Gasoline is one of those incredibly essential items in most of our daily lives, but also one that can become horribly dangerous if not handled properly.
There comes a point where gasoline that you’ve stored will go past its prime and lose its critical quality that makes it useful for running engines — combustibility. At this point, it’s no good to you, so you need to dispose of it. The main problem is that one of its other well-known qualities doesn’t go away to make it safe for casual disposal. That quality is its flammability.
In today’s blog, we’re offering a step-by-step guide on how to safely dispose of old gasoline.
Why People Store Gasoline and How to Know When Gasoline has Gone Bad
In case you’re wondering who would have enough gasoline stored that some might be left to go bad, here are some ideas. Not everyone exclusively gets gasoline at the gas station for their car. Many keep a supply at home for various reasons:
- They operate a chainsaw or other gasoline-powered tool
- They use a gas-powered lawnmower
- They use it for agricultural machinery that they can’t drive to the gas station
- They have and use diesel generators
- They have other non-road vehicles that use gasoline, like a boat or even a small aircraft
Sometimes people fill up these items with gas, but then only use them once, with the remainder of the gas potentially sitting unused for a long time. This is the key difference between gasoline used for these applications and the way we use it for our cars. Gasoline for our cars virtually never goes bad. How could it? We drive so much that it’s all but an impossibility. The recent pandemic has forced some to leave their cars unattended for some time, but it’s hardly a “typical” situation.
Next, how do these other gasoline users know when their gas has gone bad? This part will also double up as our first step in the guide to knowing how to safely dispose of gasoline.
Step-by-Step Guide: Safe Gasoline Disposal
1. Identify When It’s Time to Dispose of Gasoline
The first step to proper disposal it to know when it’s the right time. One way you can do that is to compare some of the old gasoline to fresh gasoline. When you do so — with the utmost care and attention — you should pay attention to both its odor and its color.
If the older gasoline has a somewhat sour smell when compared to the fresh gasoline, then it is likely ready for disposal. Besides the smell, the color might appear to be much darker than that of the fresh gas. This, too, is a sign that the gasoline is past its prime.
Depending on the size of the fuel tank, you might just try to mix in enough fresh gas or a fuel additive to make it work again. This can be a good way to avoid wasting gas, and to avoid having to go further in the disposal process. If this is not a viable solution, however, then you need to move on to step 2.
2. Put the Gasoline into a Sealed, Labelled, Spill-Proof Container
The three main conditions of your gasoline container are that it is properly sealed, spill-proof and labelled clearly with the contents. It’s always best to use a container that was originally designed for the storage and/or transportation of gasoline. The use of makeshift or improvised containers is not a good idea.
Whether you’re transferring the gasoline from the tank of a tool or vehicle, or from another container, handle the gasoline with care and be careful not to spill any on the ground. Use a funnel to avoid spills.
If you do spill gasoline on the ground while putting it into the container, the use baking soda or cat litter on the spill, covering the whole area, wait for it to absorb, and then sweep away and scrub the area with water and liquid detergent.
3. Locate Your Nearest Hazardous Waste Center
Old gasoline is not something you can just dispose of in the local dump. It requires a specialized chemical or hazardous waste facility. Get on your phone or laptop and locate the nearest one to you, and ensure that they will handle old gasoline. Get the directions ready and check their various terms and requirements.
Some may have specific requirements on the kinds of containers you can use to bring gasoline. Others may have limits on the amounts you can bring per day or per week. If you have a huge amount, therefore, you may have to plan your disposal over several days of weeks.
4. Transport the Gasoline
Place the containers with the old gasoline into your vehicle for transport. You should ensure that there is no chance that the containers could fall or shift during transit. It goes without saying that no matter how safe you think it is or how bad the urge of you or any passengers to do so, absolutely no one in the car can smoke during the journey. Also, no one should be playing with a lighter, or matches, or anything flammable.
5. Dispose of the Gasoline
The hazardous waste facility will undoubtedly give you clear direction and instruction on how the gasoline will be disposed of. Follow their rules to the letter. Some of them will offer to return your gasoline cans, but others might not. Be clear on those rules before you go to the center. If you know that you absolutely need those gasoline cans back, then ensure the center you use will guarantee a return or at least a swap.
Conclusion: Things to Never Do with Gasoline
Just in case you think that our guide seems like too much work, we’d like to remind people that so-called “alternative” disposal methods are not to be attempted under any circumstances:
- Flushing gasoline down the toilet — it’s dangerous and won’t work
- Pouring gasoline away down your household sinks or drains — similar to the toilet situation, the gasoline will damage your plumbing and it is very harmful for the environment
- Burning off excess gasoline in controlled fires — this is highly dangerous to you and others around you, plus it releases terrible fumes into the air
You might think that doing any of these would save you time, but they are not only ill-advised, but possibly even illegal in your state or local area. Always dispose of gasoline safely and properly.
If you find that you are having to dispose of a lot of gasoline, consider either cutting down on how much you purchase, or at least investing in a fuel stabilizer to help the gas stay viable for longer. You can add the stabilizer when you know that the tool or vehicle in question is about to be stored for a protracted period and there is therefore a risk of the gasoline getting past its prime.
Stay safe with gasoline; use your best judgment and follow the above guidelines and suggestions.