For many homeowners, the garage is the place where you fill the gas tank on the lawnmower, snow blower, weed whacker or hundreds of other gas powered tools. Some homeowners actually have enough room to fit a car or two in the garage next to all of the tools. Accidental spills, over filling a tanks or a dreaded gas leak will leave a pool of gasoline on an unprotected floor. Gasoline is highly flammable and can quickly turn from an annoying spill to a dangerous situation. Leaving gas on the floor to magically disappear is not an option. Gas can cause those inhaling the fumes to become nauseous and dizzy. Those unaware of the spill can easily ignite the flammable liquid with the strike of a lighter or the spark created by moving a metal object across the floor. Although, less likely, spontaneous combustion can occur as well as the rare possibility of a ringing cell phone close by sparking a fire.
Small gas spills can be cleaned by a homeowner whereas large spills may require the help of professionals. If you spilled less than a gallon or two of gasoline, begin the clean up quickly and safely. If you spilled much more than that for a variety of reasons such as you just filled up your car as the gas station, parked in the garage only to discover all of the gasoline has leaked out onto the garage floor, evacuate the area and call 911 from a safe distance for help. Don’t be surprised when many emergency vehicles pull up near your house, disconnect your electric and shut off your utilities. After they secured the area with caution tape and possibly evacuate your immediate neighbors, men and women in full HAZMAT gear will step forward to contain and clean the spill.
Prepare and Secure the Area
This may seem like overkill, but a gasoline spill can quickly lead to a fire. Precautions need to be taken and a gasoline spill should never be taken lightly.
Disconnect anything and everything that is plugged in or powered even if it’s not currently on. Pull all the plugs on the radio, lighting, air conditioner, hot water heater. Anything that has electric power or a pilot light. Even if it is not very near to the gas spill – gas fumes are also highly flammable.
Snuff out candles – even in the house.
Put out your cigarette, cigar or pipe in water.
Move cell phones far from the gasoline spill.
Keep kids and pets out of the area.
Open the garage door to create circulation and increase air flow through the area. This keeps the gasoline fumes from accumulating in one small area. As gas fumes accumulate and become more dense – the greater the risk of combustion and fire.
Carefully move other containers and gasoline powered tools out of the area just in case there is a fire. Do not drag any metal items out of the garage. If you cannot lift them it is safer to leave them. If the gasoline is coming from a leaking car gas tank – do not attempt to start the engine or move the car.
Close the door that leads into the house if the garage is attached. Closing the door leading to the house will cut down on the fumes that make their way into the house. Gas fumes inside the house are very dangerous. If any fumes have made their way in, open the all windows and doors inside the house. If the garage has any windows open the windows. The more ventilation – the better.
Absorbing The Gas Spill
Hopefully, you have a cat that uses a clay cat litter. If not, while you are ventilating and safety prepping the house, send a friend, family member or neighbor to the store to pick up a bag of clay cat litter.
Grab a handful of cat litter and spread a 1 inch layer over the pooling gasoline.
Let the cat litter remain on the gasoline spill for at 20 minutes, giving it time to absorb the gas.
Using a plastic broom and dustpan, sweep up the cat litter and dump the gas soaked litter into a fire safe metal can with a tight fitting lid.
After placing the lid on the can, take the can outside of the garage, fairly far from the house, cars and people.
Call your local HAZMAT or fire department and find out where you can safely dispose of the gas soaked litter.
Cleaning Up the Gasoline Spill
Fill a bucket with water and add petroleum emulsifier, which can be found at automotive stores. You can also use trisodium phosphate substitute to clean the area.
Submerge a nylon bristle scrub brush into the cleaning water.
Scrub the gas stain with the scrub brush. Let the emulsifier remain on the gasoline stain for five to 10 minutes.
Rinse the area thoroughly with plain water.
Scrub the gasoline stain again and rinse thoroughly.
Continue to scrub the garage floor with the emulsifier and rinse, a minimum of four to six times or if any shiny slick remains on the garage floor, scrub it and rinse the area thoroughly until all traces of the gasoline disappear.
Gasoline Spill Cleaning Tips
Always keep clay based cat litter on hand in a garage where you work or store power tools, just in case of an emergency.
Always keep a fire safe can in the garage just in case of an emergency. Fire safe cans are typically made of metal and have a tight fitting lid that prevents the possibility of spontaneous combustion.
If the spill is large or if you are afraid to clean the spill yourself – don’t hesitate to call for help.
Consider painting your garage floor with an epoxy based paint that resists chemical absorption in the case of any type of chemical spill. Epoxy based paint will leave a gas spill on surface of the floor and not allow it to soak in.