Oil Absorbents FAQs

Oil Absorbents FAQs


What types of oil absorbents exist?

Oil absorbents come in a variety of shapes, materials and uses. ACME stocks a wide range of pillows, socks, pads, and particulate sorbents. These oil absorbents are ready to be used in a variety of situations, including hazmat and oil only. Oil absorbents are made from natural organic, natural inorganic, or synthetic products.


What are oil absorbents made of?

Oil absorbents fall into three overall categories: natural organic, natural inorganic, and synthetic. Natural organic oil absorbents are made of materials found in nature that are carbon-based. This covers a wide range of items including feathers, corn cobs, and the sugarcane pulp used in ACME’s MiracleSorb. Natural inorganic oil absorbents comprise of materials that cannot be incinerated, such as sand, clay and volcanic ash. Synthetic oil absorbents are man-made products that are specialized to absorb high quantities of oil while repelling water. Polyethylene, nylon, and other plastics are commonly used synthetic oil absorbents.


How do oil absorbents work?

Oil absorbents work on the simple principle of absorption, taking on the liquids in which they are placed. The most effective oil absorbents are both oleophilic and hydrophobic, or oil attracting and water repelling. Natural oil absorbent materials often are not hydrophobic, but can be effective to clean up spills in dry environments. Oil absorbents that are not hydrophobic are likely to swell with water and sink. Synthetic oil absorbents are made with specialized materials that float and will not absorb water, and are more effective choices for aquatic environments.


How much can oil absorbents absorb?

Absorbency rates range greatly across oil absorbents depending on the material. Under ideal conditions, natural organic absorbents can take on between 3-15 times their own weight in oil. Natural inorganic oil absorbents are generally more effective, collecting 5- 20 times their own weight. Synthetic materials allow for specialized products and are most effective, absorbing up to 70 times their weight in oil.


What are the benefits of oil absorbents?

Oil absorbents allow for easy removal of small hazardous spills. Effective oil absorbents offer an added benefit of being “hydrophobic”, meaning they will not take on water, increasing the absorption rate of oil. Using oil absorbents also helps reduce negative impacts to working environment and speeds up recovery time. Oil absorbents are easy to store and are important pieces of most spill kits. In larger spills, oil absorbents help take care of remaining traces of oil once skimmers and other tools are no longer effective.


Where can oil absorbents be used?

Natural oil absorbents such as sand and clay are less likely to be hydrophobic, and will absorb water as well as oil. These oil absorbents are most effective on dry land. Synthetic oil absorbents made of polyethylene or nylon will float and are best used in water environments. ACME also carries specialized oil absorbents for different spill types including oil only, hazmat, or universal. Be sure to choose the appropriate oil absorbent type for the situation.


What factors dictates which type or sorbent should be used?

When deciding what type of oil absorbent to use, oil type, sorbent characteristics, and environment must be taken into account. Oil absorption rates are higher with lighter weight oils, while heavier oils are more likely to adhere to the external surface (adsorption). Oil absorbent type must also be considered, evaluating biodegradability and application methods. Environment type (water or onland) will also tell a lot about which type of oil absorbent to use, using water repelling absorbents for aquatic spills. Environmental factors may also play into ease of application; high winds or fast moving water may present complications.


What makes ACME’s ‘MiracleSorb’ different from other oil absorbents?

MiracleSorb is highly absorbent, lightweight particulate oil absorbent made from sugar cane pulp. As an organic oil absorbent, it is easily incinerated and safe for landfills or composting. This oil absorbent is non-toxic, and safe to handle and introduce in the environment. With naturally high nitrogen levels, the oil-consuming bacteria make MiracleSorb even more effective.


How are oil absorbents disposed?

Depending on the type of oil absorbent used, the disposal process will vary. For natural organic particulate sorbents such as MiracleSorb, incineration is the easiest way to dispose of contaminated material. If this is not possible or the sorbent is ready to be disposed of, disposal methods will be determined in accordance to state and federal waste disposal regulations.


What is the difference between ‘oil adsorbents’ and ‘oil absorbents’?

Though commonly used to refer to oil absorbents, ‘sorbents’ is an overall term which also includes oil adsorbents. Oil absorbents are products that take oil into the body of the material. Conversely, oil adsorbents refer to adhesion of oil on the surface. Oil absorbents are most effective with lighter oils; thicker oils are best collected by adsorbents.