Is It OK to Store Gasoline in the Garage?

Is It OK to Store Gasoline in the Garage

There are various reasons why you may want to store gasoline around your home, from running your lawn care equipment to powering generators, or even filling up the gas tank of your car when the need calls for it. To ensure that gasoline remains fresh and safe, it should be stored properly at all times.

Is it okay to store gasoline in the garage? Well, you can store gasoline in the garage as long as you take the necessary steps to ensure that it is safe. For beginners, you will want to use an approved canister that features a safety lock, vents, and a tight lid. Ensure that the room temperature of the garage is no higher than 80 degrees, and also keep the gasoline far from direct sunlight and heat sources. The surface where you intend to set the container where the gasoline is stored should also be flat to keep it from getting easily knocked over.

In many homes, the garage is usually directly connected to the main structure. This makes it all the more necessary to take precautions when you opt to store gasoline to prevent spillage accidents or any other types of accidents that may occur as a result of improper storage. Here are a few more considerations to keep in mind if you intend to store gasoline in your garage.

How Long Can I Store Gas in My Garage?

Gasoline tends to lose its engine-igniting ability progressively with time, so the question of how long it should realistically last in storage is a valid one. Although it undergoes natural degradation and loses its combustibility over time as a result of evaporation of its volatile compounds and oxidation, gasoline should remain usable for about three to six months when properly stored. Additionally, the purity of the gasoline, as well as the use of fuel stabilizers, can also affect the shelf life of stored gasoline.

  • Ethanol-blended gas

Gasoline that is blended with ethanol can last up to three months. According to the United States EIA (Energy Information Administration), a majority of the gasoline that is sold within the country is “E10” gas which consists of 90% petroleum-based gas and 10% ethanol (ethyl alcohol). Ethanol-blended gas typically has a shelf life of a maximum of three months due to the high oxidation rate of ethanol.

Because of the hydrophilic properties of ethanol, it tends to readily absorb humidity or water in a sealed container that may result from condensation, which will lead to contamination of the gasoline as well as its separation into distinct ethanol and gas layers. In general, the higher the concentration of ethanol, the shorter the shelf life of the gasoline.

  • Pure gasoline

Gasoline that is petroleum-based without any traces of ethanol will still undergo oxidation and evaporation when in storage, but these processes will take place at a much slower rate in pure gasoline, so it should last a minimum of six months if well stored. Additionally, pure gasoline is hydrophobic, so there is no need to worry about it getting contaminated by moisture or the fuel separating.

  • Fuel-stabilized gasoline

To preserve your gasoline for longer, you can mix it with fuel stabilizers. These are petroleum-based additives that are usually mixed with gasoline before storage to slow down volatile compound evaporation and oxidation, consequently extending its shelf life.  They typically allow gasoline to last anywhere between one to three years. Fuel stabilizers are at their most effective when you mix them with new gasoline; they are ineffective when used on gas that is already old and contaminated.

What is the Proper Way to Store Gasoline?

1. The storage containers

The containers where you intend to store the gasoline should meet the legal requirements for safety. Gasoline has to be stored in barrels that have a capacity of no more than 5 gallons. All the containers should have lids that you can use to prevent spillage.

The safest option is to go for a container that is specially made for the storage of gasoline, many of which are usually labeled “gasoline” and feature the appropriate warnings as well as information about the storage container’s capacity and safety features such as flash arresting screens or spill-proof caps.

Check the label of the container for safety certifications (such as UL or UN/DOT) or indications that show that the container is approved by agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency.

2. The storage room

Other than finding the right container to store gasoline, you also have to ensure that the room intended for storage is safe. For beginners, you shouldn’t store more than 25 gallons in one room, plus the stored gasoline has to be divided into smaller storage containers. Regulations regarding this may vary from one state to another, so you will want to consult with your local fire department to find out how gasoline you can legally store on your property.

Opting to keep gasoline in such proximity to your home requires extra precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to fumes and fires. Therefore, you want to ensure that the room where you intend to keep your gasoline-filled containers is well-ventilated and at room temperature.

Ensure that there are no major household appliances such as refrigerators, water heaters, and dryers in the room as sparks, heat, or static electricity emanating from them could easily ignite fumes from the gas containers.

