6 Things To Do When You Have An Oil Spill In Your Garden

Whether it is a large oil spill from a domestic tank or simply a few small drops from a car repair, oil spills in the garden are damaging and, in some cases, can be costly. For one thing, they can leave unsightly stains on the ground if not dealt with right away. 

Not only this, but these spills can have a negative impact on the surrounding environment, damaging wildlife or nearby water supplies if they make it that far. 

The problem is oil spills aren’t something many of us come up against on a regular basis. Therefore, it can be tricky to know what to do when faced with a spill. But if you know what steps to take, you can act calmly and quickly to get the issue sorted as soon as possible. 

So, let us help you add dealing with oil spills to your arsenal; check out the six things you need to do if there’s an oil spill in your garden.

1. Determine where the spill is coming from 

First and foremost, you need to determine where the oil spill is actually coming from and roughly how much oil has already escaped. This can be tricky if you haven’t checked your oil level for some time, but it can be a helpful indicator if you have. 

Next, you need to pinpoint where the leak is coming from. If the oil is no longer escaping, this can be harder to determine but look around for cracks, holes or any signs of damage. It might not be obvious at first, but if you keep looking, you should be able to find it. 

2. Try to stop or manage the spill

If the tank is still leaking and you can clearly see where it is coming from, then you need to try and stop or manage the spill as best you can. Wherever possible, you should put a container or bucket underneath the drip; this will catch the oil and stop it from leaking in your garden. It will also buy you time until you can get professional help

Note: Be careful not to use any containers to catch the drip that you will need to store important or perishable items in at a later date. 

If you can’t get a container underneath, you could at least try to stem the flow or divert the oil into a container elsewhere. If you’re looking for a temporary solution to stop the drip, sealant, rubbing soap, and wax can all be used to temporarily stop this. 

If you’re not comfortable trying to tackle and plug the leak yourself, then don’t attempt to do so. It’s also important to wear protective clothing while doing this to stop the oil from making contact with your skin. 

Another handy tip, if the oil spill is quite substantial, is to prevent it from spreading around the garden any further. This is vital if the leak is near a waterway of some kind and you’re worried it might contaminate the water. 

You can use absorbent materials to do this, materials such as sand, cat litter or commercial products if you have access to them. 

3. Block off the area

The next thing you need to do is to isolate the area to ensure that no one comes into contact with it. The last thing you want is anyone getting oil on their shoes and walking it further around the garden. Either that, it comes into contact with their skin. 

This is especially important if you have pets or young children in the household. You might want to use garden furniture, bricks or rope to block off the area. What you use will depend on how busy the garden is and whether you need to keep pets or kids away. 

Just be sure that you keep everyone away from the area to avoid the spread of oil and to wait until professional help arrives.

4. Get in touch with the professionals

It’s important that you get in touch with the professionals as soon as possible. The faster you act, the faster you’ll be able to deal with the situation and have the oil cleaned up. 

Before you begin looking around for a local service provider, it’s a good idea to check your insurance policy to see if you are covered for oil spills like this. It’s best to do this first as they might be able to recommend a provider that can help, and they might only cover you for spills if you use certain companies to clean up the oil. 

If you don’t have insurance or if you’re not covered, then you need to run an online search and look for the nearest spill remediation service provider. Either way, you want to get the spill cleared as quickly as you can, so once you’ve managed the spill or temporarily fixed the leak, get on the phone and take action. 

It’s worth noting that if you think the water has already made its way into a nearby water source, you might also have to alert the local council or environmental body. So add this to your to-do list.

5. Prepare the area 

Unless the oil spill is just a few droplets from a car engine, it’s probably best that you don’t attempt to clean up the oil spill yourself. After all, you want it done properly. But in order to give the professionals good access to the area, it’s a nice idea to get this organised before they arrive. 

Just be sure that you have removed any unnecessary objects away from the space and that they have easy access. It’s also important that you carefully store any oil-soaked materials you’ve used, as these need to be disposed of correctly. 

The professionals might offer to handle these for you. If not, you’ll need to find a local centre that deals in contaminated items, specifically oil. 

6. Keep a record as you go

Finally, if you’re going to be making an insurance claim or you have a damaged tank that needs removing, it’s a good idea to document each and every step you take. Be sure to take pictures and videos, keep notes and stay on top of any calls, emails or invoices related to the oil spill. 

This will make your life much easier if you need evidence or details about the spill further down the line. 

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.