It’s Time To Reconsider Clay Absorbents In The Workplace

Every business needs cleaning supplies to handle potential messes around their work site. But for industrial facilities or garages working with fuels, gasoline, oils and other spillable liquids, over-the-counter cleaning supplies definitely won’t do the trick. These facilities must turn to professional industrial absorbent products and spill kits to handle their cleaning needs. But are the tools they’re reaching for as safe as they could be?

Tools like spill kits and absorbent products are a vital part of any major industrial facility; without them a small worksite spill can potentially become a major problem for nearby communities and local wildlife. Just one gallon of oil or gasoline will pollute 100,000 gallons of water; because of this, it’s important to clean a spill before it leaks out of a contained area. Unfortunately, what a majority of workers and companies do not know is that many popular spill kits used to prevent major accidents can still pose a number of risks, even when used properly.

A product designed for to address a safety issue should not become a safety issue itself. Unfortunately, many popular absorbents can indeed become a problem. How is this possible? Because of the main ingredient in popular absorbents: clay.

Clay-based products have been the main absorbent product ingredients of choice for years, largely because of their affordability. However, clay absorbents present a number of potential problems:


  1. Despite their name, clay absorbents do not truly absorb the very spills people want clay-based products to clean. Instead, liquids simply coat the surface of the clay absorbent being used. And since these liquids are not properly absorbed, the very spill that workers cleaned to prevent a hazardous situation can potentially leak right back off of the clay product. Imagine the kind of damage this can do if a used absorbent product is dropped off at the local dump, improperly disposed of in unsealed plastic bags. This should never happen, seeing as clay absorbents do not meet US EPA Guidelines for solid waste disposal and must be treated as a hazardous waste. Unfortunately, just one little slip-up by a new worker or a lapse in company rules can result in an accident just waiting to happen.
  2. The next time you pick up a bag of clay absorbent product, check the label for a health warning. Clay absorbents often contain crystalline silica, a material known to pose major health risks to workers. Long-term exposure to crystalline silica dusts can cause silicosis, an irreversible lung disorder that can cause asthma, and even encourage the development of tuberculosis and heart failure; additionally, workers who breathe in silica dust have twice the normal risk of lung cancer and often. In fact, the silica dust found in clay products and produces during other industrial worksite activities poses such a strong health risk that many safety experts are now pushing for stronger rules for working with this dust.
  3. During a clean-up process clay absorbents can quickly create as big a problem for a worksite as the spill they’re meant to clean. Due to their design, clay absorbents have to be swept up or shoveled into proper disposal bins. This process cuts down on productivity, wears down the workers cleaning the heavy absorbent material, and can even make an area more dangerous to walk in by spreading the often leaking product over a greater area; this creates a large, slippery surface that’s unsafe to walk on. Seeing as the National Floor Safety Institute already reports that slips and falls are the leading cause of lost work time injuries, the last thing a worksite needs to do is increase the risk of falling and add to the billions in paid compensation claims already associated with these injuries.


In addition to these three major safety risks, clay absorbents are incredibly inefficient: it takes over 10 pounds of clay to clean up one gallon of spilled oil. The same dust that poses a health risk to workers doesn’t just get into individual’s lungs, either: it also works its way into a facility’s machines and tools, causing additional wear and tear and leading to equipment failure.

Despite this myriad of issues clay absorbents remain popular for industrial companies and garages alike, partly because of their low sticker price, and partly because they are unsure about where they can go for alternative spill cleaning solutions. Fortunately, a number of alternatives are in fact available for companies looking to improve their worksite safety measures. Rather than just using clay absorbents, companies can now buy absorbent mats, socks, and pillows to help absorb and contain worksite spills. There are also a number of environmentally friendly, silica-free loose absorbent products available today that feature a higher absorbency rate than their clay counterparts.

Don’t be afraid to begin making the switch from clay absorbents to alternative cleaning solutions; while the initial cost of purchasing new cleaning items may be higher, investing in modern day absorbent products will inevitably lead to the creation of a safer, less expensive workplace all around. So don’t hesitate any longer – make the worthwhile switch today to environmentally friendly, truly effective absorbent products.


Bio: This article was co-written by freelancer Larissa Gula and Joe Davids, the CEO of American Green Ventures. Currently American Green Ventures (US) Inc. is in the process of introducing SpillFix Industrial Organic Absorbent products to the American market as an alternative to hazardous clay absorbent products.