How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask Jesse Handel Your Own Question

Jesse Handel
Jesse Handel, Scientist
Category: Small Engine
Satisfied Customers: 308
Experience:  B.S. Degree Chem. & Bact. 10 yrs tax preparation.
9660727
Type Your Question Here...
Jesse Handel is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

Hi 2or3 months ago i spilled used motor oil in my shed and

Customer Question

Hi 2or3 months ago i spilled used motor oil in my shed and the oil soaked into the plywood floor,and possibly the wood beam beneath it.I am just wondering what steps I need to take to make this area safe again.I also should mention that it is in a rural/country area surrounded by long dry grass.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: General
Expert:  Jesse Handel replied 4 years ago.

Hello and thank you for coming to Just Answer. We appreciate the opportunity to help you with your questions. If you are just a homeowner and not a professional garage, then legally you don't have to clean up a used oil spill to any environmental standards. If you clean up any loose oil that hasn't been absorbed by the wood, then you will have removed most of the hazard for people or pets. There really isn't any way to remove the oil from the wood that has already been absorbed. You are correct in deciding that replacing the plywood is the only way to remove the oil from the floor.

If you put kitty litter on the spill, let it soak overnight, and then collect the kitty litter for disposal; this will remove any oil that hasn't soaked into the wood yet. Once you have removed any free oil with the kitty litter, there really isn't any hazard to people or pets unless they chew on the wood. The wood will be slightly more flammable, which is important where you live, but since it's in your shed, the increased flammability won't be a problem if you have a grass fire, since the shed would have to start burning first. You would want to be careful of open flames and heat around the area where the spill was. Replacing the plywood is an excellent idea and it will remove the risk of fire or contact with the contaminated wood by people. I don't think you need to worry about replacing the beam, even if the used oil reached it; because any hazard from the oil soaked into the wood requires either contact with the wood or the wood catching fire and, from your description, the wood beam is covered so that it won't be accessible once the plywood is replaced.

Most cities and towns have waste separation areas where they collect types of waste for disposal. They will be grateful if you tell them that the plywood, the kitty litter (if you need to use it), and any other materials you dispose of have been contaminated with used motor oil so that they can dispose of it properly.

It sounds like you are doing all of the right things to clean up this spill and there isn't much more I can recommend beyond what you are doing. Please let me know if you have any specific questions about your cleanup or if you would like me to explain anything further. I will be happy to provide you with any further information you would like.

Jesse Handel, Scientist
Category: General
Satisfied Customers: 308
Experience: B.S. Degree Chem. & Bact. 10 yrs tax preparation.
Jesse Handel and 38 other General Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I wanted to ask Jesse about spontaneous combustion.Is it possible for this oil soaked plywood to combust on its own?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

can this oil soaked wood ignite from spontaneous combustion?

Expert:  Jesse Handel replied 4 years ago.

It is extremely unlikely, unless you have a whole lot of oil in a pool and an ignition source. Used motor oil is not very combustible as far as petroleum products go. Wood also needs a relatively high temperature in order to catch fire (relative to papers and other easily ignited fuels that a person uses to start wood burning in a fireplace or stove). All of the fires that I have heard of involving oil-soaked materials that might be due to any kind of spontaneous combustion involved oil-soaked rags. Cloth is much easier to light than wood is. Your wood in your shed is very unlikely to burn unless you already have a combustion source. It will catch fire more quickly if a fire starts or if you have an open flame or heat source, than wood without oil; but it won't spontaneously combust unless you have very high temperatures (the normal flashpoint (auto-ignition temperature) for motor oil is in the range of 300 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit).

Sorry that I was slow in responding to your reply. With the holiday weekend, I've been busy. I hope this reassures you. Please let me know if you need more information.

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • You did one super job of explaining to me everything there is to know about this fridge. I'm looking forward to asking you questions in the future. Jimmy Bagley, IA
< Previous | Next >
  • You did one super job of explaining to me everything there is to know about this fridge. I'm looking forward to asking you questions in the future. Jimmy Bagley, IA
  • Wonderful service, prompt, efficient, and accurate. Couldn't have asked for more. I cannot thank you enough for your help. Mary C. Freshfield, Liverpool, UK
  • This expert is wonderful. They truly know what they are talking about, and they actually care about you. They really helped put my nerves at ease. Thank you so much!!!! Alex Los Angeles, CA
  • Thank you for all your help. It is nice to know that this service is here for people like myself, who need answers fast and are not sure who to consult. GP Hesperia, CA
  • I couldn't be more satisfied! This is the site I will always come to when I need a second opinion. Justin Kernersville, NC
  • Just let me say that this encounter has been entirely professional and most helpful. I liked that I could ask additional questions and get answered in a very short turn around. Esther Woodstock, NY
  • Thank you so much for taking your time and knowledge to support my concerns. Not only did you answer my questions, you even took it a step further with replying with more pertinent information I needed to know. Robin Elkton, Maryland
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Curtis B.

    Curtis B.

    Technician

    Satisfied Customers:

    12086
    have worked on and around most engine models for 35 yrs./Polaris ATV expert
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/KO/koboma/2012-6-6_20917_DSCF1022.64x64.JPG Curtis B.'s Avatar

    Curtis B.

    Technician

    Satisfied Customers:

    12086
    have worked on and around most engine models for 35 yrs./Polaris ATV expert
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/SM/SmEngPro/2012-8-5_3564_Rick1206290005Edit.fullres.logo.scrn.64x64.jpg Rick's Avatar

    Rick

    Factory Authorized Trainer

    Satisfied Customers:

    4212
    Outdoor Power Equipment technical trainer since 1990, covering eight states.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/jonrk/2010-1-5_22551_jon.jpg Jon K.'s Avatar

    Jon K.

    Small Engine Diagnostic Expert

    Satisfied Customers:

    2995
    Gold certified Stihl tech, Service Manager for a rental/repair shop.Certified in most small engines
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/GI/giftindex/2011-11-19_2715_JamesLWells500.64x64.jpg James W's Avatar

    James W

    Small Engine Troubleshooting Expert

    Satisfied Customers:

    2986
    7 years as Mechanic & Parts Manager for Brother who has Owned Lawn & Garden Repair shop for 35 years
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/MR/mr2cycle/2011-3-12_03458_sears.64x64.jpg Vince O.'s Avatar

    Vince O.

    Small Engine Technician

    Satisfied Customers:

    2733
    Over 30 years experience repairing lawn and garden equipment. Chainsaws, mowers,blowers and trimmers
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/rheisnger/2010-12-31_010856_41385_100001225699183_7012_q.jpg RUSS's Avatar

    RUSS

    SERVICE TECHNICIAN

    Satisfied Customers:

    1723
    28 YEAR SERVICE TECHNICIAN
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/WT/wtolkson/2012-6-8_12723_JApicture2012.64x64.jpg Wayne's Avatar

    Wayne

    Engine Rebuilder

    Satisfied Customers:

    933
    many years on egine rebuilding, lawn mower,roto tiller,Truck,and small engines
 
 
 

Related General Questions