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How to remove oil stains from your driveway



It’s a situation that eventually annoys most homeowners: motor oil stains on the driveway.

Whether it’s caused by worn seals, mishaps on the road, or clumsy maintenance, even the most meticulously maintained vehicle can end up in the dark, slimy dirt right in front of your proud home.

A labor of love

Given the attention and care we put into maintaining our homes – more than 10 hours per week on average, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics – It’s no wonder we get annoyed when those ugly spots appear. For a discerning homeowner, they can be as troublesome as clam chowder on a new tuxedo.But with a little ingenuity and a quick trip to your utility closet, garden shed or local hardware store, you can get rid of those unsightly stains before they take hold and actual damage

Don̵
7;t let security slip

Before you begin, there are some simple and common sense precautions you should take beforehand to avoid personal or environmental hazards:

  • Wear glasses. As with any home repair or improvement project, always protect your eyes with a pair of inexpensive safety glasses.
  • Put on gloves. Protect your hands from abrasive or hazardous substances by wearing disposable gloves.
  • Dress for the mess. Oil and other substances can permanently stain your clothing, so wear overalls or work clothes designated for messy tasks. And wearing old shoes with rubber soles.
  • Check for hazardous materials. Make sure you have a safe place – such as a metal bucket with a lid – to store cleaning materials contaminated with hazardous substances.
  • Plan for disposal. Determine where and when you can safely dispose of contaminated cleaning materials and plan your cleaning accordingly.

Step 1: Remove excess oil

The first step is to remove excess oil from the affected area.

For best results, it is strongly recommended to use a granular absorbent. Trying to wipe up slippery oil with fiber or textile materials – such as rags, rags, paper towels, etc. – can not only be frustrating, it can be counterproductive. What starts as a small spot can become smeared over a much larger area.

If available, use an absorbent made specifically for spills. Otherwise, you can just use regular cat litter. Both absorb oil very effectively and are widely available from stores that sell either automotive or household goods.

When removing the excess mess, it’s important to remember that petroleum-based lubricants (such as motor oil, transmission oil, and grease) are usually both flammable and toxic. To avoid the risk of either fire or contamination, the materials used to soak up the surface oil in preparation for cleaning should be carefully disposed of for special handling (see Step 4: Dispose responsibly).

Step 2: Remove the stain

Once the surface build-up is removed, it’s time to get down-and-dirty as the next step is to remove the material staining your driveway.

First, you need to apply some kind of cleaning agent to the area. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available—from everyday household products to specialized cleaners formulated to handle petroleum spills. They include:

  • Washing-up liquid: Consumer dish soap is designed to cut through grease. That makes it efficient on motor oil as well.
  • Bicarbonate: Also known as sodium bicarbonate, regular baking soda can be mixed with water to form a mild alkaline paste that helps lift oil from your driveway.
  • Detergent: Apply household detergent to the stain and leave it on for about an hour.
  • Cleaner for oil stains: Finally, there are commercial products specifically designed to remove oil from asphalt and concrete driveways.

It’s worth noting that while power washing is often considered a practical way to deal with a stained driveway, environmental laws may restrict or even prohibit washing your driveway. Before considering this option, make sure you are familiar with applicable local, state or federal regulations. (Those fines can be quite steep!)

Then, as you apply elbow grease to the stubborn stain, make sure you have your cat litter handy for the next step. You will need it.

Step 3: Gather loose material

Regardless of which shifting method works best for your driveway, it’s important to keep an eye on debris.

As noted in the previous step, environmental pollution is a legitimate danger. To avoid contaminating local wastewater, one should avoid simply washing off oil on the street and down the storm drains.


Instead, when washing, apply more absorbent—or more towels and rags—to soak up what your efforts have scrubbed from the pavement. As you move forward, repeat these steps, removing and gathering material until the ugly stain is gone for good.

Step 4: Throw responsibly

A little planning can go a long way in maintaining a sustainable environment.

Always remember that flammable materials must be properly stored before disposal. Never store oily rags or substances in a pile. They should be dried outdoors and then stored in a closed metal container until they can be disposed of. Never wash in a washing machine or dryer, or you risk starting a tumble dryer.

By checking in advance with relevant local authorities and organisations, you can plan your cleanup around options that accommodate the responsible disposal of hazardous materials. Your disposal options may include:

  • Transfer stations or landfills
  • A municipal building of a city or town
  • Water treatment authorities
  • Commercial sanitation

You can also check the website of your nearest recycling center for disposal options.

Protect your investment

While there is some debate about exactly how much value a driveway adds to the value of your home, an attractive, well-maintained driveway certainly helps curb appeal. With a little responsible planning and a little scrubbing, there’s no reason to let these unsightly stains detract from the beauty and value of your home.

At Erie Insurance, we understand what your largest investment means to you. That’s why we’re committed to providing protection that helps, not hinders, your returns. Learn more about home owner insurance from ERIE.


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