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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

How to Handle Spills & Stains in Your Garage

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay
The garage is so utilitarian these days that many people would never think of parking their car inside theirs.  Why waste the space on storing a vehicle when there are so many other uses for it?  If you’ve turned your garage into a storage center, a workshop or a man cave, no doubt you keep all kinds of cleaning products, paints and chemicals there.  With storage comes the potential for a spill.  So, I thought I’d take the time this week to tell you what you need to do to manage and mop up all kinds of spills and eliminate stains that are likely to happen in your garage.

Things that go boom. – To start of with, let’s see what it takes to deal with volatiles.  By that I’m referring to gasoline, kerosene and flammable cleaning fluids and solvents.  Unlike those dramatic TV shows that show the bad guy liberally splashing accelerants like gasoline all over the place before calmly lighting a match, in the real world, all it takes is a capful of gas to cause an explosion. That’s because it isn’t the liquid that catches fire when dealing with volatiles, it’s the fumes.  That means should you spill gasoline, kerosene, paint thinner, or any other flammable liquid, the first step is to open the garage door to allow the fumes to dissipate.  Step #2 is to eliminate any potential ignition sources.  Even turning on or off a light switch or having your gas water heater fire up is enough to set off an explosion.  Step #3 is to cover the spill with something absorbent.  While a towel can do the trick, a better solution if you own a cat is to dump kitty litter on it, then wait a couple hours to let it soak the spill up.  Last but not least, collect the material you used to absorb the spill and tote it outdoors to let it out-gas.  If you used kitty litter, you’ll need to contact the local fire department to ask them how to safely dispose of it.  You’ll also need to leave your garage door open until every last trace of fumes has had a chance to dissipate.

Oil’s well that ends well. – Whether you like to save money by changing the oil in your car or you have an older car, oil spills in the garage or on the driveway while not as hazardous as a gas spill, leave long-lasting stains.  While mopping up the molasses-like stuff isn’t all that difficult to accomplish, if the leak occurred on concrete, the spill will no doubt leave a dark shadowy mark that’s devilishly difficult to erase.  If the stain was caused by an oil leak as opposed to a spill, chances are your garage or driveway will soon sport a multitude of spots.  If you want to sop up the oil without turning your garage or driveway into a concrete Dalmatian, here’s what you need to do:
  1.       Instead of merely mopping up wet oil, cover the slick with kitty litter, sand or cornmeal which will absorb the oil before it has a chance to soak in.
  2.       Let the material lie in place for at least 12-hours before sweeping it up.
  3.           If there’s still a telltale stain on the pavement, wet the stain with water and use a stiff bristle brush or broom to scrub the spot after applying a paste of baking soda and water.
  4.          If that still doesn’t do the trick, try mixing a little powdered laundry detergent with water to form a paste. Slather the mixture atop the stain and allow it to stand for a day.  Then scrub and rinse.
Image courtesy flickr
Get the red out – Another kind of unsightly spill that can occur anywhere you park your vehicle is one caused by leaking transmission fluid.  You’ll easily be able to tell the difference between it and an oil spill, since the stain will be bright red, as opposed to inky black. Unlike oil or gas stains, the secret to clearing up transmission fluid doesn’t involve kitty litter.  If you want to erase the red, you’ll need to spray the stain with oven cleaner before allowing it to sit for ten minutes.  (obviously with the garage door wide open.)  Then scrub the area with a stiff bristle brush or broom and spray with a garden hose at its highest pressure setting.  If this still doesn’t remove the red blot, repeat the process.

Universal spot treatment for concrete – Even if you’re painfully careful not to spill anything on your garage floor or driveway, over time it can still start to look a bit dingy.  To get the gray out, try scrubbing your garage floor or driveway with a mixture of one cup ammonia added to one gallon of water.  Just make sure the area is well-ventilated and hosed off well with a high-pressure garden hose when the deed is done.

Rust remover – If you leave paint or aerosol cans sitting around on concrete long enough, you could be surprised to find rust stains on the ground when you pick the containers up.  One surefire method of removing rust stains is to mix unsweetened Kool-Aid lemonade with hot water.  Pour the solution atop the stain and scrub to remove the rust. 

Image courtesy NeedPix
What’s up with pop? – When it comes to eliminating stubborn stains, a can of pop could turn the tide.  That’s right, pouring room temperature cola onto a stubborn stain can help you erase it.  Here’s how:

a.       Blot any excess oil or grease.
b.      Pour a puddle of cola atop the stain.
c.       Allow it to sit overnight
d.      Soak up the cola with a garage towel
e.       Rinse the area with warm water and a squirt of dish detergent
f.        Let this sit for 5-minutes, then hose off the soapy water and blot dry.

Oil and water don’t mix. – That’s why spraying water won’t clean up an oil stain.  If anything, it’s more likely to make the stain worse.  However, that doesn’t mean that spray oil like WD-40 can’t help you lift a stubborn oil spot off concrete.  All that’s required is to spay the spot with a generous dose of lubricant, then hose it off with water.  WD-40 has many uses, from removing chewing gum from hair to cleaning hard water and lime stains from toilet bowls.  Here’s a Reader’s Digest blog that shows you 30 uses for the stuff. 

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at


  1. Who knew kitty litter had so many uses?

  2. If you own or park your vehicle in a garage, eventually it will get an oil stain. This article helped me get rid of the one I had.


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