The other week I had to move my car from the garage to the driveway to work on another project. However, when I moved it, I discovered that there was a small puddle on the garage floor — and a matching one forming in the driveway where I parked the car. Almost immediately, I noticed the distinct smell of gasoline in the air. If you’re going through something similar, this guide will tell you exactly how you can clean up gas spills in your garage or driveway.
Obviously, the first thing I did when I found the puddle in my garage was to take my car to the mechanic. I would have dealt with it myself, but it was due for a checkup anyway. So I decided to let the professionals handle it while I dealt with the spill.
Fortunately, my own problem wasn’t that large. The garage puddle was only about 10 inches in diameter, while the one in the driveway was significantly smaller since I caught it on time.
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Clean Gas Spills as Soon as You Spot Them
Before I noticed the spill in my garage, I was planning to do some work on a project that would have required welding. Fortunately, I noticed the wet spot before I started working. Since gas is flammable, the sparks would’ve caused it to light on fire, which would’ve had disastrous consequences.
Aside from the flammability, gasoline also has another nasty trait. Like bleach-based cleaners, gasoline releases toxic fumes that can even cause damage to your lungs. In fact, inhaling gas can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which presents as:
- Loss of consciousness
- Lung damage
So one of the most important things about cleaning up a gas spill is dealing with the smell. Fortunately, most of the tips from my article on getting rid of the smell of bleach should also work here.
Lastly, the final reason why you might want to clean up any gas spills quickly is the effect they can have on the environment. Firstly, gasoline and diesel fuels can actually start breaking down the asphalt you may have on your driveway and in the garage.
Gasoline can also damage your surroundings by soaking into the ground or making its way into the sewer. That’s why trying to wash it away with water isn’t exactly advisable. The gas could wash away into the sewers and end up in a river, where it can do some real damage to the local fish population.
In any case, you probably wouldn’t be able to completely get rid of gas even if you used the most powerful pressure washer you’ve got. After all, the propane and butane can penetrate and stain the asphalt. So that’s another reason why you want to clean up any spills as soon as you spot them.
How to Clean Up a Gas Spill
Cleaning up gas spills doesn’t have to be a huge enterprise. You’ll spend most of your time waiting for the gas to lift. The disposal will only take you a minute — if you approach this logically. So here’s how you can do that.
1. Make Sure That You’re Safe
First things first: you have to make sure that you’re safe while you do the cleanup. That means that you need to get rid of any potential sources of sparks or fire. And let everyone in the vicinity know about what you’re doing, so they know not to approach you with things like cigarettes.
Next, you need to get the air flowing. If you’re cleaning up your driveway, that’ll already be taken care of. However, if the spill is in your garage, you should open the doors and windows immediately. That should be enough for the fumes to dissipate while you do your thing.
If the smell of gasoline is still overwhelming despite the ventilation, you may need more backup. I already had a respirator mask from 3M in the garage from a previous house project, so if you have one of those, that will do. If you don’t own a mask already, you can also get one of those soft anti-pollution masks. Those would probably be more comfortable to wear.
2. Soak Up the Gas Spill
Once you’re sure that you won’t pass out from the fumes and that the spill won’t catch fire, you can start cleaning. With small, fresh gas spills, all you’ll need is some kind of absorbent to draw the gas out of the asphalt.
There are plenty of things you can use to absorb excess oil, including kitty litter (which has been known to absorb worse things). Additionally, you can also use corn starch, regular old flour, and even salt. Just check your pantry for powdery substances that could help get the oil out.
When you figure out what you want to use, go to the gas stain and liberally sprinkle the powder over it. Wait about 20 minutes for the gas to soak in, then sweep or vacuum up the rest of the powder. However, I should say that this only works for smaller spills.
If the puddle is on the larger side, you can start by soaking the liquid up with old rags and newspapers. But remember, if you’re going to be handling gas-soaked rags, you’ll have to follow additional safety rules. Namely, gas can cause rashes and swelling if it comes into contact with your bare skin — so wear gloves.
When you need to dispose of the newspapers or kitty litter, transfer them into a bag and throw them away. Just be sure that the waste won’t come into contact with sparks wherever you throw it.
3. Use an Oil Dispersant to Lift the Stain
If the stain is particularly stubborn, you may need to use products that can actually lift the gas from the asphalt. After all, gas and water don’t mix, so you won’t get anything done by scrubbing at it with a water-based cleaner. Instead, you’ll need to get an oil dispersant such as the CLR 42-ounce Grease Magnet.
Oil dispersants break down oils on a molecular level, leaving smaller droplets that are easier to dispose of. They’re incredibly useful for oil spills that happen in the sea. However, using them to take gas stains out of asphalt usually requires you to put your back into it. Let’s just say that you’ll want to get a stiff deck scrubbing brush before you attempt this.
The Grease Magnet product is as good of an option as any if you’re looking to draw out gas stains. As you can see in the video, the product managed to completely lift off the stain that took up an area of about 2 square feet. However, as Mark D noted at the end, you’ll need to wet the product after it sits on the stain in order to scrub it out.
The Process of Lifting a Gas Stain
The first thing you’ll need to do is clear any dust and debris away from the area with your brush. Then, you’ll go straight in with the Grease Magnet. After about 15 minutes, come back with a bucket of clean water and a brush. Have someone pour the water over the area while you scrub — you should be able to see the dirt lifting.
After you’ve scrubbed the area for a while, you should be able to sweep the dirty water away toward the nearest drain without an issue. Once the ground dries, you’ll be able to tell if you need to repeat the process. If the stain doesn’t completely come out past the third pass, I’d say that it had sunk too deep to be drawn out.
If you have to clean up a particularly large gas spill on asphalt, you can see how you might deal with it in this video. They used a traditional liquid oil dispersant in a way that’s similar to what I just described.
However, instead of letting the Oil Lift sit, they doused the area with water first. Then they applied the product right on top of it and scrubbed it in immediately. Afterward, they applied a powdery substance to absorb the liquid and vacuumed it up.
4. Eliminate the Gas Odor With Baking Soda and Vinegar
If you ended up using an oil lifting agent to get rid of the gas stain, you likely won’t need to do anything else. However, if the spill happened in your garage, you’ll certainly want to get rid of the odor. There are a few things you might use.
For one, you can scrub the spot with a solution of baking soda and vinegar. Both of those household items are known for odor-absorbing capabilities. Similarly, you can use coffee grounds to mask the scent. Or, just keep applying kitty litter and letting it sit on the stain repeatedly until the smell fades.
On the other hand, if the odor is now trapped in the items you have in your garage, you can also spray them down with a vinegar and water solution. In my case, I acted before that could happen. However, I do have an old couch in the garage that could’ve easily picked up the smell. So if you have pieces of furniture that are holding onto the scent, refer back to my article on getting rid of bedroom odor.
While we’re at it, I might also recommend another option — charcoal bags. Keep a few of them in your garage, and a few around the house, as needed.
Final Thoughts on Cleaning up Gas Spills
So there we have it. Even if you don’t immediately notice the gas spill in your garage or on the driveway — don’t fret. An oil lifting agent and some water is all it takes to get rid of even the most stubborn stain.
However, if the spill is fresh, you should try to take care of it as soon as you can. Aside from being damaging for the asphalt, gasoline can also be detrimental to your health. So to stay on the safe side, clean any gas spills as they occur.