Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for best absorbent socks

Absorbent socks are must-haves for people in certain situations. If you’re working in a maintenance shop or on a pit crew, for example, you need these socks. They quickly soak up spilled liquids such as water, oil, solvent, and coolant without making an additional mess.

An absorbent sock is a flexible cylinder that can be placed around oil and solvent spills and in areas that are prone to leaks. The socks have different absorption rates to handle small and large spills. This item might look very simple — it resembles a draft stopper that you’d place against the base of a door — but the materials used are very specific to the problem the sock is designed to solve.

The length and diameter of an absorbent sock, as well as the absorbent materials inside, are important to understand so you can pick the right sock for your type of spill. Which absorbent sock is best for your shop’s needs?

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You can use multiple absorbent socks, lined up end to end, to create a dam around liquid spills.

Key considerations

Why are absorbent socks a good option?

Absorbent socks can replace “loose” absorbing materials like clay or kitty litter and, unlike loose absorbents, the socks can create a perimeter around a spill so it doesn’t spread across the shop floor. They can be picked up quickly and replaced with another sock if needed, rather than you having to sweep up loose absorbent.

A loose absorbent like clay is difficult to lug around and annoying to sweep up, and it’s easily tracked all over the shop. It can even get into your machinery.

Some absorbent socks are biodegradable. Depending on the type of fluid they pick up, the socks may be able to be incinerated.

What are absorbent socks made of?

Outer layer

The outer “skin” of an absorbent sock is usually a material that absorbs liquid quickly. Polypropylene is one type of material used for the outer layer.

Inner fill

There are different types of fills in absorbent socks. Fill materials include cellulose (ground corncob or recycled newspaper), vermiculite (a type of sand), and polypropylene. Choose the type of fill that works best with your type of spill.

What size is best for specific uses?

An absorbent sock around 4 or 5 feet long may work for everyday leaks and spills in a maintenance shop or garage. Large spills require bigger containment areas and are more challenging to clean up. For these, a 10- to 20-foot absorbent boom is a better choice.

What could go wrong?

There are certain situations in which using the wrong absorbent sock could have bad results. For example, a spill involving hazardous materials requires absorbent materials that do not react with the chemicals that are being cleaned up. Acids will eat right through most cellulose-based absorbents, so you would not want to use a sock with a cellulose-based fill in that situation.

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Did you know?
Absorbent socks designed to soak up just water can be used as water barriers at the base of sliding glass doors during minor flooding incidents.


Choose an absorbent sock based on the type of fluid you’re trying to contain. This will allow you to get the best performance possible, and there will be less of a chance of sock deterioration and leakage.

Wicking material: Both the outer skin of an absorbent sock and the material inside consist of materials that “wick” liquid by absorbing it and pulling it from wet areas to dry areas of the sock.

Exterior color: Many brands of absorbent socks follow a color-coding guide that helps buyers pick the right sock for the spill they’re dealing with. Not all manufacturers follow this guide, and the color shades can vary quite a bit, so always double-check the label to make sure it’s the right type of absorbent sock for your needs.

Here is some general information about the color coding.

  • Gray, blue, or yellow socks denote universal absorbents that can be used with almost any type of spill: coolant, oil, water, and solvent.
  • White, brown, or multicolored socks absorb oil and repel water. They’re great for oily spills in bodies of water, as they float on the water while absorbing the oil spill.
  • Pink socks absorb hazardous materials. They are designed to pick up corrosive chemicals, oxidizers, and unknown types of spills. Pink stands out, alerting cleanup crews to the presence of dangerous materials and assuring them that the absorbent sock is using materials that won’t react with the chemical spill.


An absorbent sock does a great job of damming and absorbing spills, but you might need a few other products to help finish your cleanup.

Absorbent mat: New Pig Oil Absorbent Mat
Not your average cleanup pad, absorbent mats are made of multiple layers of polyethylene that quickly wick up oil and coolant spills. The New Pig Corporation makes these mats in “heavyweight”, “lightweight”, and “mediumweight” iterations.

Absorbent pillow:  ESP Poly-Cellulose Universal Super Absorbent Pillow
When a mat or pad isn’t enough to clean up a spill, this universal absorbent pillow will draw up to 36 gallons of oil or water. This particular product comes in a case of 16 pillows.

Loose absorbent: SpillFix Organic All-Purpose Absorbent
While loose absorbent is more time-consuming to clean up, sometimes it’s the best option. This universal absorbent is an alternative to inefficient kitty litter, sawdust, or clay, soaking up spills much faster.

Absorbent sock prices

The price of absorbent socks varies depending on the type of spill each is designed to soak up, as well as the capacity of the sock (measured in ounces or gallons). Socks can be purchased in bulk, further lowering the price. In general, water-only absorbent socks filled with recycled newspaper or cellulose are found between $4 and $6 apiece. Universal absorbent socks range between $7 and $15. Heavy absorbent socks filled with vermiculite to form a leak-proof barrier can cost between $16 and $33 each.


  • Water-only absorbent socks can often be air-dried and reused.
  • Do not wash absorbent socks in a washing machine.
  • Gray and blue colors are meant to keep the absorbent sock inconspicuous when placed on a concrete shop floor.
  • Oil-only absorbent socks are colored white to stand out when floating on water and brown to blend in with the environment (especially during long-term use).
  • Absorbent socks are an important component of a workshop’s spill kit and should be readily accessible.
  • Mildew-resistant absorbent socks are good for long-term uses, such as wrapping around leaky machinery.
  • Store absorbent socks away from direct sunlight, which can damage the polypropylene exterior.
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Be careful when lifting a saturated absorbent sock, as it can be very heavy.


Q. Are there other terms for an absorbent sock?
Yes. You might hear mechanics calling out for a snake, a tube, a sausage, or a hot dog. It’s obvious why they use these terms: an absorbent sock may resemble a snake or a tube. But another nickname for an absorbent sock is pig, a reference to the company that introduced the absorbent sock, New Pig Corporation.

Q. How do I know when an absorbent sock is full and needs to be replaced?
Absorbent socks can be used until they cannot absorb any more liquid. If you notice liquid seeping out of the sock or seeping past the barrier, it’s full. In most cases, these socks can absorb a ridiculous amount of liquid, so it may take longer than you think for the sock to become completely saturated. Picking it up earlier than full saturation means you’ll just waste a sock … and the money you paid for it.

Q. If I stack one absorbent sock on top of another, will I get twice the absorbency?
The absorbent sock needs to be in contact with the spill in order to work. Liquids won’t wick up into a second sock very efficiently because of the way that liquids are drawn in through the outer skin. Instead, wait until the first absorbent sock is completely saturated. Then, create a new perimeter just behind the original sock(s) with a fresh absorbent sock, and pick up the saturated sock. This will keep the spill contained and continue the liquid absorption process.

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