Sodium bentonite cleanup?

Asked October 5, 2020, 7:20 AM EDT

Hello, My father (in Mecosta County) just had a new water well dug in the front yard. He was warned by the well-digging crew that he should be careful not to get the lubricating mud on his shoes because it was really nasty stuff, but he accidentally walked through it. The crew cleaned and raked the mud up as best they could with the equipment they had on hand, but some remained, and they said the rain would likely wash the remaining mud away. We are fairly confident the substance was some form of bentonite. Are there any specific things we should do to clean this from my dad’s shoes and from the yard to mitigate its health and environmental hazards? The best resource I could find online was a Safety Data Sheet published by Diversified Minerals Inc. of Oxnard, CA. They seemed to indicate that washing with detergent and water would get the substance off the shoes. They further suggested wetting the ground and scraping off any visible mud while wearing gloves, eye protection, and a respirator. Let me know if these solutions seem sufficient, or if further precautionary measures would be even better. Any advice or new info would be appreciated. Thanks for your time, Ryan

Mecosta County Michigan

1 Response


Thank you for using MSU Extension ask-an-expert with your well drilling question. Bentonite is a clay and sodium is a salt. You are washing clay and salt from your shoes and from the area of the well. Clay gets very slick when wet and can cause loss of traction if on shoes. Definitely clean off your shoes to avoid future mishaps. Use lots of water to thin down the salt and disperse the clay across the area. rake out any heavy clumps or thick build up areas to then and water. Replant the grass where necessary to further mitigate the slick nature of wet clay at the surface.