How To Dispose Of Bad Gasoline
Gasoline is a constant in our lives. It fuels our cars, boats, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and generators. It is powerful when it is being used, but gasoline that sits around eventually degrades or becomes contaminated. You can find old gas in idle vehicles, broken lawnmowers, docked boats, and gas cans tucked in shed corners. After a while, you will need to dispose of the gasoline. When you stumble across old gasoline, you might not have any idea how long it’s been sitting. Even though this old gas may still be useable, albeit with some precautions, it can be hazardous to deal with. Learning how to dispose of gasoline has many variables you need to watch out for, yet is important for maintaining a healthy home and environment.
How Long Does Gasoline Last?
It may be surprising to learn that gasoline can actually “go bad.” The research firm J.D. Power reports regular vehicle fuel remains useable in your gas tank for up to six months and diesel can last up to a year. But because the time it takes to get from a refinery to your gas tank can be up to a month, the gas in your idle vehicle may be even older than you think. Old, but clean, gas is usable, although it may degrade and not fire as efficiently as new gas because the chemical properties change over time. Any old gallons gas in a vehicle can cause operational problems. It’s best to check the quality of the gas from an idle vehicle before firing up the engine.
Is Improper Gasoline Disposal Harmful?
If your old gas is contaminated, or you don’t trust it’s safe in your engine, discard it. Since gasoline is a toxic substance, you can’t just toss it in your trash or dump it down your sink. You also do not want to throw old gas in a dumpster rental. Gas, oil, and other vehicle fluids can be quite harmful to humans, animals, and the environment when handled incorrectly and is toxic when ingested. Combustion from a fuel system (like gas) leads to a large landfill fire which is notoriously difficult to contain and toxic substances release into the air and nearby water.
Tips for Transporting Gas
When transporting gasoline, it is important to use a safe container. According to the National Ag Safety Database, your container should be made of heavy plastic and marked with an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) symbol. Gas should never be transported in plastic milk jugs, glass containers, or small plastic containers that have held other automotive liquids or other liquids like cooking oil. Only transport gas in a safe container and secure it so the gas can does not move, slide, or tip over. Drive carefully to avoid sudden stops that could upset the gas can. Remove the can from your vehicle immediately upon arrival and do not fill a gas can more than 95% full to allow for the expansion of fumes.
How to Dispose of Gasoline Properly
Since you can’t put gasoline in your trash, take it to a facility that can properly and safely handle it. Don’t worry about using your heavy-duty gas container. You’ll be able to empty the gasoline into a larger tank and bring your own container back home. These resources offer recycling or disposal services in your community:
- Take it to a Household Hazardous Waste Facility (HHW): Most HHW facilities will accept used gasoline. Call ahead or check on their website to find out if they accept your old gas and if they charge a fee. These facilities are often restricted to residents.
- Use a Local Recycling Center: You can search on the gasoline page of Earth911 to find a recycling center near you. Recycling centers may charge a small fee when they accept vehicle fluids.
- Bring it to a Community Collection Event: Many municipalities offer periodic collection events where they accept hazardous materials. Not all accept used gasoline. Read through their list of acceptable items before heading out.
- Give it to Your Local Fire Department: Some fire stations allow you to drop off old gasoline. They send the gasoline for to the proper recycling facility for proper disposal. Not all fire departments offer this service, so check with your local station before taking your used gasoline there.
- Check with Auto Repair Shops and Garages in Your Community: If your used gasoline is free from contaminants, find an auto repair garage near you that would be happy to take it off your hands.
Can I Still Use Gasoline with Water in It?
Gasoline is sometimes contaminated with water. Any water in gasoline renders it unusable and can damage an engine. Let it separate in a container and then pour or siphon off the gasoline on the top. Alternatively, you can use a fuel dryer to remove the water from the gasoline.
