Any business that handles, manages or stores liquids (other than water) as part of their business process has a legal requirement to store the appropriate spill containment and clean up equipment in case a spill should occur. But knowing what you need can be a bit of a minefield if this is new to you, so we have broken things down for you in Q&A style.


Absorbent materials are specifically designed to soak up certain spills quickly and efficiently, and the absorbents you need will depend largely on the liquids that you use; both content and volume. Firstly, let’s take a look at the formats that absorbent materials come in:

PADS – These are flat pads that come in either single pad format or on a roll. They are manufactured from highly absorbent materials that can hold large volumes of liquids without tearing or disintegrating. They are low linting so that they don’t leave lint on machinery and can absorb up to 20 times their own weight. 

PILLOWS – Absorbent pillows have super absorbency and liquid retention properties and are ideal for larger volume spills. Like pads, they are manufactured from a highly absorbent sewn spun material that won’t tear or disintegrate when in contact with liquid spills making a spill clean-up situation simple, quick and effective.

SOCKS – Absorbent socks have two purposes. Like pads and pillows, they have a high absorbency capacity, but their primary function is to contain spills to prevent further spread across the workplace minimising the risk of accidents and pollution. 


Absorbents generally come in 3 colours: yellow, white and black/grey. When it comes to cleaning up liquids, it is important to use the correct absorbent for the liquid that has been spilled.

Oils, fuels and lubricants have very different properties to chemicals and these, in turn, have different properties to general purpose liquids so it stands to reason that the materials required to clean up these spills will have different properties to make the spill clean-up process quick and efficient. 

WHITE – This is the colour absorbent you would need if you were cleaning up oil, lubricant or other hydrocarbon-based spills. These absorbents are designed to float on, and repel water, making a fuel spill clean-up quick and effective. Their special construction gives them a very high absorbency rate; their white colour indicates easily when oil has been absorbed.

YELLOW – This colour absorbent is required for dealing with chemical or Hazmat liquid spills but could also be used to clean up oils on dry surfaces, coolant, and solvent-based spills. Their bright distinctive colour is a clear indicator of the hazardous nature of the spill and serves as a warning to others to proceed with caution.

BLACK/GREY – This colour absorbent is a general purpose or maintenance solution to deal with all manner of workplace spills from oil, coolant, and solvent-based spills to general liquid spills that could occur in any workplace.


This really depends on the liquids that you use as part of your business processes and the volumes you store them in.

If liquid storage and handling isn’t a major factor in your business and any potential spill scenario would not involve large volume of liquids, then you may benefit from buying your absorbents initially in a kit format so that you have a selection of absorbent materials which you can top up as and when you need to. 

Spill Kits come in all capacities from small single spill kits up to spill depots which are designed to stock large quantities of spill control equipment for areas where there is the potential for a larger scale spills. CleanWorks spill kits, for instance, include three types of absorbents: pads, socks and pillows. Depending on the size of the spill kit, it can also include gloves, goggles, bags and ties – making sure you have everything you need to clean up a spill safely.

If you are unsure about what is a suitable solution for your business, you can contact our team for help, advice or a free site survey to establish your spill needs.  Our team are specialists in spill control and the regulations that businesses need to meet for both health and safety and pollution prevention purposes.   

Disclaimer: The information provided through Greenham Pulse is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Greenham Pulse is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.