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Absorbent Training Part 8: How to Tell if Your Absorbent is Saturated

PIG Mats absorb oily leaks and drips, but disposing of them before they're saturated can waste time and money.

Editor’s note: Welcome to the eighth post in our series on Absorbent Training. We hope you find the series to be helpful in explaining the basics of absorbents.

A while back, we went dumpster diving at some customer sites and found ourselves knee-deep in half-used absorbents. We were glad to see people using our products, but we realized that we had to do a better job of showing them how to get the most out of every mat and sock they put down.

Let Us Explain

PIG Absorbents are made extra strong to hold together longer and keep on working until they are completely saturated. That means you don’t have to change them out as often. It also lowers the volume of absorbent waste your facility generates and helps you save money.

If a mat or sock has been down for two weeks or a month, you may begin to wonder if it’s still working. The short answer is “yes.” If you don’t see liquid puddling around it, the mat or sock is still doing its job.

But because we’re absorbent geeks, we’re going to explain how they work.

It’s All About Wicking

Mats

PIG Mat is made with eight layers of tough polypropylene that are bonded together. This does two things: It creates strength and durability and allows the mat to wick liquids quickly and thoroughly.

So what is “wicking” exactly? You’ve probably seen the commercial where mom lays a single paper towel over a grape juice spill and instantly the spill spreads out as the towel absorbs every last drop. When liquid is pulled into the dry areas of an absorbent, that’s wicking.

PIG Mat does the same thing — both vertically and horizontally. When one area of the mat becomes saturated, it will wick the liquid into another area that’s still dry. When a mat looks darker in the middle than it does around the edges, it can still absorb more. If there’s a puddle around the outside edge of the mat, or if it squishes when you step on it, it’s completely saturated and should be replaced.

Socks

Wicking plays an important role in a sock’s ability to stop spills, but the action is a little bit different in a sock than it is in a mat. PIG Socks have polypropylene skins that help draw liquids into a filler that we’ve chosen for its ability to absorb and wick specific liquids. Because the fillers are either granular or ground, liquids can travel from one particle to another quickly and easily. Like mats, socks wick both vertically and horizontally.

So how do you know when a sock is saturated? If it’s placed around the base of a machine, on a windowsill or in a doorway, and you see liquid seeping or leaking past the sock, it’s full. If the sock has been used to contain a spill — and as long as the sock wasn’t placed in the spill — and if liquid is passing underneath the sock, it’s full.

More Doesn’t Equal Better

Once in a while, we’ll see people stacking new mats or socks on top of saturated ones instead of changing them out. Does it work? Sort of — but we don’t recommend it. Here’s why.

If you put a clean mat pad on top of one that’s saturated, some of the liquid will wick into the top pad. But because mats can never lay perfectly flat on top of each other, there will be gaps between the two pads that the liquid can’t jump across. Pads are much more effective when they’re in direct contact with the liquid on the floor. Not to mention, stacking mats can create a trip hazard if they’re near a walkway.

Stacking socks doesn’t work either — socks need to be in direct contact with the liquid to wick effectively. So if you find that you’re replacing 3”-diameter socks too often, use a 5”-diameter sock instead. Another thing to consider is cleanup. Saturated absorbents can get heavy – especially socks. It’s a lot easier to pick up one at a time than to try and wrangle them by the armload.

To get the best use out of your absorbents, change no swine before it’s time. And here’s handy rhyme to help you remember when to do it: “Leave it down till a puddle surrounds.”

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