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How to Clean a Gas Spill in a Car Trunk in 8 Detailed Steps

Written by Howell Crist / Fact checked by Sam Howard

Interior Care

how to clean a gas spill in a car trunk

Gas spills in cars should never be taken lightly, no matter where or how they occur. Gasoline spills that have completely evaporated leave behind highly-flammable vapors. If left alone, gasoline spills on car paint can cause damage.

Knowing how to clean a gas spill in a car trunk is practical knowledge that can keep you and your car passengers safe.

But if you’ve ever wondered, “how do I clean up a gas spill in my car?” don’t fret; it’s a fairly easy process! It will require a bit of elbow grease but nothing too strenuous.

The steps are outlined below:

8 Detailed Steps to Clean a Gas Spill in a Car Trunk

spilled-gasoline-in-car

What to Prepare:

  • Face Mask/Bandana – any cloth to cover your mouth and nose
  • Clean old cloths – paper towels, dryer sheets, and newspapers will work, too
  • Nylon Brush
  • Water
  • Spray Bottle
  • Car Carpet Shampoo/Cleaner
  • Baking Soda/Kitty Litter/Coffee Beans

Step 1: Take Safety Precautions

Cleaning gas spills can be dangerous due to exposure. Breathing in gasoline fumes can cause potential health risks, especially to the lungs. Short-term effects include dizziness, headaches, and nausea.

Before you even begin the actual cleaning process, you must protect yourself.

If the spill happens while you’re on the road, roll down your windows and drive to an open, well-ventilated area (like an open parking lot). If you’re close enough to drive back home, don’t clean gas spill in garage. Park on your driveway instead or stay on the side of the street.

And if you aren’t already wearing a face mask, be sure to slip one on! If you don’t have one on-hand, a piece of cloth (like a handkerchief or bandana) will do.

Step 2: Locate the Spill

get-spilled-gas-out-of-car

Once you’re in a well-ventilated area and you have something protecting your nose and mouth, try to locate the spilled gas in trunk. It should be where the gasoline stench is the strongest, but it would be best if you try to go off of visual cues first.

Again, you want to avoid inhaling the fumes as much as possible.

Look for spots in the car trunk carpet that look darker or damper than the surrounding areas. You may need to examine the carpet up close if it’s a dark color. If you remember where you placed the tank – or you can see it – that should be the first place to look.

Also, find the spill by feeling around the trunk for wetness, but only do this if you have the means to thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.

Step 3: Soak up the Gasoline

Once you know where the spill is, press old rags, paper towels, or even newspapers to the spot and let them absorb the gasoline. This will get rid of as much excess gas as possible and prevent more from soaking into your upholstery.

Make sure to use old or throwaway rags to remove gasoline from car. Don’t use anything you plan to use later around food or household cleaning supplies.

Step 4: Draw out the Soaked-In Gas

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Before you apply soap or cleaning solution to the spill, you’ll need to get rid of the gasoline that’s soaked into the upholstery as well. To do this, spray the area with water to dampen it. The gasoline should loosen since oil and water don’t mix.

After the affected area’s been dampened, spread a then layer of salt, cornmeal, or kitty litter all over. Let it sit for 15 minutes to half an hour. The salt, cornmeal, or kitty litter will ideally absorb any remaining moisture and fully remove gas from car carpet.

Wipe everything up once the half hour’s over and safely dispose of them.

Step 5: Clean Spilled Gasoline with Soap/Shampoo/Solution

clean-spilled-gasoline

Once all the gasoline remnants have been absorbed, thoroughly clean the area with your preferred carpet cleaning solution. A commercial upholstery cleanser or car carpet soap should have the formulation needed to address deep stains and deep-seated odors.

Alternatively, you can opt for a homemade cleaning solution. Try half a cup of car shampoo with three cups of tap water. Or mix water, vinegar, and baking soda/dishwashing liquid to create a DIY upholstery cleaner.

Some also state club soda as a viable replacement for vinegar.

Pour your solution on the gas spilled in car and scrub with a dry rag or nylon brush. Repeat this step as often as needed, until the stain has faded considerably.

Step 6: Dry & Air Out

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If you’re satisfied with how the area looks, dab the excess solution from carpet in car with paper towels or clean, unused rags. Continue to pat the area until dry. Then, leave your trunk open to let the area air-dry.

Since you’re already in an open, well-ventilated area, try to angle your car so that the trunk is exposed to sunlight. You can also use a fan – if you have one onhand – to expedite the drying process.

Drying time will depend on the severity of the spill and the environmental conditions, so you’ll have to be patient for this step. You must wait until the carpet is fully dry before dealing with the odor.

Step 7: Get Rid of Spilled Gas Smell

Getting rid of the lingering odor is perhaps the hardest part of dealing with spilled gasoline in car. The sooner you address the spill, the easier it will be to eliminate the smell.

For minor spills, a combination of air drying the carpet and investing in a high-quality car air freshener may be enough.

Most of the time, though, you’ll have to do a little more to get rid of the gasoline smell.

  • One recommendation is to rub coffee grounds around the area. Coffee is also a strong – but definitely more pleasant! – smell, so it should be able to counteract the gas fumes.

Let the coffee grounds sit for about a week before vacuuming your car upholstery.

  • You can also apply baking soda to the carpet. Let it sit for a few hours before vacuuming it up, too.
  • Another recommendation is kitty litter! A thin layer applied to the area should be able to get rid of the smell in one to two days. Vacuum it all up afterwards and inspect the carpet.

Repeat this step as often as necessary until the smell is completely gone.

(Optional) Step 8: Replace the Trunk Carpeting

cleaning-gas-spills

If the gasoline stench still persists no matter how many times you’ve repeated steps 5-7, it may be best to completely replace the trunk’s carpeting. This will ensure the safety and comfort of you and your passengers in the future.

How Long Does it Take for Gasoline Smell to Go Away

remove-gasoline-from-car

Gasoline spilled in car can leave quite the stench. If you’re able to deal with it immediately, you may be able to eliminate the smell just as quickly. As mentioned earlier, you can use coffee beans, baking soda, kitty litter, or an air freshener to sort out the smell.

In the worst-case scenario, even if you manage to get spilled gas out of car, the odor will persist. In this case, it would be best to get rid of the car carpet completely and purchase a new one.

You could also invest in a waterproof trunk liner to protect your new upholstery from future gasoline spills.

Basically, no matter where gasoline spills in a vehicle – in the trunk, on the seats, in truck bed – there’s just no sure answer to how long it’ll take before the smell goes away. It depends on a number of factors that are just too independent and unpredictable. But, of course, knowing how to properly clean the gas spill can still work in your favor.

Conclusion

The best way to deal with a gas spill in your car is with quickness and efficiency. It can seem like a daunting, overwhelming task at first but don’t be discouraged! It’s pretty straightforward. And you don’t even need expensive supplies to pull it off.

But don’t treat the situation lightly, either. If you’re wondering, “is spilled gas flammable?” The answer is, yes. Very much so. Its flammable nature combined with the debilitating effects of gasoline fumes is largely what makes a gas spill in a vehicle so serious.

And this is why it pays to know how to clean a gas spill in a car trunk.

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