The storage area should be away from the sun and cool. This is because excessive heat from any source, including natural light, can increase the risk of fires and even explosions. Therefore, always keep the containers as far as possible from windows or an area where the sunlight might reach later in the day.

What is the Difference Between Contaminated Gasoline and Old Gasoline?

Before you use any stored gasoline, you must conduct a spot check to assess if it’s safe to use. I found that the easiest way to determine if gas is usable is by doing a side by side comparison of the stored gasoline and a fresh batch of the same. If you notice that the stored gasoline has a darker color than the fresh batch or detect a sour smell, it means that it is just old. On the other hand, if the stored gasoline is separated into layers of ethanol and gas (in ethanol-blended varieties) or it contains sludge or sediment or is significantly discolored, it has been contaminated by by-products of oxidation or moisture, respectively.

Avoid using contaminated gasoline to power vehicles or equipment as it can result in varnish and sludge deposits on fuel system components which could, in turn, lead to blockage and minimized function.

Can I Still Use Old Gasoline?

You can still reuse old gasoline by combining it with fresh gasoline. This is not an option with contaminated gasoline due to its tendency to retain contaminants even when refreshed. Although you can refresh old gasoline, its combustibility level will still be lower than that of standard new gasoline, so you might experience non-starting or engine sputtering.

When using old gasoline in a lawnmower, it is a good idea to fill the fuel tank with one-part old gas and one-part fresh gas as it is less likely to result in sputtering. This is not as effective with a car since a car requires more horsepower to start. However, when you fill the tank three-quarters of the way with a new batch of gasoline and topping it off with old gas, your car can still start successfully.

Can I Store Gasoline in a Plastic Container?

You can store gasoline in plastic containers that have been specifically made for gas storage. A plastic gas container should be leak-proof and feature safety locks and vents. It should also meet national safety standards. This means that you should avoid milk jugs or any other plastic containers that you may be using to store your gasoline as they do not meet the required standards. This is because gasoline vaporizes when exposed to heat, which will consequently result in the plastic container expanding and potentially cause the cap to pop off and even result in an explosion.

Does Gasoline Eat Through Plastic?

Gasoline can cause plastic containers that are unapproved for storage to become brittle over time and crumble, or even completely eat through the insides of the container. Although plastic cans may be cheaper, you will want to avoid them not only because they won’t be long-lasting but also due to the lack of safety in using them.

Does Gasoline Evaporate?

All liquid types evaporate at room temperature. Gasoline is especially volatile, which means that it evaporates faster than most liquid varieties. This is because it has weak intermolecular attractions. Gasoline is made up of hydrocarbons, with the main component being octane (C8H18), which is a non-polar molecule. The only intermolecular attractions that make up gasoline are the London dispersion forces which are weak and easy to break.

Is Spilled Gasoline Dangerous?

Gasoline is not only toxic but also highly flammable, which is why it is dangerous to spill it. Additionally, spilled gasoline results in a slippery mess and can also leave behind a lingering odor that is hard to get rid of.

Gasoline spillage is also dangerous to the environment, even in small amounts, especially if it takes place frequently. This is because it can penetrate the flooring and escape into the underlying soil and groundwater, potentially affecting the health of those that use water which is pumped from underground.

To prevent these potentially harmful consequences, it is important to contain the spill as soon as it happens. If you have accidentally knocked over a storage container, return it to an upright position and secure the cap or lid tightly over the opening immediately. To keep the spill from spreading, put down some heavy towels around the perimeter of the spilled gasoline. If there are objects close to the spill, cover them with a plastic tarp to protect them from damage.

Cover the gasoline spill with an absorbent agent like trisodium phosphate, cat litter, sand, sawdust, baking soda, or clay. Whenever I have to deal with gasoline spillage in my garage, I like to use synthetic sorbent pads as they are especially effective on petroleum-based spills. Use the absorbent agent generously as it might take quite a bit of it to get rid of all the standing gasoline.

Allow the absorbent agent to sit on the spilled gasoline for at least 1-2 hours. If the spill is particularly large, you may need to clear away the absorbent material after the elapsed time and reapply it as needed until most of the gasoline residue has dissipated.

For the remaining traces that you may not be able to get rid of with the absorbent agent, use a plastic scraper or squeegee on the affected surface then clean the area thoroughly using hot water, a surface cleaner, and a sponge. Remember to wear gloves during the cleaning process to keep your hands protected.