Make Your Gasoline Last Longer to Protect Our Environment
With any substance or material we use that ultimately needs to be disposed of, the best environmental approach is to reduce the amount you buy to begin with. The less you buy, the less impact it will have on the environment. If you need to store gas for a period of time for use in a small engine, outdoor power equipment, or a lawnmower, keep it in a tightly closed government-approved fuel container. To further its life, add fuel stabilizer to it. This extends the life of the gasoline up to 12 months. It allows you to use it when you need it rather than letting it breakdown or contaminate.
How to Tell If Gasoline is Not Good
Your eyes are the most useful tool for deciding when it’s time to dispose of old gas. Look for contaminants, check for color and clarity, and give it a quick sniff. Fresh gasoline will be crystal clear and almost colorless with a slightly amber hue. As the fuel oxidizes and breaks down over time, and varnishes and other impurities settle out of it, it will gradually get darker and darker, turning to more of an orange or brown color. Eventually, as it gets older, it will also go from clear to cloudy. If it smells musty, stale, or sour, it’s time to dispose of it.
The Best Way to Get Rid of Old Gas
If you ultimately determine that your gas is not usable, you’ll need to find a responsible way to dispose of it. In general, state environmental protection departments are in charge of determining how individuals should deal with hazardous wastes, such as unwanted petroleum products. That’s why rules for proper disposal of unusable gasoline vary from state to state and can even differ locally. You should first check with the town, city, or county you live in to find out what regulations apply to you. The last thing any municipality wants you to do is to create an environmental or health hazard, so there will be a protocol to follow no matter where you live.
Safely Transport Gasoline
Whether you’re buying new gas or getting rid of old, the same guidelines for storing flammable fuel should be followed when moving it around. That means you should only use approved gas cans, and never put containers of gas inside the passenger compartment of a vehicle. Ideally, transport gas cans in an open pickup truck bed or open trailer, but if you must use the trunk of your car, be sure the cans are well sealed, so they don’t spill. Also use sturdy rope or straps to tie the cans down so they don’t fall over and take them out of the vehicle as soon as you get to your destination. Never leave gasoline containers in a hot, enclosed space in a car or truck. And it should go without saying that you need to keep them away from any sparks, flames, or hot surfaces.
Carefully Clean Up Any Spills
In the unfortunate event that you do spill some gasoline, the first thing to do is put on some fuel-resistant nitrile gloves and a pair of safety glasses to protect yourself. Then quickly spread something on the spill to absorb as much of it as possible. Kitty litter, the old standby for cleaning up oily messes, is cheap and effective at absorbing gasoline, but it’s not the easiest thing to pick up once it’s saturated. Instead, for not much more you can buy special pads or granules made specifically to sop up hazardous fluids. If the gas was spilled onto an absorbent surface, such as the carpet in the trunk of your car, it can be tough to remove all the gasoline, so you may need to dispose of the item you spilled it on too. On the other hand, once spills are cleaned from nonabsorbent surfaces, just let the surface air out so any remaining gasoline will evaporate. After that, wipe a rag or paper towel soaked in vinegar onto the surfaces to help dissipate the smell. If that doesn’t completely eliminate it, follow up with a citrus-based cleaner/degreaser and some paper towels.
“Recondition” Old Gas at Your Own Risk
The internet is full of videos demonstrating methods for filtering old gas so you can continue to use it, sometimes suggesting adding it in small amounts to good gas, rather than letting it go to waste. Though many of these people claim they have made the old gas “like new” again by cleaning out the impurities, the stuff they’ve removed is often the remnants of ingredients that made the gasoline a high-quality fuel in the first place, so you risk doing more damage, or at least getting poor performance by running it in your engine.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Can gasoline become stale?
- How long can you store gasoline?
- How should you store fresh gasoline?
- How does gasoline become contaminated?
- What is a fuel stabilizer?
- How does stale or contaminated gasoline affect engines?
- Can old gas be recycled?
- How do you safely dispose of small amounts of stale gasoline?
- How do you safely dispose of larger amounts of stale gasoline?
- Where can you get help disposing of large quantities of stale gasoline?