Oil Absorbent Pads Selection Guide

Selecting Oil Absorbent Mats and Pads For the Workplace

An oil-absorbent mat

Figure 1: An oil-absorbent mat

Oil-absorbent mats and pads are essential for managing and cleaning up oil spills in industrial environments. These mats and pads are designed to be highly absorbent, with the specific purpose of absorbing oil while repelling water. This is a key feature in many industrial and environmental settings where oil and water may coexist.

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What are oil resistant mats and pads made of?

When selecting oil-absorbent mats and pads for spill cleanup, it's important to understand different materials' distinct properties and suitability.

  • Polypropylene: Polypropylene is the most common material for making oil-absorbent mats and pads. It is a synthetic material that absorbs oils and other hydrocarbons. Also, polypropylene is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. Finally, polypropylene can absorb many times its weight in oil.
  • Natural fibers: Oil spill mats and oil absorption pads can also be made of natural fibers like cotton, wool, and cellulose. These materials have hydrophobic properties and absorb oil efficiently. However, they typically do not repel water as effectively as synthetic materials and are unsuitable for some spill types.
    • Suitability: Natural fiber mats and pads are suitable for oil and petroleum-based spills.
    • Unsuitability: Aggressive and chemically corrosive spills, such as strong acids, bases, oxidizers, and solvents. Also, natural fibers typically cannot absorb as much volume as synthetic materials; therefore, natural fiber mats and pads are not suitable for large and continuous spills.

Selecting between these materials

Consider these factors to help decide between these materials:

Table 1: Selection criteria for synthetic and natural fiber oil absorbent mats and pads

Factor Polypropylene Natural fibers
Spill type Best for oil/petroleum on water and chemical spills Good for oil/petroleum; not for water or chemicals
Absorbency High Good
Water resistance Hydrophobic (repels water) Hydrophilic (absorbs water and oil)
Chemical resistance Resistant to many chemicals Not chemically resistant
Environmental impact Less environmentally friendly; synthetic More eco-friendly, biodegradable, sustainable
Durability/Reusability Durable; sometimes reusable Less durable; not typically reusable after a spill
Cost Economical; varies More expensive; varies
Disposal Must follow regulations; can be incinerated Easier than synthetics; must follow regulations if oil soaked


The design and structure of these mats and pads are crucial to their absorption abilities. They often feature:

  • A layered design that allows oil to be trapped within the mat or pad while repelling water.
  • A high surface area that enables quick wicking and spreading of the oil throughout the material.
  • A durable outer layer that contains the absorbed oil and prevents it from leaking out.
  • A lightweight construction that makes them easy to deploy and manage during a spill.
  • Oil-absorbent mats and pads are typically white or light-colored, which helps users see when the pad is saturated with oil and needs to be replaced.

The construction of pads and mats also varies:

  • Bonded oil absorbent pads: These are made from a single layer of fine fibers bonded together using heat and pressure. These oil soak pads have excellent absorbency and strength, making them ideal for cleaning up oil spills in high-traffic areas.
  • Meltblown oil absorbent pads: These absorbent pads for spills are made by extruding melted polypropylene through a die, creating a non-woven fabric with excellent absorbency. Meltblown pads are cost-effective and suitable for general-purpose use.
  • Laminated oil absorbent pads: These are pads made by bonding two or more layers of meltblown polypropylene together. They have a higher absorption capacity than single-layer pads and are ideal for cleaning up larger spills.
  • Fine fiber oil absorbent pads: Fine fiber pads are suitable for cleaning up various hydrocarbon-based liquids and may provide higher absorption capacity than standard pads.
  • Track mats: These are heavy-duty, oil-only absorbent pads designed to be used as a barrier under heavy machinery or as an oil mat for under a car. They help prevent oil spills and leaks from reaching the ground, reducing the risk of damage to the environment and equipment.


  • Bonded oil absorbent pads: Bonded oil absorbent pads are for oil spill cleanups on water or in rainy conditions. They can be used for wiping down oily tools, cleaning up spills on shop floors, or skimming oil off water surfaces.
  • Meltblown oil absorbent pads: These pads repel water and are used to clean up oil-based spills exclusively. They are often used in industrial settings for spill response or for placing under machinery to catch drips and leaks.
  • Laminated oil absorbent pads: These pads are used in similar applications as meltblown pads but have enhanced performance in terms of durability and cleanliness.
  • Fine fiber oil absorbent pads: Fine fiber pads are suitable for cleaning up various hydrocarbon-based liquids and may provide higher absorption capacity compared to standard pads.
  • Track mats: The top layer is usually made from an abrasive-resistant material that can withstand foot traffic, wheels, and machinery. Oil mats are ideal for protecting surfaces from oil and grease in garages, workshops, and during transportation of equipment.


Do oil spill mats work?

Oil spill mats and pads work well for cleaning up spills. They are chosen for specific applications. Small pads can clean up small drips; larger mats are used where large spills are possible.

What can I put under my car for an oil leak?

Oil-absorbent mats and pads work well under a car in the case of an oil leak. If water is present, choose pads and mats made of synthetic material rather than natural fibers.

How can I clean an oil spill mat?

After an oil spill, clean a mat by scrubbing it and rinsing it. If the mat is uncleanable due to the spill being too large or after multiple spills, dispose of it according to local regulations.

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