How to Clean a Motor Oil Spill

Motor oils spills are a common occurrence. Fortunately, they’re usually quite small and rarely pose any great environmental danger. The way to deal with spills is the same whether it’s old motor oil or new. If the spill occurs when topping up the oil in your car, use an absorbent cloth to clean it from the engine compartment and the side of the engine. Any absorbent cloth will do and old clothes make great rags ideal for the job. At the same time place several sheets of newspaper under the engine compartment in case the oil drips on to the drive. Try to remove as much as possible and pay particular attention to areas that get hot when driving, such as the exhaust. Better still when topping up your motor oil place an old cloth around the filler cap and newspaper under the engine just in case you do have a spill.

If the motor oil does spill on the drive the first thing to do is tackle the source. If an oil can has been knocked over stand it back upright, or if the spill came from a vehicle ensure the leak is plugged to prevent further loss. Once you’ve done this the next job is to try and absorb as much of the oil as possible before it spreads. Again old rags are very effective; however other things you might have in the house can also be used. Kitty litter is very absorbent, as is sawdust. Even a few handfuls of soil or compost from the garden sprinkled over the leak will absorb most of the oil and prevent it spreading. Once you’ve managed to contain the spill leave the absorbent material in place for a further 5 minutes to make sure any excess oil has been absorbed. The absorbent material can then be bagged and placed in the bin. It’s very important to make sure the material is bagged as you really do want to prevent any further contamination.
So, now you’ve stopped the source of the spill, absorbed as much of the oil as possible and disposed of the waste, next you need to tackle the stain. Motor oil usually leaves a stain on the drive and the quicker you get on and clean it the better. Old motor oil is often very black in colour and can leave the most visible stains, especially on concrete. If you’re fortunate to have a driveway of loose stone chippings or compacted soil then it’s simply a case of removing the oil stained section and disposing of in a sealed bag then raking fresh stones or dirt over the area. A concrete, paved or asphalt driveway is going to require a little more work, but it’s still possible to clean up even the worst looking stains.

Again household cleaners will come in handy. Wet the area of the stain lightly with a little hot water and spread washing up liquid or household detergent on the stain. If you don’t have either you can even use shower gel or shampoo, as long as it will make a good lather and clean the oil. Scrub the area vigorously with a stiff brush such as a yard brush. Spread a little more water on the stain and repeat. The hotter the water the better the detergent will be able to react and the more of the stain you’ll be able to remove. For particularly porous surfaces such as asphalt you’ll need to make sure you scrub the area well to get in between all the cracks. Use an absorbent material, as before, to absorb the oily detergent and finally rinse off with fresh water.

Even after carrying out the above steps there will inevitably be a light stain left by the motor oil. This will fade with the passage of time and in a few weeks you should hardly be able to see where the oil was spilled. Remember the best thing you can do is prevent any spillage in the first place. If you’re filling your car with oil place some rags around the filler and newspaper on the floor. If you’re transferring oil from one container to another do it in an old washing up bowl so any spills will be contained. If you do have a spill act fast to contain the liquid and then clean the area with detergent. Always dispose of any spilled oil and cleaning products responsibly in a sealed bag.

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