What spill absorbents do I need?

What spill absorbents do I need?

clock-circular-outline Posted 11 Oct 2022


In the event of a spill incident, whether the liquid is a dangerous chemical or not, it’s important to ensure it is contained and absorbed as quickly as possible in order to prevent the hazard from growing and causing new or further accidents or injuries.


Workplace managers should ensure they have the correct spill response equipment, or spill kits, on site at their premises, and that everyone in their team knows how to use it in the event of a spill incident occurring. Clive Grinnell explains what you need to know about spill control…


Spill absorbents: colour coding explained

Spill absorbents come in one of three colours: grey, white and yellow:


GREY Absorbents-General-Purpose





GREY – These are general purpose spill absorbents. They can be used to absorb any liquid, with the exception of aggressive chemicals.


WHITE Absorbents-Hydrophobic





WHITE – These are used to absorb oils and petrochemicals, especially in outdoor environments where water may be present. They will absorb oil and petrochemicals, and leave the water behind.


YELLOW Absorbents-Chemical





YELLOW – These are used to absorb chemical spills, especially those involving aggressive substances.



Types of spill absorbents

Each colour of spill absorbent is available in materials of different shapes and sizes to help with the various stages and requirements of containing and absorbing a liquid in the event of a spill incident.


These are:


Ideal for coiling around machinery to contain or absorb any leaks or drips, socks are long rolls of material that offer fast absorption of even heavy liquids. When used to encircle a spill, they act as an absorbent blocking barrier, preventing it from spreading.


Pads / Rolls

Available as individual sheet pads or as a roll, these can perform a multitude of tasks in the event of a spill incident, including absorbing liquid in the centre of a ring of socks, catching oily drips or footprints in a walkway, acting as a mat underneath tools and equipment, and being used as a cloth to wipe down dirty or oily surfaces. Rolls – with their rip-to-fit solution – may be a more cost-effective alternative for most businesses to individual pads, which come in set sizes.



These are large pads shaped like cushions or pillows that can absorb very large amounts of liquid at a time. They can be inserted into drip pans or trays to soak up the contents, or be placed underneath machinery to catch leaks and drips. They may also be used instead of pads in the centre of a spill encircled by socks, to absorb the contained liquid.



Often used to contain the spread of oil on water, these are floating barriers made of absorbent material enclosed in a strong outer netting for durability. Booms are equipped with inset hooks and rings to enable them to be linked together in an overlapping fashion to create an impenetrable barrier of whatever length is required.


Drum toppers

As the name suggests, these are pads pre-cut into the shape of the upper side of an oil drum. They can be used to help prevent leakage at the source, preventing spillages from dripping down the sides of a drum or barrel onto the floor.


Drain mats

These specially designed pads can be placed over drainage inlets to seal them off and therefore protect drainage systems from excess spills. They are most often used in conjunction with a boom.


Absorbent granules

Absorbent granules offer the ultimate flexibility for spill absorption in the workplace. Capable of containing and absorbing chemical, oil and water spills in both indoor and outdoor environments, they can be distributed wherever they are needed, including into small crevices and cracks, underneath machinery, and in open spaces in warehouses. There are lots of different types of absorbent granules available depending on what kind of liquid needs to be absorbed, but they are not colour-coded like other absorbent materials, so care should be taken to select the best type for the job. Granules are available to absorb water-based liquids, oils and chemicals. They may come in hard form, or be made from biodegradable fibres. Both may be made from recycled materials, including recycled wood fibre, clay, and recycled gypsum.


By Clive Grinnell

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