You shampoo because hair collects oil!  Hair, fur, fleece clippings, and feathers soak up oils from the skin, air pollution, ocean oil spills…

Matter of Trust established the Clean Wave program to collect hair clippings and other waste fiber donations.  We produce hair mats and “booms” (sausage shape), and coordinate with large-scale public efforts to clean contaminated water ways and storm drains.  This program provides the public with safe, non-hazardous, hands-on, volunteer empowering solutions, and green jobs to help combat major oil spills and common motor oil contamination of waterways.

Hair mats used in storm drains.

Check out the press coverage of Clean Wave, including articles from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal: Recent Press

How to get involved:

If you are interested in donating fibers to our Clean Wave program, first sign up on our free gift/wish matching system Excess Access: (even for a one time donation) under Recyclables (hair). You will be contacted to send directly to a spill depot, a classroom or our nearest mat felting site.

Acceptable donations:

  • Ponytails 3 inches or longer.  Please shampoo before cutting and put hair in an envelope.  Do not secure hair with rubber bands.
  • Boxes – Most salons and groomers simply reuse shampoo delivery boxes and line them with a garbage bag (ideally compostable).  The boxes must be debris free meaning: nothing sharp, no cigarettes, food, metals, etc.  Your box contents will end up in classrooms, felting machines, and natural habitats (rivers, oceans).
  • Long braids (10 inches or longer), please also check out these other options: Healing Children with Hair Loss,  Wigs for Kids, and Pantene Beautiful Lengths.
  • Loose Hair, Fur, Wool, and Fleece.  Hair and fur clippings can be any length.  Fleece and wool can be any grade.  Other acceptable fiber donations can be posted: Feathers, laundry lint, old woolen socks, etc….

  • Emergency Hair Booms (sausages).   Booms (aka sausages, waddles…) are hair stuffed into clean, donated  nylon stocking legs. Booms are sent directly to a spill for immediate use.  We only accept booms during emergencies and when there are hazardous material removal systems in place.

  • Rope (⅛-¼ inch thickness), Burlap Sacks, Nylon Stockings, Shrimp Bags…  These supplies are used for containing hair and booms to protect beaches and string across piers during oil spill clean up.

We accept both large and small donations.  When posting your gift on Excess Access please specify the quantity and unit size of your donations (bags, boxes, pallet, truck loads, etc…).


Click here for instructions on making donations.

Mat Making Green Jobs

If you would like to set up a Clean Wave manufacturing site for recycled fiber oil spill clean-up mats, please let us know.  

We are currently planning on starting 4 more sites in the U.S. (Gulf Coast, Great Lakes, East Coast, West Coast) strategically placed to reduce shipping distances for boxes of fibers thereby lowering the carbon footprint of the program.  We are a nonprofit and intend to roll out sites conscientiously in order to address climate impacts, green jobs, emergency spill logistics, and clean storm drains.  These sites will sell mats to Public Works Departments, construction sites, oil changers, machine shops… any place with oil leaks.  We will also provide supplies and assistance to empower volunteers to provide materials during emergency oil spills safely distant from hazardous waste.  

Our goal is to create jobs for all ages (loose fiber box collection, mat manufacturing, sales, distribution, etc.), divert fiber clippings from the waste stream, and recycle them into useful products that help clean our environment,  decontaminate drought suffering waterways and make the program sustainable.


Clean Wave Program also provides educational opportunities in schools, after school programs and lecture halls to teach youth about recycling, clean water, and compost.  We have created handouts, lesson plans, demo videos, empowering DIY kits, and science fair assistance.   Learn how these abundant, renewable fibers visibly soak up oil instantly.

Please note:  Oil is toxic and direct contact should be avoided.  Disposal of oil soiled material must be dealt with according to hazardous waste material standards.  Protective gear and disposal systems should be in place before any waste is collected.

For more information, please browse the links below.  And if you are in the San Francisco Bay Area,  our Matter of Trust Eco-Center provides Clean Wave demo presentation for classroom field trips.

FAQ Answers

Does hair float?

Yes hair floats – that is why it goes down your shower drain last and sometimes block the drains.  Hair mats are designed to float and hair booms are also designed to stack and protect beaches.  Oil and hair both float, but dirt and seaweed can weigh booms down.  Ideally, oil spill clean up absorbent materials are not left, but are retrieved immediately.  Remember that even steel floats when it is in the right shape –  ships are made of steel.

Are hair mats safe for the environment?

Hair mats are non-toxic to the environment unlike petroleum based mats and booms.  Oil companies drill oil and use oil to make oil based products that clean up oil spills.  We are offering an efficient, renewable, natural eco-alternative to that cycle.

Why divert natural fibers from the waste stream?

Hair, fur, fleece and feathers soak up oil extremely quickly.  So quickly that it is dangerous for wildlife to be near an oil spill, their fur and feathers get coated before they can escape.  We take advantage of the adsorbing properties of hair and fibers in the form of hair mats and booms.

What happens to oily hair mats once they’ve been used?

Conventionally all oil spill waste goes to landfills or is incinerated.  We provide volunteers, public works, and hazardous material teams with clean mats and booms.  Our organization has successfully demonstrated the remediation of bunker fuel oiled mats during an 18 month program in 2007-2009 by combining the use of fungal and bacterial inoculates, thermophilic composting, and vermicomposting.  This remediation process, though successful, was costly in time, labor, and space.  We have learned that we can cut labor cost significantly by incorporating ventilation tubes into the compost pile.  Additionally, the oily hair mats must be free of all dispersants, like Corexit, a chemical used by oil companies to break up the oil and make it sink.  Corexit turned out to be an endocrine disrupter and really bad for humans.

How do I participate and donate hair?

