Getting oil stains out of your garage floor

Lets face it, garages are supposed to get dirty. Unless you’re rich enough to have a car wash installed at the front of your garage, sooner or later the place is going to get dirty and your concrete floors are going to get stained. It’s what garages were built for really. However with a rent inspection on the way for yours truly, I figured the rental place probably wouldn’t be too enthused with the fine collection of 5w40 I’ve been building up directly under the engine bay and so some kind of effort would be needed in clean up before they came calling…

The problem:

Oil mostly. A leak from somewhere that I’ve been meaning to have a look at for a while now, but I’ve had other pressing problems to deal with. Possibly developed while driving 1800 kms to this place, possibly earlier but since I used to park the car outside a very minor oil weep went largely unnoticed. There’s some road grime thrown in for good measure too along with dirt, dust, sand and whatever else the war wagon has been exposed to while parked near work. Oh and occasionally I’ve driven home in the the pouring rain so that’s been a great help in getting stuff off my wagon…and onto the previously untainted concrete floor.

Temporary solution:

Throw some cardboard under the car. Cheap, mildly effective and easily replaceable. However it doesn’t help hide those previous stains when someone from the real estate comes in and wonders why there’s cardboard down on an otherwise fairly tidy garage. If I did this earlier I wouldn’t have so much cleaning to do this week – oh well, live and learn.

Oil stains
Should have put this here a while ago..

First step – stop adding to your work load.

Well first things first, work out what’s leaking. So out came the torch, a full can of degreaser and an hour of pushing a towel deep into the engine bay to clean things up. A hoist would have been perfect for this…but conveniently no one thought to build one in this place. While the towel and degrease won’t stop any leaks, by cleaning things up you can see what’s getting dirty and oily the next time you go for a big drive and it will save time by eliminating the areas you don’t need to check out.

And it turns out my oil filter had gotten slightly looser over the course of quite a few months and was starting to weep for it’s current predictament. So I cleaned up around it, tightened it up and no more extra Penrite on the floor.

Except for what’s there already of course.

Clean up aisle five.

It’s a fairly basic but time consuming job and here’s what you’ll need:

-A least a full can of degreaser. I had half a can left over from previous projects but ran out pretty quick with the larger deeper oil stains.

oil stains
this should do the trick nicely!

-Something to scrub with. I suggest a stiff brush to really work out those oil stains. Without one of those handy I ended up using an old flannelette shirt that I can’t remember the reason for buying and haven’t found an occasion to wear yet.

oil stains
Absorbent and warm!

-Water on hand. The can did say to hose everything done when you’re done but since there’s a lot of stuff on the sidelines of this garage, I really don’t need to go hog wild with the garden hose. So I filled up the laundry sink behind me and used that instead. Prepare for it to get incredible dirty every time you wring out the scrubbing tool (aka my old shirt)

 

Before you swab the decks…I mean garage

Before you get down to (dirty) business, give all the oil stains I nice little degreaser bath first up and then go and do something else for the next 3 to five minutes. This helps the degreaser to really penetrate the oil stains and help break them up. I went off to make a coffee and cleaned one of my daughters favourite dolls that had spent the night outside. In the pouring rain..

Now get scrubbing. Some of your bigger oil stains will require another bath and a tonne of scrubbing but they will shift eventually.

oil stains
A good soaking needed for these stubborn bastards…
Oil stains
Ahh much better

Once the scrubbing is done, throw down some water, scrub some more and then rinse out your scrubber and repeat a couple more times to get the last bits of degreaser out.

Now I suggest you do this with the garage door (or at least a door or window open for some fresh air) opened right up because while I’m a big fan of the smell of degreaser (smells like…mechanical victory!) the rest of the house isn’t. And we really don’t want to overpower visitors with the smell of our newly cleaned floor.

After a bit of work and when the can finally ran dry, it looked like thus:

Nice foot mate! Been working out?

Now obviously there’s a bit more work to go in getting it to the point where someone might consider eating a meal off it (and why you’d want to eat off a garage floor is anyone’s guess but each to their own I suppose) but some concrete discolouration is a damn sight better than a small dabbing of Hpr-5 here and there. If the rental inspection comes back with ‘garage floor needs more scrubbing damnit!’ then I’ll try a second can.

Other things you can try

-Oven cleaner. Leave on the stains for five minutes, scrub with a brush and wash it all away. Celebrate with a cold beer.

Pour-N-Restore. Never tried this myself but apparently it’s a citrus based degeaser with a non leaching absorbant. You put it on, organise it in rows with a notched trowel, wait up to eight hours for it to dry and then scoop up all the powder and toss it into the bin. Handy!

Got any other suggestions of products worth using? Let us know in the comments below!

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