How to Remove Gas and Diesel Stains From Clothes and Carpet

Cropped Hand Of Woman Refueling Car

 RunPhoto / Getty Images

Gasoline, diesel fuel, or home heating fuel stains and odors can be difficult to remove from clothing and carpeting. It can even be dangerous, if you don't do it right. The stains make all fabrics and carpets more flammable than normal so it is very important to handle the items carefully.

Never wash gas- or diesel-stained clothes or rags with other clothing. If you can still smell the fuel odor after washing, do not place the garments in a clothes dryer. The dryer's heat can cause the fabric to burst into flames.

While it may take more than one attempt to remove the stains completely, you should be able to do it with common stain removers or household cleaners.

Stain Type Oil-based
Detergent Type Solvent stain remover and standard laundry detergent
Water Temperature Hot

Before You Begin

If you have a stained garment that is labeled "dry clean only," take it to the dry cleaners as soon as possible and point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner. It is not safe to use a home dry cleaning kit for items stained with gasoline or diesel fuel.

For stained vintage or silk upholstery, consult a professional, especially if you need more stain removal tips.

Fuel stains on carpeting require special care. Whether the fuel is tracked onto your carpet at home or spilled in the trunk of your car, the fumes can be overpowering. Strong fumes can also be a fire or explosion hazard: The fumes can be ignited with just a small spark of static electricity. Turn off all electrical equipment and open all doors and windows to ventilate the area until the spill is removed and the air has cleared.

How to Remove Gas and Diesel Stains From Washable Clothes

Since gasoline and diesel are petroleum oil-based stains, it's best to pretreat them with a solvent-based stain removal product, If you don't have a solvent-based pretreater, you can use an enzyme-based heavy-duty liquid detergent (Tide or Persil are leading heavy-duty brands) for pretreatment.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes to overnight, plus washing and drying time

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Solvent-based stain remover
  • Enzyme-based liquid laundry detergent
  • Baking soda (Optional)

Tools

  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Washing machine
  • Dryer or clothesline
  1. Pretreat the Stain

    Pretreat the stain with a solvent-based stain remover or an enzyme-based liquid detergent. Work in the treatment by gently rubbing the stain with a soft-bristle brush. Allow the stain remover to work for at least 15 minutes.

  2. Wash the Garment

    Wash the garment as usual in the hottest water appropriate for the fabric, according to the care label. Inspect the garment for stains and odors, and repeat the same treatment if necessary.

  3. Soak Overnight (Optional)

    If there are still lingering fuel odors, soak the stained item overnight in enough water to completely submerge the fabric with one cup of baking soda mixed in. Then, wash the garment as usual.

  4. Dry the Garment

Dry the garment in a dryer or on a clothesline, as desired. Allowing clothes to air dry outside will help remove odors as well. Again, if any trace of odor remains, air dry on an indoor rack or clothesline; do not put the item in an electric or gas dryer.

Nothing Is Removing the Odor

For clothes with exceptionally heavy odors, fill the washer or a deep sink or plastic tub with warm water and add one cup non-sudsing household ammonia. Shut the lid or cover the solution, if possible. Allow the smelly fabric to soak for several hours or overnight. Drain the washer, and wash the garment as usual. DO NOT USE ANY CHLORINE BLEACH during the soaking or washing; mixing bleach with ammonia creates toxic fumes.

How to Remove Gas and Diesel Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

Note that this stain removal method is suitable only for very small stains or spills. Larger spills in car trunks or on indoor carpets will likely have saturated the carpet padding and may need professional attention. In most instances, the carpet and pad will need to be replaced.

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 8 hours to overnight

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Paper towels or rags
  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap

Tools

  • Shop vacuum
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Sponge or cloth
  1. Blot the Stain

    Blot the spill with paper towels or clean rags to remove as much liquid fuel as possible. Dispose of the used towels or rags safely (see Tips, below).

  2. Soak Up the Stain

    Sprinkle the stained area with baking soda or kitty litter to help absorb the oily petroleum and the odor. Leave the baking soda on the area for at least 4 hours, then vacuum it up with a shop vacuum. If the powder becomes damp at any point, vacuum it up, sprinkle again, and let it sit overnight, then vacuum.

  3. Wash With a Soap Solution

    Mix one tablespoon of dish soap with one cup of warm water. Using a soft-bristled brush, work the detergent solution into the stained area. Work from the outside edges toward the center to avoid spreading the stain and making it a bigger problem.

  4. Blot, Rinse, and Dry

Blot the area with a clean white cloth or paper towels, then rinse with a sponge or cloth and plain water to remove any soapy residue. Let the area air dry away from direct heat. Vacuum the carpet to restore the pile. If the stain remains, repeat the treatment.

For lingering odors in vehicles, ventilation is key. You may also find that deactivated charcoal, baking soda, or even coffee grounds will help absorb the odors.

gas and diesel stains
Alison Czinkota/The Spruce 

Dispose of Towels or Rags Safely

To dispose of oily towels or rags, lay them out flat in a single layer on a concrete surface (such as a garage floor), in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Let them dry out completely before discarding them in a metal trash container.