What Are Sorbent Socks? A Spill Containment FAQ
If your industrial business uses machinery, you probably handle hazardous fluids: Oils, solvents, battery electrolyte, cleaning products, used wash water. All of these fluids pose risks to human health. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), that means you must plan for spills before they happen.
Every site safety and health program must include an “emergency response plan,” says OSHA standard 1910.120(b)(4)(ii)(H). These plans must include procedures for a “safe and effective response to emergencies, including the necessary personal protective equipment [PPE] and other equipment.”
Spill response products are a key part of this “other equipment,” and no spill response kit is complete without a selection of sorbent socks. In this list of frequently asked questions, we’ll explain sorbent socks and their role in spill response efforts. Here’s what employers need to know about this unique spill-containment solution.
1. What are sorbent socks?
A sorbent sock is a long, enclosed tube filled with granular materials that block, soak up, and sometimes chemically treat liquid spills. They’re primarily designed to create quick-deploying, flexible barriers that prevent spills from spreading. Spill response teams place sorbent socks around the edges of a spill to keep it contained.
While sorbent socks are available in many diameters and lengths, common dimensions are 4 inches in diameter by 4 feet long and 4 inches by 10 feet. Variations include acid-neutralizing sorbent socks (which bring acids to a neutral pH level), oil-selective socks (which soak up oil alone), and universal sorbent socks (safe for use with oils, acids, and most other chemicals). Note that these sorbents should not be used with hydrofluoric (HF) acids or compounds containing them; these substances require specialized sorbents. Some sorbent socks solidify liquid, while others remain flexible so you can wring them out and reuse them.
2. Why are they called “sorbent socks” and not “absorbent socks?”
Maybe you’ve heard of “absorbent socks,” but not “sorbent socks.” In popular usage, these describe the same products. But technically, there’s a difference between absorbent materials and adsorbents, with a “d” instead of a “b,” so it’s not always accurate to call these products “absorbent.”
Absorbents soak up fluids like a sponge, swelling 50 percent or more in size. Adsorbents draw liquids and gasses onto their surfaces alone, swelling less than 50 percent.
Functionally, either product may be appropriate for containing a spill. “Sorbent” is the catch-all term that includes both ab- and ad-sorbents, which is why we typically prefer the term “sorbent sock” to either of the more specialized designations.
3. How do you choose the right type of sorbent sock for your operation?
Not all sorbent socks work safely with every chemical—see our note above about hydrofluoric acid. So the first step in choosing a sorbent sock is to conduct a full hazard assessment. Once you have a full list of the chemicals you may have to contain, you can choose the right sorbents: oil-selective sorbent socks for oils, universal sorbent socks for general use; and acid-neutralizing socks for battery electrolyte and other non-HF acids.
If you have questions about which sorbents are safe to use with the chemicals at your facility, contact the Solus Group sales team at 314-696-0200.
4. What’s the best way to use sorbent socks?
Spill containment is the most common use for sorbent socks. Hazardous spills should only be approached by trained spill response teams, per OSHA, and these workers must have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
To contain a spill, encircle it in sorbent socks with a few inches to spare. Then push the socks inwards to the edge of the liquid. You may tie or otherwise link multiple socks together to form an unbroken barrier.
Sorbent socks can also be used to contain drips around battery storage areas, drums, and the like. They’re particularly useful in crevices and other tight spaces that won’t fit a sorbent pad or pillow.
Read more: How to Use Sorbent Socks for Spill Response
5. Where can you find sorbent socks for industrial spill containment?
Solus Group offers a full range of spill response products, including sorbent socks like:
- Universal Solidifying Sorbent Socks
- Universal Polypropylene Sorbent Socks
- AcidSafe Socks
- Oil Selective Polypropylene Socks
Explore Solus Group’s full collection of Spill Response Kits & Supplies today. If you have any questions, contact the Solus Group experts at 314-696-0200.