5 Steps To Cleaning a Motor Oil Spill

Unfortunately, if you opt to change the motor oil on your car yourself, you will undoubtedly encounter the odd spill … Continued

Unfortunately, if you opt to change the motor oil on your car yourself, you will undoubtedly encounter the odd spill or two. It is never a good idea to leave spilt motor oil on the ground, not only does it look unsightly on your drive, but just a single quart (or two pints) of motor oil can pollute 250,000 gallons of drinking water, so if you spill it near a refreshment area, this could be very dangerous. Even if the oil has just simply effected the ground, if you have pets, local cats or other creatures wandering around, it could poison puddles that they will then drink from, potentially causing irreparable damage.

motor oil spill

1. Soak up the Oil

It is important to act fast when dealing with oil, and soaking up the fresh spillage is the first thing that you should do. Use a special clean up compound to assimilate the oil, but if you do not have any cleanup compound at your disposal, use a moisture absorbing substance such as talcum powder, sawdust or even cat litter. However, you should only use cat litter if it is made from an absorbent material, such as newspaper or wood chippings. If you do not have access to any other of these components, you could simply use paper towels, just be sure to keep replacing them once they become saturated with oil.

Leave the cleanup compound on the oil for as long as the instructions tell you to do so. If you have chosen to use something else, we recommend that you leave it to settle in overnight after spreading it over the spillage with a brush.

2. Use a Broom

It is a good idea to purchase clean up compound even if you do opt for a different substance to initially absorb the oil. While these might do the trick, clean up compound is specifically designed to deal with motor oil, and is likely to do the best job.

Once the cleaning substance of your choice has been left for a sufficient period of time, it is time to begin the cleaning process. You should use a dustpan and push broom to carefully sweep the compound and oil away. As you sweep, continue to sprinkle more compound over the oil spill and allow this to absorb more oil.

3. Stop the Oil From Solidifying

Now that the motor oil has, for the most part, been assimilated, you will need to prevent it from becoming a solid matter. If it does solidify, it will become pretty much impossible to remove, so anything you can do to emulsify it will help the cleaning process. Motor oil is very similar to many other oils and will react to warm water and soap. Using dish soap and tepid water will stop the oil from changing state into a solid, so be sure to use it liberally and ensure the entirety of the spillage is covered.

4. Get Scrubbing

Whilst the oil is in its liquid state, you should begin to scrub at it briskly with either a broom or a bristle broom. It is not advised that you use a wire brush, this could cause further damage to the concrete. Scrubbing will aid in the emulsifying of the motor oil.

5. Use Solvents if You Are Able

This is the final step and last resort if the oil has not disappeared from carrying out the other methods. Although solvents are great at cleaning up oily messes, it should be noted that they are not suitable for use on asphalt. However, if you are working with a concrete driveway, then using a solvent will be absolutely fine. To take care of the oil, you could use a hydrocarbon-based solvent such as paint thinner or kerosene.

Slowly drip the solvent in small amounts onto the residual stain, and permit it to soak up the remaining oil. Begin rubbing the solvent in with a broom or bristle brush to stimulate the absorbing action. Do take extra caution when handling these chemicals, they are highly flammable and should be used sparingly. Make sure that you are wearing gloves when using solvents of any kind and dispose of any cloths that you use for clean up. The correct way to this is by burning them in an oil drum, this is because simply throwing it in a bin could cause spontaneous combustion, an absolutely no one wants that to happen in their garage!

clean up

Preventing Oil Spills

As with every situation, prevention is better than the cure, and there are steps you can take to try and reduce the chance of motor oil spilling out when you are dealing with your car, or refuelling a lawn mower.  Making use of an oil drain pan will help to stop any excess drips when draining the oil from creating a mess. An essential part of any DIYer’s toolkit, they are used to collect the old car oil, ready to be disposed of properly.

Oil leakage is often caused by engine gaskets or oil seals that have become damaged over time.  One way of solving this issue is by using a good quality non-leak additive. These solutions are formulated to reduce the amount of oil that escapes the worn out components of a car. They consist of a blend of refined petroleum substances that modify the friction, helping to stop excess leaking. There are many non-leak additives on the market, and they are available to purchase from any auto or do-it-yourself store.

If you do end up spilling motor oil, thankfully, there are ways to remove it effectively. Always take care when changing the oil of your car and if possible, use an oil drain pan to catch the drips and old oil safely. If necessary, invest in a reputable brand of non-leak additive for extra protection. And if you don’t feel as though you have the skills to deal with this job yourself, do seek out the help of a professional mechanic, rather than attempting it and making a mistake or spilling dangerous oil.

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Sources:

  1. How to Clean a Motor Oil Spill – do it yourself
  2. How to Clean up Oil Spills in a Garage – wikiHow