiency. They can be used to clean an existing spill on the ground or placed underneath a piece of equipment where a spill is likely to happen during a maintenance task. If an equipment is leaking oil, but cannot immediately be taken out of service, pads are used to absorb the spill until maintenance can be scheduled. The advantage of oil and fuel pads is that they can be used on water to absorb hydrocarbons without getting soaked by water.

Absorbent rolls are like a continuous length of absorbent pad that you can unroll to any length you require. They can also be cut to a specific shape in order to cover an area under a piece of equipment.

Booms are larger versions of socks and have a similar containment use. They create a barrier around a spill to prevent it from spreading. Booms are also used to protect drains by surrounding the drain and preventing spilled oil or chemicals from reaching the environment.

Absorbent pillows are similar to pads but have a much higher capacity for absorption. They are used for larger scale spills or to catch equipment leaks where the expected volume of oil is high. Absorbent pillows can be squeezed into tight spaces or floated on the surface of tanks to absorb oil or chemical contaminants.

Floorsweep is a powder or sawdust like substance used to clean spills on hard surfaces. It is applied by spreading the floorsweep around and over the spill. It immediately begins to absorb the oil or chemical. Sweeping the product back and forward over the spill ensures that all the residue is absorbed. Collect the used floorsweep in bags for disposal.

Contact SpillPro

contact spillpro

SpillPro is a leader in the Australian market for spill control products and services. We help you identify your chemical and hydrocarbon risks and choose the right selection of absorbents for your application. SpillPro also supplies spill kits for a holistic spill response strategy.

Find out more here or call our expert team on 1800 368 450 today.