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How to Remove the Gasoline Smell From Your Car

Updated on September 15, 2015

My experience and how the problem began

I was off to refill gas cans for the lawn mowers at the house, which were maybe 1/4 of the way full. Somehow on the way, I found one had tipped over. I really didn't think it was much of a big deal since the spout is curved and the can was not even close to full. Boy, was I wrong.

It left a slight circle around 7 inches in diameter, so I didn't begin to consider it being a real problem since I thought gasoline evaporates quickly. Problem being, most trunks have a very thick carpet with a lot of layers which ends up absorbing most of the gas.

Firefighters using cat litter on gasoline.
Firefighters using cat litter on gasoline.

How to Treat the Problem

The first step is depending on how much gasoline was spilled, getting the excess out of the car. Cat litter is used by automotive shops to absorb gas / oil spills and what I recommend using here. Give it at least a few hours to work while leaving the affected area open to ventilate and air out.

After the excess gasoline has been taken care of, remove the affected carpet if possible. If any more than a little was spilled, you're going to need to do some serious cleaning on it. What worked for me was making a 50/50 mixture of water and a household cleaner. Dish washing detergent actually helps break down oil based solutions like gasoline too, while water and vinegar works as well.

Scrub the carpet well and let it absorb the cleaning mixture. Be sure to let it air out and sit in the sun for a long time to fully dry and let it do it's job.

Further Measures to Get Rid of the Smell

After letting the carpet dry, I recommend spraying it liberally with a carpet cleaner / Febreeze. Continue to let the car air out for at least 24 hours, leave the windows down and take all valuables out keeping it locked.

The reasoning for this, is to let the gasoline fumes fully evaporate and not permeate all the surfaces in the vehicle. Otherwise it saturates the air inside the car and just sits in there.

Notes and Preventative Measures

  • Do not take it lightly, respond quickly as possible!

This was my mistake. I made a few half measures at getting rid of the smell over a week or two because I didn't think it was a serious problem...until I REALLY tried to remove it and found out how hard it can be. You don't want passengers to breath in gasoline fumes, or yourself.

  • Secure gas cans with bungie cords / anything to hold it in place.

I have done this many times without much precaution, yet it only took once for things to go wrong. Make sure gas cans CANNOT move at all when transporting them to avoid the situation altogether. It's worth the effort.

  • Invest in a no-spill gas can

While I wouldn't consider any method of prevention 100%, this one is pretty close to it. If you know you'll be loading cans even at all, It could save you a lot of hassle in the future.

  • If the smell STILL isn't gone

Pour baking soda or a cheap coffee grind over the affected area. Both are great odor absorbers that will work given enough time. If the spill is not in a crucial area, consider leaving it there for at least a month.

Air fresheners / drier sheets also can help clear out the smell as well.

Hopefully your vehicle now smells more like a fresh, open meadow rather than a gas tank.
Hopefully your vehicle now smells more like a fresh, open meadow rather than a gas tank.

To Summarize

Hopefully this hub will be of use to people in a similar predicament to the one I was in. It takes a lot of effort and vigilance to get rid of the gasoline smell before it becomes a serious problem.

Please comment and share other solutions that have worked for you!

Thanks for reading.


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