How to eliminate odors from a gas spill
Removing Gasoline Smells
TDS Reader Solutions
What's That Smell?
About 8 months ago, my husband was transporting some gasoline from a gas station to home. When he made an emergency stop, the can turned over spilling some. He sucked up the excess, soaked it down with detergent, dried it with a blow dryer and sprayed it with deodorizer spray. My mother-in-law suggested using small dishes with cotton balls soaked in real vanilla. I dumped on carpet cleaner and more spray and drove with all the windows open, all to no avail. Nothing has helped.
During cooler weather we didn't notice it, but now the weather has warmed up, the odor has returned with a vengeance! Does anyone have any suggestions how we can rid our van of this smell for good! I dread driving all spring and summer smelling (and possibly smelling like) gas!
Not Just for the Percolator
Coffee grounds neutralize almost any smell. I would take some and rub it into the carpeting where the gas was spilled, leave it a day or two, and then vacuum out. You may need to repeat a couple of times.
Spraying with Febreeze or a similar product would probably work as well, but I know from experience that for strong odors you have to repeat many times.
Try Simple Baking Soda
We haul a lot of fuel (for tractors) inside a minivan. The only thing that has ever worked for us is baking soda in massive quantities. I pour a five-pound box of baking soda on it. I leave it on for about a month. You can vacuum it up and put on new if you want, but it doesn't decrease the time it needs to stay there. Also, keep the windows open as much as possible while driving or parked.
I had a similar problem last summer. The gas can had a little hole on the top for venting, and some gasoline spilled out onto the carpet in my car.
First off, gasoline is extremely flammable! Your husband is very, very lucky that using a blow dryer on it didn't cause it to catch fire. Also, just keeping the car closed up on a hot day can cause it to spontaneously combust. My dad used to carry dirty rags from work around in the back of his car. He had some of them ignite from being in the hot car with gasoline on them.
The best thing to do in a situation like this is use something to absorb the gasoline. Gas stations often use kitty litter to clean up spilled gas. The MSDS for Chevron unleaded gas says to use "non-combustible absorbent materials" for clean up, and "use clean, non-sparking tools" to collect the absorbed material. Shell's MSDS suggests clay or sand. Ultimately, I wound up using baby powder to soak the rest of it up and to get rid of the odor (it took it away completely). However, since you've put other things on it, I'm not sure if this will be as effective. You could also try baking soda. I've also read that coffee grounds are effective. Whatever you do, just be safe!
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Absorb with Kitty Litter
About a year ago, we had the same problem. My husband thought his dad put the cap on the gas can and was driving around when it spilled. After many useless remedies, we finally resorted to putting clay kitty litter over the area of the gas spill. After a day, we vacuumed it and covered it with the litter again. I think we did this two or three times with great results. There was no more gas odor. Be careful not to allow any moisture near the cat litter or it could turn into "mud" on your carpet, and be sure to clean with a vacuum with very strong suction to get all the litter out.
The very same thing happened to us once. We called a car detail man for advice and he said to spray it down with Febreeze and leave the windows open. We did this once and the odor was gone!
The Two-Stepped Approach
We had the same problem. Gas spilled onto the carpet in our van. It smelled terrible. I checked online, and there were a couple of suggestions that we used. First of all, wash it with a solution of clear vinegar and water mixed about 1/2 to 1/2. When it dries, put baking soda on it. Leave it there overnight and then vacuum it off. It worked for us.
Reviewed December 2017
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