How Do I Fill Containers Safely?

To prevent the risk of spilling gasoline, always keep your container on the ground. Fill the container carefully to avoid splatters and the generation of static electricity which could be potentially dangerous. Avoid overfilling the container as it will increase the risk of spilling. Additionally, you will want to leave a bit of space at the top as the gasoline may expand. Once the container is filled, replace the cap. I make the point of checking that it is properly closed a few times to avert the risk of potentially dangerous leaks.

Can Gasoline Fumes Kill You?

As previously mentioned, gasoline is made up of hydrocarbons, which are known to negatively impact the functioning of the CNS (central nervous system) and subsequently cause organ damage. As a result, exposure to gasoline vapors in significant amounts for an extended period can result in serious health complications which may lead to death in extreme cases.

The extent of the effects of exposure to gasoline fumes will depend on the following factors:

  • The amount of gasoline you have been exposed to
  • The duration of exposure
  • Your body weight, sex, and age
  • Whether you have also been exposed to other chemicals

Inhalation of gasoline fumes can result in the irritation of lung tissues, plus the chemicals in the gasoline can also enter the bloodstream. Once they make their way into your bloodstream, these chemicals will hinder the movement of oxygen in your body, severely affecting the healthy tissue as a result. Symptoms that are often known to occur after gasoline vapor exposure include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Slurred speech
  • Flushed appearance
  • Staggering
  • Weakness
  • Convulsions
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coma
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • Heart failure

How Do You Get Rid of Gasoline Fumes?

Gasoline fumes have a distinct odor that is almost instantly recognizable for those who have come across it. Should you happen to spill gasoline in your garage, you will want to be very cautious when it comes to cleaning it up to reduce the risk of inhalation and its consequences. Here are some tips on how you can get rid of gasoline fumes:

  • Open windows and doors

To get rid of the fumes emitted by gasoline and prevent inhalation, open all nearby doors and windows in the storage room. This will allow fresh air in and let out the poisonous fumes, lowering its concentration in your garage.

  • Turn on the fan or air conditioning

If there are no windows in the room, turn on the air conditioning or a ceiling fan if present to freshen the room.

  • Cover the gasoline spill with cat litter or baking soda

Most of the aforementioned absorbent agents that are used to clean up gasoline spillages are also very effective when it comes to absorbing the fumes and keeping it from spreading in the room.

Does Gasoline Smell Go Away?

The smell of gasoline can linger for some time if it is not treated appropriately, even after it evaporates and you make the effort to leave the garage doors open. To ensure that you get rid of it completely, use any of the aforementioned absorbent agents to treat the initial spill and smother the smell. The next step is to scrub the area with a hard brush and warm water, then use a clean, wet rug to wipe the area. Finally, pour a mixture of water and a disinfectant on the affected area and scrub it once more to ensure that the odor is removed.

Can Gasoline be Absorbed through the Skin?

Other than inhalation, another way you can be exposed to gasoline is by coming into contact with it. If you somehow end up getting a bit of gasoline on your skin for a short period, you shouldn’t worry too much as it should be harmless. This is because the absorption of the chemicals that make up gasoline is slow.

On the other hand, if gasoline is not removed and remains on your skin for a couple of hours, it can penetrate the skin. Symptoms of skin exposure to gasoline may include:

  • Mild skin irritation
  • Blistering, peeling, or cracking skin
  • Skin inflammation
  • First- and second-degree burns
  • Pus-like discharge

Is Gasoline Corrosive to the Skin?

Prolonged or repeated skin contact with gasoline in liquid form can cause degreasing of the skin, irritation, and dermatitis. As previously mentioned, it can also cause first- and second-degree burns.

Does Gasoline Explode?

Although gasoline is highly unlikely to explode, some certain conditions may increase the risk:

  • There has to be a low volume of gasoline in the storage tank
  • The gasoline has to have been in storage for an extended period
  • The vapor of the gasoline coming from the container has to come in contact with a spark or flame, or any other source of ignition.
  • The flame resulting from the ignited vapor has to travel back into the container via the spout.
  • The air/gas vapor mixture in the container must have a concentration that is within a defined flammability range.

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Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare

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