Absorbent pads: How to pick the right one for your workplace

Spill Control Centre explains the difference between different absorbent pads for different kinds of spill allowing you to select the right one for your requirements.

Like golf clubs and kitchen knives, absorbent pads are designed for different tasks, which is why selecting the right one is important. They all have the same general function of cleaning up spills (or catching them as they happen), but it’s what needs to be mopped up that dictates which is the right ‘tool for the job’.

Absorbent pads come in three basic types – to deal with (1) oil, (2) chemicals, and (3) water or general tasks. There’s a colour coding system to explain which one does what job:

  • Oil absorbent pads are white
  • Chemical absorbent pads are yellow
  • General purpose and water absorbent pads are black or grey; these are also known as ‘maintenance’ absorbent pads

White oil absorbent pads

These are made using clever polymers or cotton fibres that are hydrophobic. This means they actually repel water, making them ideal for lifting oil from the surface of ponds and streams. The benefit with this type of pad is that its entire capacity for absorption is therefore used on the spill, which needs to be cleaned up, rather than the pre-existing water, which doesn’t. The other benefit of using a white oil absorbent pad is that the absorbed oil changes the colour of the pad, so it’s easy to see when it’s ‘full’ and needs replacing. (The accompanying picture shows these pads in use during an oil spill in Thailand).

Yellow chemical absorbent pads

These are the ones to use to absorb all industrial liquids, including aggressive chemicals, like those that are corrosive or caustic, as well as coolants and any solvent-based spill. It’s important to remember that aggressive chemicals soaked up by these pads remain aggressive, as a result of which two things are worth mentioning.

Firstly, as much care should be taken with handling and disposing of the pads as would have been the case with the original chemical itself. Secondly, because of their robust polypropylene construction they won’t break up in or after use, which would make the clean-up unnecessarily awkward and potentially hazardous.

Absorbent Pads Picture: © Kajornyot | Dreamstime.com[/caption]

General purpose and water absorbent pads (otherwise known as ‘maintenance’ absorbent pads)

These are the ‘Swiss Army Knife’ of absorbent pads. Their strength is in their versatility, since they’ll happily mop up oils, coolants and anything water or solvent-based. They shouldn’t be used on acid, caustic or aggressive liquids; that is where the chemical absorbent pads come into their own.

The advantage of these absorbent pads is their versatility and this makes them ideal for a general industrial environment.  The oil absorbent pads and the chemical absorbent pads have very specific properties making them ideal for their bespoke functions; but these general purpose absorbent pads offer a wider, more general solution.

Absorbent Pads: The full range at Spill Control Centre

Each colour-coded category is further sub-divided in terms of quality and pack size, offering you a comprehensive range of products to choose from. Whilst all will cope well from an absorbency point of view, you may feel that your industry dictates selection of a ‘top of the range’ product such as the ‘Gold’ range, which is ideal for aerospace and high-tech industries. 

If you are after a more ‘standard’ product rather than ‘top of the range’ then these oil only pads would fit the bill; they are lightweight in nature and come in a pack of 200 pads. Whilst checking the pack size to work out the number of pads you need, it’s important to pay particular attention to the details. For instance, heavyweight oil absorbent pads look the same as the ones mentioned in the link above and they are the same pack size of 200; however, they are more of a heavyweight product.

At Spill Control Centre, our range of absorbent pads is both clear and comprehensive but should you have any queries please do call us on 01724 281044.