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How to Cleanup Oil Spills in your Garage or Driveway in 8 Steps

Car Oil Spill_shutterstock_NONGASIMO

Whether it’s from a leak in your vehicle or a puddle caused by a spill, an oil stain on your driveway or garage floor can detract from the look of your home and cause irritation every time you see it. But oil stains aren’t easy to clean. You may have already tried hosing it down, scrubbing it, and more — all with no luck.

If you find yourself in such a situation, don’t despair. Though oil stains are tough to clean, it can be done. All you need is the right equipment, a bit of know-how, and of course, some elbow grease. In this article, we’re going to lay out all the steps you need to take to remove that hideous oil stain from your garage floor or driveway. Follow them, and you’ll soon have a hard time even telling where the oil stain was.

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Before You Begin

Before we start getting into the step by step instructions, let’s lay out the basics of the process so you know what you’re getting into. Though there are eight steps total, this is really a three-part process.

First, you’ll be absorbing as much of the oil as possible. After that, it’s time to scrub down the spot with some oil-busting cleaners and a hard-bristled brush. With luck, that will take care of your problem. But if not, we’re going to bring in the big guns for the last step — a chemical degreaser.

Now you know the basics, so let’s take a closer look at the supplies you’ll need to perform each of these steps.

Absorbent Materials

The first step is to absorb as much of the oil as you can. This is particularly important if there’s still wet oil on the spot.

There are several materials you could utilize for soaking up that oil. One of the most common and effective choices is cat litter. It’s cheap and extremely absorbent, making it ideal for this use. But if you choose to use cat litter, make sure you get one that’s unscented and has no clumping agent. The cheapest kitty litters tend to work best.

But kitty litter is far from your only option. In fact, you can probably find one of the other good choices somewhere in your house. Other great absorbent materials for soaking up oil include:

  • Baking soda
  • Cornmeal
  • Cornstarch
  • Sand
  • Talcum powder

Make sure you have enough material to completely coat the oil stain with a thick layer. Kitty litter comes in large bags, so you’ll likely just need one. But if you opt for one of these other materials instead, just be sure to get enough of it to get the job done. Baking soda, for instance, might require several boxes to cover a moderate-sized oil spill

Best Cleaners for Scrubbing

Powerwashing Driveway_shutterstock_Vietnam Stock Images
Image Credit By: Vietnam Stock Images, shutterstock

While you’re seeking out your absorbent material, you should collect your cleaner at the same time. Once again, you’ll have several choices available.

One of the most popular choices for removing oil stains is regular dish soap. You’ll ideally want one that’s a grease-cutting formula. But you could also use baking soda to create a cleaning paste that will be similarly effective. Another option is to make a paste with laundry detergent, rather than baking soda.

Any of these cleaning solutions will be effective in helping to remove those oil stains. If you have one of them at your house already, you might as well use it. Otherwise, we recommend picking up the grease-busting dish soap while you’re gathering the other materials.

The other important thing to get for this part of the process is a hard-bristled brush. Any brush with hard bristles will do. Just make sure it’s got some good scrubbing power. If you have a coating on your garage floor, you’ll want to make sure that the bristles aren’t so hard they’ll damage it.

Degreaser

If you’re able to remove the oil spots by absorbing and scrubbing them, then you might not even need degreaser. But a good degreaser can act as one of your final options. They’re pretty powerful, but they’re also made of harsh chemicals that you don’t want to breathe in. You can go with any commercial degreaser you find.

You need to stay safe while working with degreasers. So, while you’re picking a degreaser, make sure you also pick out the safety items you’ll require. We suggest at the very least you get some protective gloves, a face mask, and goggles, or some other type of eye protection.\

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How to Cleanup Oil Spots

We’ve gone over the basics. Now it’s time to get into the specifics. We’re going to lay out an eight-step process for removing those oil spots from your driveway or garage floor. Follow these steps in order and watch your oil spots disappear!

