Remove Gas and Diesel Stains and Odor from Clothes and Carpet

Cropped Hand Of Woman Refueling Car

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Gasoline, diesel fuel, or home heating fuel stains and odor can be both difficult and dangerous to remove from clothing and carpeting. The stains make all fabrics and carpets more flammable than normal so it is very important to handle the items carefully.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Gas and diesel stained clothes and rags should not be washed with other clothing. If after washing you can still smell fuel odor, do not place the garments in a clothes dryer. The excessive heat can cause the fabric to burst into flames.

Gas and Diesel Stains and Odor on Washable Clothes

Since gasoline and diesel are petroleum oil-based stains, they need to be pretreated using a solvent-based stain removal product, If you don't have a solvent-based pretreater, apply a bit of enzyme-based heavy-duty liquid detergent (Tide or Persil are leading heavy-duty brands) to the stain and work it in by gently rubbing with a soft bristle brush. Allow the stain remover to work for at least fifteen minutes before washing.

After pretreatment, wash the garment as usual in the hottest water appropriate for the fabric according to the care label. Inspect the garment for stains and sniff for odors before drying and repeat treatment if necessary.

If there are still any faint lingering fuel odors, soak the stained clothes overnight in enough water to completely submerge the fabric with one cup baking soda added. Then rewash and rinse as usual.

For 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 fabrics to soak for several hours or overnight. Drain the washer and wash as usual. DO NOT USE ANY CHLORINE BLEACH during the soaking or washing because dangerous fumes can form.

Allowing the 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 these items in an electric or gas dryer.

Gas and Diesel Fuel Stains and Odor from Dry Clean Only Clothes

If the garment 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.

gas and diesel stains
Illustration: Alison Czinkota. © The Spruce, 2018 

How to Remove Gas and Diesel Fuel Stains and Odor from Carpet and Upholstery

Whether the fuel is tracked onto your carpet at home or spilled in the trunk of your car, the fumes can be overpowering. And, the fuel presents a significant fire hazard which can be ignited with just a small spark or static electricity. Turn off all electrical equipment until the spill is resolved.

Proper ventilation is essential. Open all doors and windows if possible to disperse vapors.

These home stain removal tips should only be used for very small stains or spills or on carpets in cars and trucks. Larger spills on indoor carpets will have saturated the carpet padding and need professional attention. In most instances, the carpet and pad will need to be replaced.

To treat small stains and odors on home carpet and for spills in vehicles, blot as much of the spill as possible with paper towels and dispose of them safely. Next, sprinkle the area with baking soda or kitty litter to help absorb the oily petroleum stain and absorb odor. Leave the baking soda on the area for at least four hours. If it becomes damp, remove with a shop wet/dry vacuum and sprinkle again. Let stand overnight, then vacuum away.

Mix a solution of one tablespoon dishwashing detergent in one cup warm water. Using a soft bristle 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. Using a clean white cloth or paper towels, blot away the solution. Use a sponge or cloth dipped in plain water to rinse the area to remove any soapy residue. Allow to air dry away from direct heat. Vacuum to restore the pile of the carpet.

If stains remain, repeat the treatment. Be sure to dispose of all cleaning implements safely.

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

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