With classic cars come some classic problems, and there’s nothing more classic than the problem of oil stains on your driveway or garage floor. Grease, oil and grime accumulate whenever you work on your classic car. Spilled oil isn’t just an eyesore, though, it’s a fall hazard and runoff can hurt the environment. Cleaning up your spills as soon as they happen lessen the effects, but hard to clean stains are a fact of life. Thankfully, you can remove these stains with a little creativity and elbow grease!

Fresh Spills

Clean up fresh oil spills with something absorbent. Clay kitty litter is a favorite because it soaks up the oil, allowing you to sweep it into a dust pan to dispose of it safely. If you don’t have any kitty litter on hand, baking soda or corn starch also work to absorb oil. Sprinkle them on, let them sit for 15 minutes to a half an hour, and remove.

Tough to Remove Stains

Even if you’ve soaked up the oil, concrete driveways are porous and some of the oil probably soaked into the surface. If that happens, soak down the area with some dish detergent. A detergent with grease-cutting power is preferred, and classic blue Dawn dish soap is a favorite. Scrub with a stiff bristled brush and rinse away. Repeat if necessary.

Old Stains

Older stains require a little more ingenuity to remove. Oil that’s soaked into your driveway and allowed to sit can be stubborn. Tide laundry detergent works wonders on old stains. Sprinkle the flakes or pour the liquid on and hose it down. Scrub with a stiff bristled brush and rinse.

Last Resort

If the stain truly won’t come out, it’s time to break out the big guns. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) is a chemical available at most home improvement stores and it cuts oil like nothing else. Wet down the area of the spill and sprinkle the TSP on. Let it sit for a half an hour and scrub down with a hard bristled brush. Rinse the area thoroughly and repeat if necessary.

Safety When Cleaning Oil

You can’t just toss oil in the garbage, even if it’s mixed with kitty litter. Most, but not all, areas treat oil as a hazardous waste, so check your local laws and mandates to determine the best way to dispose of cleaned up oil.

Similarly, set up a catch system for water when rinsing your driveway. Not only does automotive oil pollute the ground and waterways, but detergents and cleaners aren’t too great for the environment either. Catch runoff in a pan, bucket, or even a pile of litter and dispose of it safely.

Always wear gloves when handling chemicals. You might not notice the effects of them right away, but detergents, and especially trisodium phosphate, are skin irritants. Rubber gloves could save you from a doctor’s visit.

Whether you’re a professional mechanic or an automotive DIY’er, you’re going to spill some oil from time to time. Really old or persistent oil stains can take up to a year to fade depending on the makeup of your driveway and how long you let the oil sit. Even with the most vigorous scrubbing and harshest cleansers, you might still have a spot. Clean spills soon, clean stains often, and be patient!

Photo Credit: the saga continues by Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY 2.0).