Diesel Smell After Spill - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 04-13-2009
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Diesel Smell After Spill

Hello:

Recently my ^%$*%&^%* mechanic while changing the racor filter on our Gen Set spilled diesel fuel, as he claims a “little bit”; this got combined with water that we had in the bilge from the AC unit and of course we found out during a 5 hr upwind sail in 20 knts of wind . We added, “Bilge-Cleaner” and the diesel/water mix was removed during the sail with a hand pump; what a pleasure (2 hrs of pumping). Next day we lifted all the floorboards and cleaned thoroughly with a citrus degreaser; it looked and smelled beautifully. After a short sail more water/diesel/bilge-cleaner came out ; I assume it was still hiding in the nooks and crannies once this portion was pumped no more has come out.

The diesel smell is still lingering, I assume some is in the air and some of the mix or diesel is still hiding.

Any suggestions on how to manage or solve this?

La Bestia
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Old 04-13-2009
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Dawn Dishwashing Liquid

Try putting a couple of ounces of Dawn DW Liquid in the bilge area with some water. Dawn is pretty good and emulsifying diesel and fuel oil. Let it sit for a hour or so, drain, and repeat. Also, take a cup of Dawn and add it to roughly 2 gallons of warm water and vigorously wipe down the areas that the diesel came in contact with. Rinse well and repeat. You should be able to get rid of most of the residula diesel oil and the boat should not smell as much.

DrB
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Old 04-13-2009
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I hope you didn't pump the diesel water mixture overboard....as that is illegal by international treaty.

What you probably have to do is wash the bilge very thoroughly with a solution of dilute dishwashing detergent. I'd recommend Dawn, which is used by oil spill cleanup teams to treat wildlife... It is probably spread over the higher edges of the bilge from when the boat was heeling during your short sail.

LOL... just saw that DrB posted about Dawn while I was typing.
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Old 04-13-2009
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The above treatments are about as good as you will be able to do. Unfortunately, diesel smell is very difficult to eliminate completely. If you get some on your hands you will still be able to smell it after washing with soap three or four times. It's a very good penetrating oil for freeing rusted parts, and that same penetrating quality allows it to get into the gel coat and almost everything else that is the least bit porous. Repeated Dawn treatments will help the most, I would put a mixture of it in the bilge and then go sailing so it can go everywhere the diesel did. By the way, it's difficult to change fuel filters without spilling some diesel, and every once in awhile a wake hits at the wrong time, or something just slips, and quite a bit spills. Don't be too hard on your mechanic, no one has a perfect record changing filters.
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To clean up diesel and get rid of the smell, use liquid Calgon fabric softener
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I always keep an oil sorbent sheet floating in my bilge. It won't absorb water, but sucks up and holds any oil (or diesel) in the bilge. Any water, stays clear and clean, so no oil goes out if you have to pump.
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My friendly fuel oil buddy says use coffee grounds to absorb the oil and cover the smell. These should be fresh grounds. Buy a pound of the cheapest ground coffee. Spread it around in the spill. Next day vacuum it up. Worked for me in cleaning up the oil catch pan under the engine.
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Used coffee grounds are very good at absorbing odors...
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I had same problem a few years back. My boat has a dry bilge. Packless shaft seal, and everything goes overboard. But there is always a quart of water moving under my floor boards to various locations depending on the heel of the boat and other factors.

What I did to remove diesel smell based on advise from my heating oil guy. Soaked up everything I could. Then mixed up big box (10 lbs) of laundry Detergent with 5 or 6 boxes of baking soda. I put it in a trash bag and shook it up. Then sprinkle in the bilge. If you later find a damp spot, you just scrub it and use a little more of the mix until you got mud and wipe it up.

I will say it took some time but the diesel smell went away and I had nice clean bilges.
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what is you can't get to it

my boat has a space under my flooring in the main cabin that I can not get to. I know it has diesel in it because I was storing my mooring lines under to starboard settie in a draw and when I got them out after a sail in heavy winds and seas the white line was pink. The only way to get there is topull out the draw. The diesel smell is noticable when you first open the cabin after its been locked up for the long time. I need to get the water/diesel mix out somehow and then clean it up but I have no access to this area.
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