March 29, 2019
September 6, 2019

What Oil Absorbent Should I Use?

All Natural Oil Absorbents Explained

Sometime in the 90s, different vendors pounced on the oil absorbent market, especially in auto garages and other shops. With today's options available, these popular 90s oil absorbents are now outdated; however, these products are still commonly used for spill cleanup, even as our options for granular absorbents have improved.

A number of these products must be mined or are carcinogenic, and may also leave soil with high acidity or other problems. Some do a “Band-Aid job” of soaking up oil that looks good on the surface, but the disposal process must then be attended to.

We are here to tell you, cleaning up oil spills does not require compromise. There are fast acting, non-carcinogenic, lightweight, biodegradable, Earth-friendly, cost efficient options in existence that will transform how you react to a spill.
It’s time to ditch HAZMAT charges, throw away your kitty litter, and switch to something better.

Here are some options:

Kengro Biosorb

Kengro Biosorb oil absorbent in its packaging, which is a plastic whitee bag with blue, green, and black writing.

Kengro Biosorb is 100% natural and processed from a plant grown in the Mississippi Delta. This plant is one of the most absorbent natural fibers on the planet, and contains thousands of natural microbes (bacteria) able to break down oil. These particular microbes are proven to enhance bioremediation, which means this product is capable of turning disposed oil back into hydrogen and carbon — things the environment can reuse!

Cost/gallon of cleanup: ~$2.15
Packaging: 2 Cubic Feet Plastic Bag
Weight: 11–12 lbs
Absorption Capacity: 11 gallons/bag
Cost/disposal: In most states, there is none due to the product’s biodegradation.


  • Bioremediation agent; processes oil back into hydrogen and carbon
  • Biodegradable
  • Absorbs 6 x’s its weight
  • Non-leaching
  • All-natural & carcinogen free
  • Adds NO acidity to soil
  • Contains thousands of natural microbes 
  • Cost comparable to competitors
  • Low labor and disposal costs
  • Floats on water
  • Lightweight in windy conditions
  • Tan-Colored (which is ONLY a problem for those trying to hide a spill)

Peat Moss

Peat Moss products are 100% natural product and derive mostly from from Canada.  Peat moss is mined from sphagnum bogs and works wonderfully as an oil absorbent.  While these products are all natural, they do come at the price of mining.  Some tout peat moss as a renewable resource, but this is a little debatable, as peat moss can take hundreds of years to reform in bogs.

Cost/gallon of cleanup:  ~2.42
Packaging:  2.2 Cubic Feet Plastic Bag
Weight:  25 lbs
Absorption Capacity:  8-14 gallons/bag
Cost/disposal:  In most states, there is none due to the product’s biodegradation

  • Biodegradable
  • Absorbs around 6x’s its weight
  • Non-leaching
  • All-natural/carcinogen free
  • Cost comparable to competitors
  • Low labor and disposal costs 
  • Hydrophobic
  • Acidic
  • Doesn’t contain natural microbes (unless artificial ones are added); therefore not a bioremediation agent 
  • Must be mined for production
  • Annual renewability is debatable since sphagnum bog regrowth process is so extensive

Cotton Linter

Cotton linter products are 100% natural. Cotton linter is a by-product taken from the cotton industry that is processed down into oil absorbent products.  This means that these products are annually renewable; however, they contain carcinogens and can be harmful to lungs with long-term inhalation.

Cost/gallon of cleanup:  ~2.17
Packaging:  30 lb. paper/plastic bag
Absorption Capacity:  ~11 gallons/bag
Cost/disposal:  In most states, there is none due to the product’s biodegradation

  • Biodegradable
  • Absorbs around 5x’s its weight
  • All-natural/carcinogen free
  • Cost comparable to competitors
  • low labor and disposal costs 
  • hydrophobic
  • Non-aggressive/slow acting
  • Leaching
  • Highly acidic
  • Low microbial count
  • harmful long-term inhalation

For Comparison:  Clay

Compared to these products, clay isn’t even in the running.  This is for several reasons. It takes about 15.86 pounds of clay to absorb one gallon of oil. Extended inhalation of clay products can lead to lung disease. Clay products have no microbes, so they do not do anything in terms of breaking down oil. Additionally, it is illegal to throw oily clay into dumpsters, so if used legally, clay products require paying for disposal. Clay products must be mined, which is harmful to local ecosystems.

Cost/gallon of cleanup:  ~1.78-infinity (accounting for HAZMAT charges)
Packaging:  40 lb bags typically
Absorption Capacity:  ~2.52 gallons/bag
Cost/disposal:  Depends on your local HAZMAT disposal charges; it is illegal to throw oil-soaked clay products in the dumpster

  • Cheapest solution IF illegally disposed of 
  • Clay must be mined, which destroys local environments
  • A number of clay products contain carcinogens and are toxic when dust is inhaled; long-term exposure can have negative effects upon health
  • Heavy
  • Requires 15.86 lbs to absorb 1 gallon of oil
  • Not annually renewable
  • Simply smothers oil 
  • Used clay is required to be sent to HAZMAT 
  • Slow acting absorbent

Figures in this article are based upon numbers and pricing both found on vendor's websites and gathered from supply stores selling these products. Absorption capacity numbers were gathered both from vendor claims and from studies conducted by laboratories at Mississippi State University and Millsaps College

This article was written by Alexandra Brasher.