Tips for Selecting Spill Kits and Absorbents

Tips for Selecting Spill Kits and Absorbents

Like mats, socks have a variety of skins and fillers. For indoor spills, consider socks with polypropylene skins and earthen fillers, like vermiculite, to handle a wide variety of fluids.

In general, socks with granular fillers – like vermiculite and corn cob - will form a stronger dike than socks filled with fluffier materials like cotton, polypropylene or paper.

Pillows – These are used to absorb deeper spills that have been contained with socks or dikes. They’re also ideal for capturing steadier or more persistent drips – like those from fluid dispensing nozzles or pumps.

Loose absorbents – These have been around longer than mats, socks and pillows; and are available in many forms. The most common is clay.

Clay remains popular because it is inexpensive, and because it is what “has always been used.” But, like red shop towels, it is not the best product for cleaning up spills.

On average, it takes over 20 pounds of clay to clean up one gallon of spilled oil. Clay is also dusty, and that gritty dust tends to settle everywhere over time, especially on oily surfaces.

Many shops and OEMs have already banned the use of clay or “floor sweep” because of the premature wear abrasive dust can cause during rebuild operations.

Luckily, there are alternatives to clay-based loose absorbents. Ground newsprint, peat moss and corn cob are all examples of loose absorbents that are more efficient than clay-based loose absorbents and do not have abrasive dust.


A well-stocked spill kit contains a variety of absorbents in sufficient quantities to handle the most likely spills that could occur. Some shops choose to have one large, centrally-located kit. Others choose to have multiple, smaller kits in each spill-prone area or bay.

Whichever choice is made, be sure that everyone knows where kits are stored, and that they are placed in a location or locations that can be accessed quickly and easily in the event of a spill.

It is also a good idea to have a replenishment or “stock check” plan for absorbents and spill kits.

For added safety, consider stocking personal protective equipment (PPE), such as safety glasses and gloves, with spill response supplies, so workers can be properly protected when they are cleaning up spills. Material Safety Data Sheets are a good starting point to aid in the selection of PPE.

Placing PPE on top of absorbents and other items in a spill kit will help remind responders of the need for these items, and will help avoid lost time during cleanup.


No matter what items are chosen, take the time to train shop personnel on the use of each item before a spill happens. This allows everyone to become familiar with the products and know how they will work.

The best spill kit in the world doesn’t do anyone any good if it’s locked away in a closet or if no one knows what to do with it.

Being properly prepared to respond to spills can be the difference between a quick clean up and an all-day, messy task that no one wants to tackle. Spill kits are the tools that allow you to get everyone back to business quickly and safely.

Karen D. Hamel is technical education manager for New Pig Corporation of Tipton, PA. In 1985, New Pig invented the first contained absorbent, the Original PIG Absorbent Sock, changing leak and spill management. The company has grown to be a multi-channel, multi-brand supplier of innovative liquid management solutions to industrial, institutional and fleet facilities in more than 40 countries, with products, services and technical expertise to help keep workplaces clean and safe.

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