How to Deal With Minor Hazmat Spills

minor hazmat spill preparedness
Great work, little buddy.

Hopefully, this the main type of spill you’ll encounter. If the spill is small or the hazardous material you’ve spilled is more like bleach and less like cyanide, you should be able to resolve it:

  1. Contain the spill, if possible. This might mean righting an overturned container while throwing down some towels and kitty litter.
  2. If you are unable to safely contain the spill on your own, evacuate the area, close the door behind you, and contact your local authorities for help. 
  3. While evacuating the spill site, shut off all ignition sources like stoves and electric appliances. Fumes can be very flammable.
  4. If you can, start to clean up the spill promptly. Wear gloves and eye protection
  5. Use rags to clean up liquid spills. Once used, take the rags outside to dry; allow the fumes to evaporate completely.
    • Oily rags can combust if stored improperly, so don’t store more than you need. If you no longer need your oily rags, dry them as above and then store them in water. Your local sanitation department can advise you on how to dispose of them.
  6. If you have come in contact with any hazardous material, wash yourself with copious amounts of water. “Flush with water” means you should create a deluge. Continue running water over the area for at least 15 minutes. Seek medical attention according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Make sure you know what to do for HazMats you use on a regular basis. Getting bleach on your hand likely won’t require a doctor’s visit, but getting drain cleaner in your eye might merit a visit to urgent care. Ingesting most cleaning products would be a medical emergency as well.
  7. If the spill has happened outside of your home and you are sheltering indoors to avoid it, close as many vents as you can to limit contaminated air intake. Hold off on using air conditioners, furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, and clothes dryers until the spill is completely contained and the area is clear of fumes.
    • Avoid smoking indoors while vents are closed.

Avoid smoking anywhere! Your tiny smokestack is its own minor HazMat spill. Stop the madness! Think of the children. Think of the hamsters. They are counting on you for clean air.

What about a BIG spill?

About the Authors

It takes a village! We are researching, writing and fact checking as a family. Collaboration is the name of the game, whether we’re running from a zombie horde or finding the best way to turn a complex concept into a deliciously digestible set of bullet points.

Katherine Esperanza is a Los Angeles based writer. When she's not conjuring new queer slice-of-life short stories, she's busy watching the newest films, out at queer shows, supporting queer artists, or just checking out the queer community as a whole.

A former international non-profiteer, small business owner, and co-op'er, Katherine is delighted to help introduce more leftist politics into the disaster preparedness/prepper sphere, which is currently far too right-wing.