Graphic: Jason Torchinsky

What do you do when you spill gasoline in your car, and the smell is making everyone gag? You Ask a Clean Person for help!

This month’s installment comes from Jalopnik’s own Jason Torchinsky, who had an unfortunate run-in with gasoline in his imported Nissan Pao:

Hey Jolie! Can I I get your professional advice? I spilled gas in my car, on rubber floor mats in the hatch area, and now I can’t get the smell out. I replaced the rubber mats— but the smell still lingers, like an angry dybbuk. My wife is always nauseated by it now. What can I do? It’s a cute car, too!


Before we get into this gas thing, I have a quick request of you fine car enthusiasts: The next topic I plan to take on in this space involves getting badly stuck-on magnets off a car exterior without damaging the finish. I have some tips and tricks up my sleeves, but I figured I’d toss the question out to you and see what kinds of products and techniques have worked for you in similar situations. So! Email me ( or head into the comments and hit me with your best spots.

Speaking of: I also want to remind you that I would love-love-love to get any and all car-related cleaning questions you may have for me (boats, planes, motorcycles… those too!), which can be sent to that same email address, please and thank you!


Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get gassy.


There are basically two things we want to do here: Provide some instant-ish relief by using an odor eliminator to start containing the gasoline smell, and tackle the smell at its source by giving the hatch area a scrubbing with The Thing that nukes gas smell.

Let’s start with the instant-ish relief, so we can get Jason and crew back into their cute little ride tout de suite.


There are tons of other great odor absorbers—coffee grounds, kitty litter, activated charcoal—and you should for sure tell us what’s worked for you but also if I listed every single option under the sun (oh right, the sun is a pretty great odor neutralizer!) we’d be here all day. So in the interest of brevity, I’ll stick to just two that I really love to recommend because I know they work.

The first is an aerosol product called Ozium. Ozium first came to my attention as a thing that the weed-smoking set uses to quickly eliminate the smell of pot. It can be tricky to find, so your best bet is to order it online rather than trekking to hardware store after home improvement store looking for it. (I may, um, be speaking from some personal experience.)


The other is a canister-style odor eliminator called the Bad Air Sponge, which I’m mad for because it works and also because the name tickles my funny bone in just the right spot. Ozium, it’s worth mentioning, also makes a canister-style product that you can purchase from Amazon in concert with the spray formula.

Okay so now we’ve got some stuff we can spray or place in the car to get rid of the overpowering scent of gasoline, which is great in the event you can’t get to this next part straight away. The next part being, of course, the part where we tackle the problem at its source, by cleaning the hatch area where the gas spilled.


Getting rid of the rubber mats was a good start (though they would have been easy enough to clean using the Secret Weapon I’m about to talk to you about) but obviously that gas spill penetrated past them and into the flooring of the hatch. Worry not! I have a super easy and pretty cheap way to deal with the pungent odors that follow a gas spill.

You’re kind of not going to believe this but I promise you this works: Dr. Bronner’s is The Thing for gas spills.


I know! It seems too good to be true but your hippie aunt’s favorite soap, you know, the one she uses to wash her floors and also brush her teeth, does a bang-up job of eliminating gasoline odor. For the purpose of scrubbing out the hatch, I would combine diluted Dr. Bronner’s with an upholstery brush to scrub the floors and upholstery (if necessary) and some rags to wipe hard interior surfaces.


It’ll be a fairly simple and straightforward job, but you may want to set aside an hour or so and leave enough time for the car to dry out before you get into it. So: Probably a weekend project.

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person

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