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Controlling Odors within Garages

By HHI Staff

Most garages contain a variety of products and devices that can generate polluting odors. However, of all the potential airborne contaminants, gasoline and oil odors, and combustion gases, are perhaps the most dangerous. These odors are not just unpleasant smelling; they're also toxic. In addition, evaporated gasoline can explode if concentrations become high enough. As was mentioned earlier, houses with attached garages will likely have these pollutants entering their living quarters fairly regularly.


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Fortunately, you can help lessen these air-pollution problems by following simple precautions. One is to only fill gasoline-powered machinery outside your garage. Also, start all motorcycles, chain saws, trimmers, and lawn mowers outdoors. In addition, after using any combustion-driven item, shut it off and let it cool outdoors, and only then bring it inside your garage.

Another precaution you might consider is to place vehicular mats under parked cars, trucks, and motorcycles that are stored inside your garage. These can capture oil and other fluid drips from leaking transmissions, cooling systems, brake lines, etc. before they become absorbed into your concrete garage floor. Such mats may be available at auto-supply stores, or you might simply use a piece of heavy cardboard. Of course, whatever you use will need to be replaced or cleaned from time to time. You could also apply concrete sealer on your garage floor, as there are a variety of low odor sealants available for both concrete and asphalt.

If oil or other fluid stains do end up on your garage floor, you might try sprinkling unscented, clay, cat-box litter on them. The litter material should be left on the floor long enough to have a chance to absorb the liquid, then swept up, and disposed of properly. If you want to purchase simple, unscented, clay cat litter, it can still sometimes be purchased at local pet-supply stores. However, it's become a rather rare item with the advent of "improved" scoopable, scented products.

Some oily or greasy stains may be removed with low-odor, concentrated cleaners. One such synthetic cleaner to try is AFM SafeCoat Super Clean. To use it, mix it with an equal part of water. You can then sponge on or spray the greasy area, allow the solution to work for a time, agitate it with a sponge, and then rinse it off with clear water. Of course, wearing waterproof household gloves is a good idea.

To help minimize auto exhaust odors inside your garage, you might want to follow this procedure. After pulling your car into the garage, turn off the ignition and leave the garage door open for 15-30 minutes. If this isn't possible, you should consider installing in your garage an exhaust ventilation fan with its own crank timer. These timers are designed so they can be manually set to shut off the fan after a preset time. After you pull your car into the garage and shut the door, simply activate the timer for 30-45 minutes and the exhaust fan will air out the garage, then shut itself off. Crank timers themselves are generally relatively inexpensive to purchase and install.

If you have a forced-air furnace or air conditioner in the garage, make sure all the ducts are properly sealed. Otherwise, garage odors can be pulled into the leaky ducts and blown into the living space. Good information on proper duct sealing, and problems caused by leaky ducts, can be found in Understanding Ventilation and The Healthy House by John Bower.

Finally, make sure all entry doors leading directly into your home's living quarters are kept shut except when they're actually being used to enter or leave your house or garage. Also, it's important that the door be properly weather-stripped. The doors that often do the best job of sealing have magnetic weather-stripping, like a refrigerator. If your door is not well sealed, check local building-supply outlets for simple weather-stripping kits. They'll also have, or can order for you, magnetic-sealing doors if you feel that it's best to replace your existing door.


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Controlling Odors within Garages:  Created on June 21st, 2010.  Last Modified on February 27th, 2011


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