Last Updated on July 31, 2020 by Tim
Oil spills and stains are more than an eyesore. They present an unprofessional attitude about the condition of the home to the rest of the neighborhood and can send a message to thieves that the home is easier to break into because of a lack of maintenance. Certain HOA regulations may hold homeowners in violation as well.
Here are some tried and true methods to clean up spilled oil. Keep these useful items on-hand at home to clean up oil spills in your driveway and garage.
1. Kitty Litter
Despite the unsightliness of oil stains and how they appear to be permanently set in, many oil stains still have moist residue. Kitty litter is useful in oil spill clean up so that the rest of the stain can be thoroughly removed. The trick is to use CHEAP kitty litter, as it’s the best in removing excess oil.
Expensive kitty litters tend to clump up and contain powerful perfumes, which aren’t helpful in removing oil. Inexpensive cat litter is highly absorbent.
If the oil stain is relatively light or new, allow kitty litter to sit on it for about 20 minutes. However, if the oil stain is large and there is an excessive amount of wet oil on the ground, allow the kitty litter to sit on it overnight. Repeat the process if it is still moist after the initial litter is swept up.
Do not attempt to reuse this kitty litter. It’s best to discard it.
2. Dish Soap
Oil and water doesn’t mix. At least, that’s what we’re told. However, the polar and nonpolar properties soap contains in its structure help to solve this dilemma. This is precisely why oil spills require a good soap and a lot of it.
One of the easiest products to reach for in the home is dish soap. Dawn is probably the most popular brand of dish soap to remove oil.
Spread dish soap directly on the oil stain with water and scrub it in. Use water to rinse it away. Soap provides an emulsification process whereby it can both combine with oil and lift it away from a surface.
3. Laundry Detergent
You’d think that laundry detergent would essentially react with oil in the same manner that dish soap does. This is, in part, true depending upon its ingredients. However, some laundry detergents are surfactants, which means they lessen the surface tension of water so that it can combine with oil and rinse away. Laundry detergent is widely used for oil stains.
To remove oil from driveway or the garage, either make a paste from laundry detergent (I prefer using Tide) and water before applying it to the stain, or lay down laundry detergent over the entire oil stain and use a small amount of water afterwards to make a paste.
Either method of application is acceptable. Most people pour laundry detergent over the stain first. Agitate the paste by scrubbing it in. This can be done with a brush or a broom. Rinse the paste away.
Any sort of cola can be used to clean up oil stains. It’s an old trick used by mechanics to clean their clothes in the washer by adding a can of soda into the mix. Apply the soda directly to the oil stain and allow it to sit overnight or for at least eight hours. The carbonic and phosphoric acid are useful in breaking up the oil. Rinse the coke away after it is allowed to sit.
5. Engine Degreaser
It makes sense that anything that is designed to clean up oil and grime on an engine could also clean up oil stains. Apply engine degreaser to the oil stain, and rinse away.
It may be worth it to try the other methods, listed above, to provide a “greener” and less toxic method of oil cleaning. If you do a lot of work in your garage, nothing beats Kafko Oil Eater which is probably the best oil remover on the market. Professional mechanics swear by this stuff.
Now that you know how to get oil off of concrete in your driveway and garage, it may be worth your while to seal your garage or driveway to prevent future oil stains from setting in.
Epoxy paint is particularly helpful inside of the garage. It protects from stains and clean up is far easier because oil cannot soak into it. If this cannot be done, keep dish soap and kitty litter around the house at all times.
Each of these methods has a good reputation as a home or commercial remedy for oil stains. One of the best indicators of a reliable solution is to make sure that they will not further damage or discolor the pavement before trying any of them.
Most of the cleaning action comes from the chemical reaction of the oil with the cleaning agent. Another reaction can also occur with the additional elements from the concrete paving. This can exacerbate the problem and lead to further erosion or discoloration, requiring more exhaustive measures to set right.
Naturally, a physical removal can circumvent these issues, and should be used if possible. The results will mean less damage to the driveway and surroundings, and are easier to properly employ and remove.
If a chemical agent is unavoidable, try to choose the greenest option possible by selecting biodegradable detergents or natural soaps. These tend to be easier to clean, and also protects a lawn or garden if you happen to have one near your driveway.
If the spill is still fresh, it can be possible to remove with water before the staining seeps into the pavement and sets permanently. If it is too late for that, try to avoid washing used treatment agents into the sewer system.
Use a shovel or hoe to clear them into an outside garbage bin, safely away from children or pets. Thoroughly rinse the remaining area to clear it of any harmful or unsightly traces.
Once the spill is cleaned, take steps to keep yourself from having to deal with them again by placing absorbent material in your parking space. As previously suggested, kitty litter is often a fine choice for this purpose, as it is specially blended to absorb offensive mater without adopting its smell.
Another option is to place a plastic sheet or bag under a leaking car that will catch the spill, allowing you to remove it without needing a new budget for kitty litter.
Those interested in a more permanent solution, or avoiding the problem altogether, may choose to repave certain parts of their driveway that have been most heavily damaged by oil stains. While more expensive by far than any other option, this will give a ‘blank slate.’
It will entirely eliminate the stain and allow the owners to concern themselves exclusively with fresh spills that can still be easily removed. Should you opt to do so, make sure to treat the fresh pavement with a nonabsorbent sealant that will keep any further spills from seeping into the concrete.
Of course, the best method of preventing oil spills is proper care and maintenance of your car.
Things like leaking fluids often mean that it is in need of a tune-up, and should be dealt with promptly to prevent both deep oil staining and the many other problems that come with neglecting your automobile.
Finding a trusted mechanic to keep your car free of leaks and other mechanical errors can extend the lifespan of both your car and its surroundings, saving you the time and effort that you would otherwise expend on things like repairs or clean-ups.