You can collect hair and donate it through Excess Access our online matching program.

How can I buy hair mats?

Hair mats are available for sale on our online store.

What happens to my hair when you get it?

Matter of Trust uses hair, fur, fleece donations in several ways.  Fibers are felted into mats on site or at partner felting sites.  Fibers are stuffed into sheaths such as donated nylon stockings or burlap coffee bean bags to make booms.  Mats, booms, and loose fibers are used in classroom oil spill clean up demos.  Mats are used by has mat teams in oil spills clean up and by public works departments in storm drain cages to keep motor oil drip spills out of waterways.  Booms are best for encircling spills or “sandbagging” a beach to keep sands clean.

Can hair mats be reused?

Hair mats can be wrung out and reused many times.  However, we have found that because of dirt, seaweed, rocks and other issues, public works and hazardous materials (Haz Mat) teams rarely choose to reuse mats or booms.  This is all the more reason to have these oil spill clean up materials be made out of renewable, natural, non-toxic materials that can be composted.


Program History

In 1999, Lisa Gautier, Matter of Trust founder and President, began a partnership with Phil McCrory, a hair stylist and inventor from Alabama.  Years earlier, Phil had conceptualized using donated human hair clippings to soak up oil spills while he was washing an oily head of hair and simultaneously watching CNN coverage of otters covered in oil during the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  There are over 370,000 hair salons in the US and over 200,000 pet groomers, they each cut about 2 pounds (1 kilo) of hair / fur per day.   These fibers can be felted into mats or stuffed into recycled pantyhose to make environmentally friendly “booms” and “waddles” which soak up oil.

On November 7, 2007 a cargo ship named Cosco-Busan accidentally hit the San Francisco Bay Bridge and spilled 58,000 gallons of Bunker C fuel. Within 48 hours, Matter of Trust coordinated efforts with hundreds of volunteers to place booms and mats along San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.

Because we were on the beaches of San Francisco we were uniquely situated to sort the clean up materials debris and conduct an experiment remediating the oily hair waste from the Cosco Busan spill.  At the Presidio National Park, we were able to begin by treating the oily mats using oyster mushrooms, then thermophilic composting, and finally vermiculture (worms) to turn the hazardous, bunker fuel waste into healthy compost over 18 months (see study here: Hair Mat Remediation Study).  Composting is a viable alternative to conventional methods used for disposal of oil spill waste (for more information on composting visit our Global Compost Project).  Haz Mat teams are legally responsible for oil spill waste disposal, which is typically incinerated or buried in lined landfills marked “hazardous waste.”

In 2010, Matter of Trust initiated a huge mobilization to gather waste fibers and make hair booms for the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast Spill.  19 Warehouses – spread along the Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida coastlines – received hair, fur, fleece, and nylons from donors of every zip code in North America and 30 other countries.  Thousands of volunteers signed up to make booms and help the Gulf Coast.  Many hosted “cut-a-thons,” “shave-a-thons” and “Boom B Qs” to collect donations and stuff nylons.  These booms were mostly used in Alabama and Florida.  Huge thanks Amanda Bacon, Yente Sehman, Barbara Johnson, Daisy Suduran, New Orleans Ritz Carlton Salon, Ingrid Setzer, Hanes Inc., and many more!  Visit these links for more information and photos.

In 2013, Matter of Trust opened their Eco-Center in San Francisco, California and expanded the Clean Wave exhibit and lesson plans.

In 2014, Matter of Trust partnered with Inlet Guard and FeltCrafts.  InletGuard works with storm drains and did a pilot study in Garland, Texas  where they tested using  hair mats to soak up  motor oil and collect small debris from street runoff by placing them in  storm drain cages.   With FeltCrafts in New Mexico, the Clean Wave program is currently felting donated loose waste fibers and funding research to design and manufacture more affordable, needle punch felting machines for local employment initiatives and small businesses.  Collecting waste fibers could be the new “paper route after school job.”

Our goal is to divert waste fibers into useful stockpiles, create replicable, sustainable green jobs, and manufacture renewable material products that clean our waterways.


Program Links

Purchase Sample or Industrial Hair Mats from our Online Store.

Teacher/Student Oil Spill Clean Up Handout in PDF

How To Do A Classroom Fake Oil Spill Demo

Teacher/Student Oil Spill Clean Up Handout

How To Do A Classroom Fake Oil Spill Demo

YouTube on How Hair Collects Oil

YouTube on How To Make A Boom

YouTube on Hair Boom Soaks Up Oil

EPA letter to Phil McCrory Oil Spill Hair Mat inventor

NASA test results on hair mats – original patent now expired and open source  and Page 2

Cosco Busan and BP Horizon Oil Spills Photo galleries

What can I (my kid, my classroom, my scout troop…) do to help the Clean Wave program?

Program Gallery

Pet Hair Donations
Hair Booms on Gulf Coast
Felt Crafts Felting Machine
Hair booms during BP - we used pool noodles and crab bags to hold all the booms and collect oil that was floating sometimes 2 feet below surface due to Corexit spraying. The white ones in front are just floating hair booms - in white tights donated by Hanes (Local to Alabama - they donated 250,000 pairs).
Mountains of hair booms made during BP Oil spill. We were donated over 3/4 million pounds. And were told by the USPS that Matter of Trust received hair from every zip code in North America and 30 other countries.
BP boom (white) compared to hair boom (in orange mesh)from our video
Volunteers cutting up hair mats by the beach
Composting oily hair mats with - fungi, then thermophilic and finally vermicompost.
Volunteers using hair mats on Ocean Beach San Francisco November 2007 Hair mats used in storm drains. You shampoo because hair collects oil!

Date: 2016-08-21

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