How to Clean Up a Gasoline Spill

Even a small gasoline spill poses a health risk, and it can happen to anyone. Learn how to clean it up as well as some ways to prevent it.
How to Clean Up a Gasoline Spill

Last update: 14 September, 2021

A gasoline spill happens frequently in many of the vehicles that come in to fill up at a gas station. In fact, it’s pretty common when you have a vehicle, a lawnmower, or any other type of gas-using machine.

These events could be dangerous due to the risk of fire and even explosion if it comes into contact with a spark. In addition, gasoline isn’t only toxic, it also stains the floor and makes it slippery.

With this in mind, the first step to take in the event of such an incident is to assess the extent of the spill and the likelihood of it spreading to other enclosed or hazardous areas. In addition, take the presence of cracks in the floor, culverts, wind gusts, and vehicles into account.

You can use cat litter to clean up a gasoline stain

After considering the safety protocols listed below, cover the gasoline spill with plenty of cat litter (beach sand won’t work). Instead of that, you can also use flour or trisodium phosphate. Some people use hay, sawdust, corn starch, and even baking soda.

Leave it on for an hour or two or at least half an hour if you can’t wait that long.

Then carefully sweep up the sand and scoop it up with the help of a hand shovel and place it in a plastic bag. Add another bit of sand, repeat the process and dispose of it in a safe place.

To be clear on what to do, contact the fire department or the hazardous materials contamination center. They can give you proper instructions. Very important, never dispose of gasoline in a traditional garbage container.

As for the stain, wait for the fuel to evaporate before cleaning it if it’s on the ground. Use a plastic scraper or squeegee and put any waste in the plastic bag.

Ventilate the area

This point is important to prevent serious consequences. Open all doors and windows so any explosive gases can escape. These are invisible but could triggering dizziness, breathing difficulties, and disorientation.

An open window.
Open any doors and windows after a gasoline spill to keep gases from accumulating.

How to clean up a gasoline spill in a vehicle

Place some old rags over the spill to absorb as much gasoline as possible to clean the upholstery or carpets of your vehicle. Then, apply the cat litter following the instructions explained above. Finally,  vacuum any excess.

Later, do a deep cleaning of the fabric with a cloth or sponge dampened with very hot water. Pour liquid dishwashing detergent and rub until you get a thick foam. Then, dry it with a clean towel.

One of the main concerns is usually not wanting to damage a given surface. Hence, powder detergents or dry solvents are good alternatives to clean a gasoline spill. Spray some on the stain and then wipe it off with a damp cloth.

You can also do so by mixing equal parts of vinegar, baking soda, and hot water. This mixture will also take away the smell.

How to clean gasoline from clothes

It’s best to safely dispose of any clothing after it’s soaked in gasoline. However, you can save it if it’s only a small stain. As a starting point, add a stain remover or soak it for 60 minutes in vinegar water and hang it outdoors.

After the odor wanes, scrub the oily stain with dishwashing soap and wash vigorously by hand or in a washing machine. You can reinforce the action with a baking soda paste or soak the piece in warm water with a cup of ammonia for a couple of hours. Never mix ammonia with bleach or vinegar.

Tips and recommendations to deal with a gasoline spill

Don’t neglect your health and well-being in the interest of taking care of the problem. Begin by using the necessary personal protective equipment to protect yourself from further serious damage.

Act quickly and take care of the situation as soon as possible, starting at the initial point of the spill.

Furthermore, place a container under the leak so that the fuel doesn’t run into other areas or objects if you can’t stop the leak. Buckets, tubs, or paint trays work well for this task. Never, ever cover or seal them! One way to prevent the spread of gasoline spills is to place objects that act as a barrier, such as towels, heavy boxes, or pieces of wood.

Be particularly careful with electrical equipment because these are sources of energy and heat. The smartest thing to do is to unplug them. Likewise, get any people and animals away from the space.

Don’t underestimate small gasoline spills as these should always be a cause for concern and immediate action. In addition, trust your instinct, the smell of gasoline may alert you to a hazard you’re not aware of.

A person oiling a chain.
Any vehicle maintenance can lead to a gasoline spill.

When to get professional help

You can only solve a small problem so contact the fire department immediately if you cannot stop the gasoline spill. They’re well trained in these kinds of incidents and will know just what to do in a complicated scenario.

Some examples of this include:

  • More than 10 gallons of spilled gasoline
  • Imminent risk of fire or explosion
  • Fuel spilled inside electrically energized or hot objects you cannot clean up on your own

Ways to prevent a gasoline spill

The best way to deal with an accident is to prevent it, so be sure to store gasoline inside tightly closed containers, in safe areas, and out of the reach of children.

Also, be cautious while refueling at a gas station. That is do it slowly, press the handle only when the nozzle is inside the tank, and stay there at all times.

In short, always be very careful when handling gasoline. Prevent spills on the ground, grass, or any waterway (lakes, rivers, seas, oceans, sewers), because even a small amount will badly impact the environment.

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