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How To Clean A Dirty Gas Can Or Container

Updated on April 6, 2016

How To Clean A Gas Can


Have your gas cans acquired a black, sludgy, nasty coating of filth? Here is an easy way to clean them up so they can be transported in your vehicle without getting sludge or grime on your vehicle, your clothes or your hands. This makes it a lot easier and much less messy if you decide to keep an empty gas can in your car for emergencies (maybe your using a container that you used to store gas at home for yard equipment) or you recently acquired some used gas cans that need a little cleaning.

A Dirty Gas Can


What You'll Need To Clean A Gas Can


  • Dish Detergent (Dawn or other)

  • An Old Toothbrush

  • Sink with optional sprayer

Using a toothbrush and detergent to scrub the outside of the can.
Using a toothbrush and detergent to scrub the outside of the can. | Source

How To Clean The Outside Of A Gas Can

Before we begin, it should be said that this should only be attempted on empty containers, you don't want to risk spilling any fuel. First, place the gas can in the sink. Take the toothbrush and put a drop or two of detergent on the bristles and wet it under the faucet. Begin scrubbing the gas can starting from the top and working your way to the bottom. As you go, regularly wet the brush under the faucet and add another drop of detergent whenever you start getting fewer suds as you go. When you get to the bottom, tilt the can back or on its side to scrub any grime or dirt from the bottom. When finished, rinse the can under the faucet or if you have a sprayer rinse it off with that.

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How To Clean The Inside Of A Gas Can

If you have an used gas can you are cleaning up that maybe originally had old or bad gas (gas breaks down when exposed to air over time), you may also wish to clean out the inside to make sure that no contaminants gets into your vehicle, lawn mower, or generator's engine. Dispose of any bad gas according to local or state regulations such as at a hazardous waste disposal site. If, or once, the can is empty, remove the spout and/or cap. Put a bit of detergent inside the gas can and fill it up part way with hot water. Then shake the can, with your hand or a cloth covering the opening, to assist with cleaning any deposits or dirt from the inside. Dump the contents down the drain and then proceed to fill the can up again with water to rinse out all of the detergent and any remaining debris. Do this a few times until you see that there is no detergent remaining and drain as much water out.

Once finished, leave the cans in a dry location with good airflow to promote any remaining water inside the cans to evaporate and dry out. You don't want any water remaining by the time that you actually put gas in it as any water in the can could cause what is known as phase separation. This occurs when gasoline containing ethanol, or alcohol, absorbs water leading to the alcohol mixing with any water and the two substances separating out from the gasoline to the bottom of the container. This isn't very good for any engine as the water-alcohol mixture won't burn very good, if at all and can cause damage to your engine.

Finishing Up With Your Gas Can Cleaning

Once your gas can has finished drying, you can put the spout and or cap back on it and either store it dry in the back of your vehicle to use in a situation when you run out of fuel. Or use it to store fuel for yard equipment or a generator for use in a power outage. I recently acquired three used gas cans from Craigslist and I plan to keep the smallest can, holding 1 gallon, in the back of my car just in case I run out of gas and need to walk to a gas station to get fuel. The 5 gallon container pictured in this hub will be used to store/get fuel for use in an emergency with a backup generator.


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