How to Get Rid of Motor Oil Spills on the Ground

Who could blame you if you’ve been delaying the face-off: you against that nasty motor oil stain on the concrete. You’ve probably heard that oil spills are tricky to remove, which is true. But it’s also true that most can be removed, as long as you possess patience, persistence and a tolerance for repetition. Your can-do attitude will help you face down your greasy opponent -- and win.

Prep the Spill

The right materials -- not to mention patience and perseverance -- are needed to remove oil stains.

Step 1

Blot up the oil with paper towels, newsprint or old rags and dispose of it safely. 

Step 2

Spread a thick layer of kitty litter over the spill to fully absorb the oil. 

Step 3

Cover the area with a tarp or large garbage bags and let it sit overnight. 

Step 4

Like sawdust, kitty litter is highly absorptive.

Sweep up and throw away the kitty litter. 

Liquid Detergent Method

Step 1

Pour a liberal amount of a grease-cutting liquid dish soap over the spill. 

Step 2

Scrub the spill with a scrub brush until it reaches a soapy lather.  Keep the mixture moist; if it dries out, add more soap and water and continue to scrub.

Step 3

Spread more kitty litter over the area to absorb the dirty soap mixture.  Remove the mixture with paper towels, newsprint or old rags.

Step 4

Get the water as hot as you can to remove oil spills.

Hose the area down with hot water. 

Powdered Detergent Method

Step 1

Sprinkle powdered laundry detergent on the spill. 

Step 2

Pour enough water on the spill to make a thick paste.  Scrub it vigorously.

Step 3

Cover the area and let it sit for 24 hours. 

Step 4

Use a scrub brush, not a wire brush.

Hose off the area with hot water. 

Last Resort Methods

Step 1

Put on a pair of latex gloves. 

Step 2

Spray the area lightly with oven cleaner.  Scrub the area with a brush, let it sit for 20 minutes and then scrub it again. Alternatively, mix kitty litter and acetone until they form a paste.  Spread the mixture over the spill and let it sit overnight. Apply some water to the area the next day and scrub it thoroughly. 

Step 3

Scrub the area with hot, soapy water and then hose it off. 

Things You Will Need

  • Paper towels, newsprint or old rags
  • Kitty litter
  • Tarp or garbage bags
  • Broom
  • Grease-cutting dish soap
  • Scrub brush
  • Hose
  • Powdered laundry detergent
  • Latex gloves
  • Oven cleaner
  • Acetone


  • Stains that have had time to soak in may require several applications of your chosen method. Even when a stain is largely gone, some discoloration may remain, but it should fade with time.
  • Wire brushes may permanently scar the ground, so avoid using them.


  • Properly dispose of paper towels, newsprint or old rags that are soaked with oil. To be on the safe side -- and to prevent the chance of self-combustion -- hose down the materials before disposing of them.

About the Author

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.

Photo Credits

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