Why Didn't You Just Clean The Spill With Water
Kristina Davis

Are you wondering why didn’t you just clean the spill with water? Well, you’re not alone. When it comes to cleaning up spills, sometimes using water can make the situation worse.

There are many kinds of spills; cleaning them up will depend on the type.

If you have protective equipment and products in your spill kit, you won't have to go to extensive lengths to find them when a spill occurs. 

You should therefore get a spill kit.

Water can react to the spill to create a more corrosive solution or even flames which may damage the surface, property and other equipment. Dump surfaces have been known to develop mold formation and bacteria. Cleaning some spills also takes longer.

Four Steps of Spill of Response

four steps spill responses

To avoid damage and ensure your safety and the safety of others, there are four recommended steps for spill response.

If you have a spill, take the following steps:


If ever there is a spill at home, at work or in a lab, you should immediately notify the people around you and your supervisors.

If the situation warrants it, evacuate or call 911 if necessary from within your workplace.

To ensure your spill is handled properly, let a dispatcher know which material and how much was spilled.

It’s a good idea to have someone who knows the situation and layout of the site stay on the scene to help.

control spills


Ensuring the spill does not worsen is a priority in this part of the response.

Stop the inflow of material, prevent any ignition sources, and protect people from being harmed if they come into contact with hazardous substances.

In some cases, workers will need proper respiratory protection if there is a chemical spill.

This will take effect in seconds and help workers be safe from dangerous hazards.


Please take steps to stop the substance from spreading by containing it.

This may involve using a clean-up tool or using some type of material to wipe up the spill.

If there’s a spill, try to contain it with whatever is available. Start at the outside and work your way inward.

cleaning spill damage

Clean Spill Damage

To neutralize a spill, collect the materials needed in a specified container or bag and dispose of them accordingly.

Dispose of a small fall in a plastic bag, but use a pail or drum for larger ones.

Note: Make sure you dispose of equipment and materials, such as brooms and dustpans, while cleaning up. If you're dealing with hazardous material, mark it accordingly.

Types of Spills

spill types

A spill can happen anywhere, no matter how small. Sometimes spills are unavoidable, but they can also be avoided with simple precautions.

Here are four types of spills and the best way to clean them:

Biological Spills

biological spillage

Such spills can happen inside a biosafety cabinet or on the floor. There are many reasons why cleaning a spill with water is not always the best option.

Biological spills can contain harmful bacteria and viruses that can contaminate water supplies and cause serious health risks.

Additionally, water can be ineffective at removing contaminants from biological spills, which can lead to further contamination.

Careful clean-up is necessary, using gloves and protective clothing.

Cleaning Biological Spills 

To clean up a broken glass near biological spills, gather it in a separate sharps bin, cover the area with bleach disinfectant for half an hour, and then wipe away the mess with towels soaked in alcohol.

After the items are used, you should make sure to autoclave them before disposal.

Remove the gloves and shoe covers after use and wash hands with soap and water.

Acid or Alkali Spills

acid or alkali spillage

Acids and alkalis are very common spills. If you’re wondering why didn’t you just clean the spill with water, it’s because you have to neutralize them first.

When you’ve just had an acid spill, use soda ash or sodium bicarbonate powder ASAP to soak it up.

You can also neutralize alkaline spills with boric acid before mopping.

Use Protective Gear

Always be sure to wear gloves and safety goggles to prevent skin and eye damage. Be careful not to splash yourself or the surrounding area. 

Clean up the spill with materials that won’t harm you, such as paper towels and dry cloth.

Dry mopping with a damp fabric and then using paper towels is also a good way to remove the liquid.

Radioactive Spills


Radioactive spills are dealt with the same level of urgency as any other chemical spill, meaning that personal protective equipment must be worn at all times, and evacuation should be executed for the area of the spill.

If someone was inside the spill area, they should be monitored for radiation before being permitted to leave.

Touching a radioactive spillage should be reported to the safety officer.

To dispose of radioactive waste, you should put it in a radioactive waste bag and only start up your routine activities after decontamination.

Inflammable Spills

inflammable liquid spill

Water won’t put out an inflammable spill, which could cause much damage.

For example, water could start a fire that would destroy your home, laboratory, or business.

Water also causes slippery surfaces to become slick, making it difficult for people to get away from the spill.

If the spill is on a floor or other surface that’s not easily cleaned, water will spread the substance around and make it harder to clean.

How to Clean Inflammable Spills

Many flammable liquids are volatile.

With inflammable spills, the first step is to ensure that there are no naked flames on the premise. Switch off motors, giving electric sparks that may ignite flammable materials.

Take care not to get any liquid on your clothes by covering them with sawdust, then dispose of the gloves by putting them in a bag for safe disposal.

Note: If you're dealing with a combustible material spill and don't know what to do, call 9-1-1 immediately. 

Poisonous and Hazardous Substances

poisonous hazardous spill

You must wear protective gear before cleaning a spill because some substances could cause serious health problems.

If it is impossible to evacuate the room and the substance spilled is toxic, it may be necessary to clean up the spill with a face mask and gloves.

Some poisonous and hazardous substances to avoid when cleaning up a spill include:

  • Acetone – This substance can cause severe skin burns
  • Ammonia – This chemical can cause respiratory problems, including pneumonia

Therefore, if you’re wondering why didn’t you just clean the spill with water labster, the simple answer is you shouldn’t go because of the hazardous nature of some spills.

Cleaning up a hazardous spill can be tricky, but you can get the job done with a little know-how and some common household or workplace items.

Use an absorbent material like a towel or rag to soak up as much of the liquid as possible. Be sure to dispose of the absorbent material well.

Mercury Spills

mercury liquid spill

Mercury is used for multiple purposes in laboratory settings and was once used as a vital element.

If you spill mercury, do not try to clean it up with water. Mercury can cause serious health problems if it gets into your eyes, nose, or mouth. 

Mercury is also highly toxic and should be handled with care.

The minute droplets of mercury may get trapped in cracks on the floor, which could lead to further contamination if not cleaned quickly.

Cleaning Mercury

If you’re looking for small mercury droplets, use a searchlight and an eye dropper to remove the mercury droplets.

Mark the mercury droplets using zinc or sulfur powder. A vacuum cleaner will scatter the small droplets in the air and must never be used to clean mercury.

When dealing with mercury spills, wear gloves to avoid contaminating the skin.

Gather the spilled material with a wet wipe and place it in a plastic bag. Remove any excess residue with swabs soaked in vinegar and then peroxide.

Discard these in sealed plastic bags.

Note: Don't pour mercury down the drain; be sure not to put clothes or other items that have come into contact with mercury in your regular garbage.

Read Next: How To Remove Odor From Furniture Fabric?

Final Thought

When you spill something, remain calm with your surroundings and calmly figure out what it is.

Never touch the spilled item or do anything else to it before you know what it is. Once you know what is spilled, warn everyone quickly.

So if you’re wondering why didn’t you just clean the spill with water, it’s because it could be very harmful to you and counterproductive in general.

To minimize the effects of spilling on your clothes, wipe off the spilled liquid and rinse with water. 

If you don’t have eye protection on, hurry to the safety shower for some 20 minutes of a thorough rinsing.