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Updated: Oct 16, 2019

Simply put, all absorbents will absorb liquid. What does this simple statement mean for you? Well as long as you aren't trying to go against an absorbents colour properties (e.g. trying to absorb water with a white, oil-only absorbent, we'll cover sorbent colours in a later post) you're gonna get the job done and absorb what you need to regardless of if you are using a pad, sock, pillow, or granular. Having said this, each absorbent type is geared for different applications. Knowing these applications and when to use one type of sorbent versus the other will save you a lot of time, effort, and ultimately lead to a much more efficient and cost-effective spill-cleanup. That's what this article is about, Let's dive into it.


Starting off with pads & rolls, the most widely recognized absorbent type. Rolls can be used in the same way pads can with the added benefit of being able to cover more ground. In saying this, you can use rolls to line walkways or stretch across an area that may experience high spill volume. Other wise, rolls are usually perforated and you can tear pieces off them (pads). With the knowledge that rolls are virtually longer pads, in this section we will focus on pads and their uses.

Absorbent pads are multipurpose products. Their most common use is for spill clean up. Simply place the pad(s) on the spill and there you have it. Knocked over a glass of water? You could use 50 paper towels or 1-2 absorbent pads depending on the amount of water. Having said this, you could think of absorbent pads as an ultra strong paper towel. Unlike paper towels, they won't rip or come apart as they become saturated even with hydrocarbons. Unlike rags or mops, which drip and spread a spill around until it is thin enough that it basically evaporates, an absorbent pad will actually pull liquid off the surface and actively encapsulate it, not failing or dripping. Pads are also used for wiping down oily machinery or tools. They are commonly used as storage; people place them under drums or use them as base to store their tools and/or liquids, such as containers of motor oil.


When people think of absorbent socks, they automatically think of a means to surround a spill and stop it from spreading and for good reason, this is their most common use and they are effective at it. When you have a spill, right after you put on PPE gear you should reach for an absorbent sock so as to stop the spill from spreading and getting into storm drains or other environmentally sensitive areas. For bigger spills, you may need to use a few socks. Overlapping the ends of them will make sure that their are no weak links in your containment area. Absorbent socks do have other uses. People use them to line their window sills or place them in front of doorways to stop water from getting in. Socks can be placed in front of important machinery as a protective measure from water or other liquid. You can also wrap them around the base of drums or machinery to stop any leaks or drips from contaminating the surrounding area, preventing a slip/trip hazard.


Out of all the absorbents, pillows have the highest absorbency. They are commonly placed under piping, vehicles, machines, etc. to catch any leaks or drips. Because of their high absorbency, they can be left under these leaks for a long time without needing to be changed out. Other uses include wedging them between machines to catch overspray. In spill clean up, pillows can be used in the same way a pad would. Because of their high absorbency they may go further then pads and can be placed In larger, deeper spills as a central absorbing product while the smaller areas of the spill are cleaned up with pads.


Last but not least, granular absorbent is a great way to deal with large spills in an easy way although it can be messy! Whenever you have liquid that has an odor or is fast moving, you can throw granular absorbent onto it to stop and stabilize it. Granular absorbent has the added benefit of being able to reach places that the other absorbents can't. If you have liquid flowing into uneven ground or broken concrete for example, granular absorbent can be used to get to these hard to reach places. The application is fairly simple. Just throw as much granular absorbent onto the spill as necessary, wait 5-10 minutes, then sweep it up and dispose of it in accordance with local laws & regulations. We strongly encourage you to check the packaging of your granular absorbent. A lot of granulars on the market today contain hazardous substances such as crystalline silica and can be harmful to your lungs as well as the environment. If you do find yourself having to use a less than favourable granular absorbent, be sure to use proper respiratory protection.

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