Oil Leaks: How to Clean up an Oil Spill After It’s Too Late

If your car has an oil leak, addressing the issue with proper maintenance to prevent further damage to the vehicle is the top priority. However, once the cause of the leak has been addressed and your car is ready to be back on the road, you are still left with a mess from the oil that has already leaked. Oil on a driveway or in a garage won’t just wash away on its own, and it leaves behind an unsightly stain. Thankfully, it is possible to clean up spilled oil.

How to detect an oil leak

A rainbow oil stain from an oil leak where someone needs to clean up an oil spill.
Oil spill | Getty Images

No one wants to have anything go wrong with their cars, but there is some good news about having an oil leak, at least in detecting it. Often, a car that leaks oil clearly shows the issue by leaving a dark brown puddle on the concrete. This is not something that happens when a vehicle is functioning properly, so if you notice a puddle like this, it is likely an oil leak in the car. 

Knowing that a car is leaking oil is only part of the battle, though, because there are several possible causes of the oil leak. Access Insurance outlines a few common causes of a leak, including a hole in the oil pan, a worn-out oil filter, or a degraded engine gasket. Unfortunately, unless you are a mechanic, you will likely have to take your vehicle in to get professionally repaired. Finding the cause of the leak and replacing parts as needed are skills only a trained mechanic would likely have. While you should not drive a car with a suspected oil leak for any extended period, you should be able to drive your vehicle to a shop instead of having it towed. 

Clean oil after a spill occurs 

It might take professional help to repair an oil leak, but you can clean up the stains it leaves behind on your own. A common method of cleaning recent oil spills involves using baking soda and water. Start by pouring baking soda over the oil. This is done to absorb the oil. After you have completed this step, add water to the baking soda and oil, and scrub the stain. You should then have a paste of water and baking soda, which you can then rinse away. Give the area time to dry, and then you will be finished cleaning the oil leak!

There are also other remedies you can use to clean an oil spill, and like the original baking soda solution, many involve items you likely already have at home. Better Homes & Gardens states that you can also use cat litter to absorb the oil or even powdered laundry detergent. While scrubbing the oil, dish soap can also help remove the stain.

Maintenance can help prevent future oil leaks

With the car repaired and the oil spill cleaned, you can breathe a sigh of relief that your oil leak issue has been resolved. Problems that lead to oil leaks like this sometimes happen over time, but regular vehicle maintenance can help prevent some oil leaks, which can, in turn, save you money. Regular inspections every three or six months allow a mechanic to identify potential issues with your car early on. This can prevent having to scrub oil stains later down the road. 

Along with inspections, regular oil changes help prevent oil leaks. Name-brand oils are less likely to cause issues with your car, so they should be chosen whenever possible.

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