How To Clean Oil Spill Under Hood

Date Published: June 18, 2021
Author: Kylee Smith

After spilling oil under the hood of a vehicle, you might wonder if you can just leave the mess alone. Out on the road, however, your serpentine belt could go out and your car could stop functioning properly.

Fortunately, there is an easy process for cleaning up that oil under the hood of your car.

Oil Spill Cleaning Supplies

Oil is messy, and much of what is under the hood of a vehicle is not easily accessible. Therefore, you might be inclined to think that you are going to have a difficult time completing this task. In three easy steps, you are going to have removed the oil and prevented your vehicle from disaster down the road.

Paper Towels

Much of the oil is likely out of reach; however, paper towels are used to clean up as much of the oil as possible before using a hose or pressure washer. Whatever you can remove using paper towels helps immensely.

Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towels, 16 Family Rolls
  • Pack contains 16 Family Rolls of Bounty Quick Size paper towels, equal to 40 Regular Rolls
  • This pack contains 80 more sheets per pack which means 8 extra days worth of paper vs. Bounty Select A Size 16 Double Plus Rolls Estimated based on manufacturer data. Actual usage may vary by household
  • Bounty, the Quicker Picker Upper
  • 2X More Absorbent vs. leading ordinary brand
  • Bounty's shortest sheets are now even more absorbent for a versatile clean (versus previous product)

Cleaning Cloths

Cleaning cloths can be used instead of paper towels. Oil is very messy, however, and disposable paper towels might be your best bet. Either way, cleaning cloths are always good to have on hand.

Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towels, 16 Family Rolls
  • Pack contains 16 Family Rolls of Bounty Quick Size paper towels, equal to 40 Regular Rolls
  • This pack contains 80 more sheets per pack which means 8 extra days worth of paper vs. Bounty Select A Size 16 Double Plus Rolls Estimated based on manufacturer data. Actual usage may vary by household
  • Bounty, the Quicker Picker Upper
  • 2X More Absorbent vs. leading ordinary brand
  • Bounty's shortest sheets are now even more absorbent for a versatile clean (versus previous product)


You need a cleaning agent that is going to cut through that oil and make this cleanup a little easier. This job requires a good degreasing solution. You are not going to be able to simply wash the oil away without first using a strong solution like a degreaser.

Simple Green 73434010 14010 Industrial Cleaner & Degreaser, Concentrated, Lemon, 1 gal Bottle
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Dish Soap

Degreaser is the top choice in terms of cleaning power, but dish soap is another viable choice. You are going to realize why some people choose dish soap over degreaser as you read through to the last step in this cleaning process.

Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap (4x19oz) + Non-Scratch Sponge (2ct), Original Scent (Packaging May Vary), Combo pack
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  • Packaging & sponge shape will vary

Spray Bottle

An empty spray bottle is necessary to hold the degreaser solution or dish soap and water. Alternatively, you can purchase a degreaser that is sold in a spray bottle or spray can.

Empty spray bottles are going to be your best friend, however, when you are attempting various cleaning tasks around the household. Regardless, you are going to need one eventually.

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Garden Hose

A garden hose allows you to gently and carefully spray down many of the components under the hood of your vehicle. Further instruction is required before completing this step. Have your garden hose ready to go and to nearby.

Gpeng Expandable Garden Hose 50ft Water Hose with 8 Function Spray Nozzle, Kink Free Flexible Hose with Solid Brass Fittings, Extra Strength Durable Lightweight Expanding Yard Hose Wash Hose Pipe
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Pressure Washer

A pressure washer is a good substitute for a garden hose here. Power washers are also good to have for many other household cleaning projects. You must be careful if you use a pressure washer, as it can damage delicate engine parts.

Simpson Cleaning CM61083 3400 PSI at 2.5 GPM Clean Machine Cold Water Residential Gas Pressure Washer, Natural
  • SIMPSON OHV engine with large recoil for easy starting.
  • Reliable, maintenance-free OEM Technologies axial cam pump with thermal relief.
  • 5/16-in. x 25-ft. high pressure hose is non-marring, flexible and abrasion resistant
  • Steel frame construction with powder coated finish for durability and corrosion resistance
  • 10" Premium pneumatic wheels for ease of maneuverability across various terrain

How To Clean Up Oil Spill Under Hood

The oil spill under the hood of your vehicle can be cleaned up in a matter of minutes. You must be extra careful when using a garden hose or power washer to help clean the car’s components as it can damage your motor.

In just four easy steps, you will be able to clean up an oil spill under your hood. Within a day or two, you will have forgotten all about that accidental oil spill.

Step 1: Wipe Up Oil

Using paper towels and/or cleaning cloths, wipe up as much of the oil as possible. It may seem like a losing battle, but the paper towels/cleaning cloths are absorbing the oil.

The degreaser is going to break down the oil that you are unable to reach as well as any traces of oil you have left behind.

Pro Tip: Focus on electrical components and any belts you can reach, specifically the serpentine belt. Oil degrades rubber. Be careful around electrical components when using a garden hose or pressure washer.

Step 2: Spray Degreaser

Spray down the components underneath the hood of your vehicle with the degreasing solution. If your degreaser did not come in a spray bottle, it is likely in concentrated form. Pay attention to the instructions if you are adding a degreaser to an empty spray bottle.

  • Pro Tip: Allow the degreasing solution to work for a few minutes to give the cleaning agents time to break down the oil.

Step 3: Clean Under Hood Using Hose or Pressure Washer

Now it is time to use your garden hose or pressure washer. Be thorough, but be extra careful. Know where your car's electrical components are located to avoid spraying water directly on them.

Pro Tip: To help spot electrical components, look for wiring and identify the alternator's location.

Step 4: Crank Your Engine

After everything is cleaned, crank your engine to make sure everything is functioning properly. Understand that you might encounter a strange smell, and you might also hear a belt squeal initially. Give it a few minutes to idle and for everything to return to normal. What is left of the degreaser and oil will burn off.

  • Pro Tip: Be sure you perform this process in a well-ventilated area. Possible degreaser fumes are one reason why people sometimes prefer to use dish soap over the more powerful cleaning agent.

Final Thoughts

While this cleaning task involves a couple of cautionary tactics, cleaning an oil spill under your hood is not difficult. The step-by-step instructions provided are geared to help you accomplish this cleanup job in a matter of minutes. A task like this must be handled right away, as oil spills left underneath a hood can cause catastrophic problems down the road.

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