Step 1: Gather Materials

You know what materials you need, but that’s only half the battle. Now you have to collect everything and get prepared for the war ahead. You can wait on the degreaser since you might be able to rid yourself of those unsightly stains by absorbing the oil and scrubbing the spot with cleaner.

At the very least, you’ll need to gather your absorbent material, a cleaning agent, a bucket, and a hard-bristled brush. If you’re going to be using a degreaser, then you’ll also want gloves, preferably the long-arm type, a respirator or face mask, and some eye protection.

Once you have everything ready, it’s time to move on to step two.


Step 2: Absorb

Regardless of what material you’re using to absorb the excess oil, the process is essentially the same. Pour the absorbent material over the entire oil stain. Make sure that you cover it with a thick layer. Then, leave it to sit for a few hours; possibly even overnight.


Step 3: Sweep

Once your absorbent material has worked its magic, it’s time to sweep it up. You probably won’t want to use the same broom that you sweep the house with though! There shouldn’t be any wet oil left once you sweep. If there is, then you’ll need to reapply the absorbent material and repeat steps one and two until any wet oil is completely absorbed.


Step 4: Rinse

Cleaning Driveway
Image Credit By: Mimzy, pixabay

After it’s all swept, bring out the hose and spray the oil stain down. There’s probably some of your absorbent material left stuck to the ground, and a good rinsing will remove it. This allows you to see how much of your oil stain is left and how effective the absorbing step was.


Step 5: Scrub

At this point, the oil stain is hopefully looking quite diminished compared to its original state, but the work isn’t done. It’s time to start bringing out the heavy hitters — a scrub brush and cleaning solution.

Fill a bucket with hot water for rinsing your brush. Apply your preferred cleaning solution liberally to the entire oil spill. Give it a few minutes to seep into the ground a bit. Then, start scrubbing away! You’ll want to put as much power into your scrubbing as possible so you can get deep and start to remove those embedded oil particles.


Step 6: Rinse

Pull the hose out once more and spray down your freshly scrubbed oil spot. Hopefully, as you wash away the suds, you’ll notice that the oil spot looks just like the rest of the driveway now. At the least, it should be seriously faded and far less noticeable. If it’s only faded a little, then you’ll want to repeat steps five and six to achieve better results before moving on to step seven.


Step 7: Degreaser

By now, the oil stain should be a faded memory of what it was when you started. It might still be visible, but it ought to be greatly diminished. If you’re satisfied with how it looks after scrubbing it out, then you can skip the final steps and call it a day. But if you want to go further and try to completely eliminate any evidence of an oil stain, then it’s time to use a degreaser.

Be careful when using degreasers as they contain very harsh chemicals that you don’t want to breathe in, and you won’t want to get on your skin. Gloves, masks, and eye protection are recommended as a minimum precaution.

Pour or spray your chosen degreaser on the oil stain. You’ll need to let it sit for a little bit so it can soak in. Check your degreaser’s label for exact times.

After waiting the proper amount of time, it’s time to start scrubbing again. You can use the same brush as before if you’d like. Just make sure to wear all the proper protective gear while working with these chemicals.


Step 8: Mop it Up

Mop
Image Credit By: jackmac34, pixabay

In previous steps, we used a hose to rinse down the oil spot. But after applying degreaser, you won’t want to do this. If you spray the degreaser off the oil spot, you’ll be spreading the harmful chemicals and even some oil residue all over the place.

Instead, you’ll need to dry the area with a rag. Rags are preferable to mops because they’re cheap, small, and easy to throw away. Once the rag absorbs the degreaser, you’ll have to be careful about the fire risk it presents. Don’t throw it away in your trash can. Instead, reach out to your local public works department for information on how to dispose of the rags.

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Conclusion

Don’t let all these steps intimidate you. Cleaning up that ugly oil spot is easier than you might think. Start with a highly absorbent material to remove the excess oil. Then, use a little elbow grease and a cleaning solution to scrub out the worst of the stain. If there’s any left, a bit of degreaser should get deep into the stain and help remove the last of it.


Featured Image Credit By: NONGASIMO, shutterstock

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