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Old 09-20-2002, 06:47 AM
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: SW Chicago Suburbs, IL
Posts: 306
Diesel Spill In Trunk--Need Advice

I managed to have about a quart of diesel fuel spill out in my trunk causing a huge smelly problem. I've already removed and cleaned the carpets and wiped down the trunk panels best I could, but the smell remains.

I've cleaned the trunk (minus carpet) again a few times trying various things like vinegar, baking soda paste, Fabreze, OxyClean, and Murphy's Oil soap. Seems as if each time, the smell dissipates for a few hours then returns.

Any ideas what I could use on this? The cabin doesn't really have the odor, but we do get the occasional whiff of diesel. (I'm actually okay with this...but...)

Lance Allison

11 MB S550 4Matic, 55k miles, Designo Black/Black
14 Ford F150 XLT Lariat Crew, 73k miles, 5.0
Coyote V8 4x4. Black/tan.
09 GMC Envoy Denali, 5.3 V8, 4x4 SWB. 38k miles,
Jewel Red/Med Gray.

87 MB 300SDL, 320k miles, Astral Silver/Blue.
98 VW Jetta TDI, 488k miles, Classic Green/Gray.
85 Olds 98 Brougham FWD, 4.3 DIESEL V6, 80k
miles, 3x Gray.

MBCA Member, Chicago Region
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Old 09-20-2002, 07:40 AM
Posts: n/a
I would recommend leaving the trunk open whenever possible until it manages to air out.

Good luck,
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Old 09-20-2002, 09:29 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: PA
Posts: 5,440
It warns in the MB manual not to spill Diesel fuel in the trunk but I have done it myself. You will have to wait for it to evaporate, and eventually it will. Keeping the trunk lid open will help. You might remove the trunk light bulb to keep from discharging the battery.

Placing dry paper towels in any damp spots will absorb some of the fuel and vapors. Putting weight on them will help then absorb better.

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Old 09-20-2002, 12:40 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: central Texas
Posts: 17,281
When the trunk is closed you can have baking soda out in a tray, and change it out regularly , just like you can do in your refrigerator... you could also put out some activated carbon,,, this is sold in quart containers for use as fish tank filter material... but is also what is inside many gas masks to adsorb ( not absorb) odors...
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Old 09-20-2002, 01:50 PM
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Cape Cod Massachusetts
Posts: 1,427
Thumbs up Never underestimate the power of Kitty Litter!

You might try using the natural absorbent quality of kaolin clay to get rid of as much of the residue as possible first. Buy a large bag of the cheapest most generic brand in the store. Place a nice layer of the stuff on any area that has had diesel on it. let it sit for a day or two and then vacuum the stuff up. Repeat this a couple of times until the residual is removed or greatly diminished.

You will then need to try some type of cleaner/degreaser, I would recommend Simple Green or one of the citrus oil based cleaning products like Orange Glow, the perfume will help cover up any irremovable aroma. You might also try a marine bilge cleaner as they are often optimized for cleaning fuel spill residued areas are Pull the drain plug in the spare tire well and get a couple of gallons of a strong hot cleaner/water solution and douche out the trunk area well. You might need a brush to get down as far into any cracks and crevices as the diesel may have gotten into. Keep the area well wet, starting high and working lower will float away any residue not yet absorbed.

If you still have a problem, any way to accelerate the evaporative process will help over time. Opening the trunk some and putting a small fan to work ( a "muffin" fan 3" - 4" square fans from computers run on 12 Volt DC and would work very good) exchanging air from a well warmed (sunny days, pop the trunk lid 4"- 5" and sit a fan or two on the flat edge, one pulling air in and one pushing fresh air in ) trunk space. Over time ,the volatiles (which is exactly what we actually "smell") should cook off and away.

The carpeting and any padding or sound deadening materials are forever soiled and will probably need removal and replacement but the "Kitty Litter" procedure will help remove the "wet" residue on the fiber materials and that can be a majority of the problem.

When working around POL (petroleum/oil/lubricants), having and using absorbent products is a good practice. many times the sooner you can contain and treat problems the better. I often use a product made by 3M which is a 3' square sheets of a fibrous mat that is particularly designed to absorb spilled petroleum. They are most often used to absorb oils floating on the surface of bilge water in boats, in my area the oil distributor has and sells an assortment of similar products each rated for absorbent volume. When working on fuel system componentry, a couple of these sheets or socks, in and around probable leakings will quickly contain POL leaks and drips when working on injectors, delivery lines, IPs, fuel lines, filter replacements to name a few. I used a couple on the floor when I did a fluid and filter change on a tranny. A bag of cheap plain kitty litter quickly and easily within reach can almost instantly absorb and contain a spill that will otherwise soak rapidly into any porous surface.

I donít have any specific knowledge but investigating the usefulness of other products such as activated charcoal or zeolite might be worthwhile. Restoration/Cleaning/Disaster Specialists in your area might use or know of products that might be specifically designed for this type of restoration clean-up problem, also. Good Luck!
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Old 09-20-2002, 07:03 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: eastern ND
Posts: 657
I'd take the panels and carpet out, wash them as best I could, then leave them out for the season or until the residual finally evaporates. Lightly wipe the metal with baking soda and leave trunk open as long as possible. Make a cardboard floor liner, and remind the wife that diesel (raw or burned) is an aphrodisiac. It could be worse: my father used to live trap skunks for a city and left one in his trunk over a weekend. The trunk, in addition to the skunk perfume, was white with maggots. He (father) cried as that pre-embargo Chrysler was his baby.
daBenz - 1970 220D
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Old 09-20-2002, 10:43 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2002
Posts: 18,350
There are enzyme based products designed to get rid of odors. I would try one of those. They are used to get rid of pet urine odors and to put down drains to dissolve grease build up. The products absolutely work wonders on cat urine and I suspect it would work on diesel. You spray it on, add a little warm water, cover with plastic to keep it damp and let it have its way with the residue.
You can buy the product at maintenance supply stores. It is more expensive but you can buy it in pet stores where it is sold just to remove pet odors. I have bought it under the brand names of Microdyne and Liquid Alive. The stuff is a little creepy since it is described as enzyme producing bacteria in a state of suspended animination and they are activated by warm water.
If that fails, go to and look for the product called Odorxit. It is more expensive but the landlords at that site swear by it.
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Old 09-20-2002, 11:32 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Evansville WI
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Larrys advice is what has worked for me. Leave the trunk open whenever possible, preferrable so the sun can shine in there to keep things warmed up to help increase evaporation. A desk fan or two running in the trunk when open will help also. Remove all the trunk panels before doing this, at least the side panels.

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Old 09-21-2002, 03:32 AM
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Location: oregon
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regular old Tide detergent mixed to a paste dose wonders........
William Rogers......
this sure is a nice site.......
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Old 09-21-2002, 08:41 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Exton, PA
Posts: 559
I did this myself not to long ago. A lot of Simple Green and water did the trick for me. Good luck

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