Does Kerosene Evaporate? (And Dissolve in Water?)

Kerosene is widely used as a fuel in domestic heaters, furnaces, and lamps. But what happens if you accidentally spill it somewhere in your house? Or worse, stain your clothes with it. Does the liquid evaporate on its own? In this article, we will look at this question in detail. 

We will also look at the ways in which you can clean kerosene spillage from different surfaces: clothes, carpet, wood, grass, and concrete. Worse than the stain is the strong smell that kerosene leave behind, so it’s important to know the right methods to get rid of both.

We will also discuss kerosene’s impact on the environment, and how it can be used to control weeds. Kerosene is a dangerous, inflammable liquid, so in the last section, we will talk about ways to dispose of it. 

Will Spilled Kerosene Evaporate?

Under normal temperature conditions, kerosene does not easily evaporate. This is in sharp contrast to gasoline/petrol, which evaporates rapidly at room temperature because of its weak intermolecular attraction. Because of the slow rate of evaporation, kerosene can be stored for a long time, which is one of the reasons why it continues to be used widely in developing nations. 

But kerosene is a dangerous, inflammable fuel that should not be left heedlessly. If you accidentally spill it, it’s better to take the right steps to clean it because the fuel will not evaporate easily on its own.

On the other hand, if you are looking to dispose of kerosene, evaporation is again not a great way to go about it. For both cleaning and discarding, there are proper ways to deal with the fuel, and we will look at all of them in detail. 

At What Temperature Does Kerosene Evaporate?

Kerosene can evaporate at temperatures between 37⁰C to 65⁰C. Although hot countries do experience such temperatures, the rate of evaporation of kerosene will still be quite slow. Therefore, it’s better to find out the different ways in which we can clean the fuel’s spillage. 

Does Kerosene Dissolve in Water?

No. Kerosene, like most hydrocarbons, does not dissolve in water. It is lighter and forms a layer above water. Water is a polar covalent compound that cannot mix with a non-polar organic solvent like kerosene—the two liquids are immiscible.

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How to Clean Kerosene Spillage?

Not only does kerosene not evaporate on its own it also has a very strong smell that can be hard to get rid of. But with the right methods and some patience, you will certainly manage to undo the harm caused by the fuel. Here are some ways in which you can clean kerosene spillage from different materials:

Clothes

You might spill kerosene on your clothes while trying to fill a lamp or a heater. When that happens, make sure you take off the clothing and clean it immediately. The longer you wait, the harder it will become to get rid of the stain. Follow these steps:

  1. Rinse the cloth under running water.
  2. Use an oil-reducing soap (like a dishwashing detergent or a shampoo for oily hair) to clean the stained spot while gently massaging it with your hands.
  3. Soak the cloth for 30 minutes. It might be a little hard to get rid of the oil in the first attempt, so repeat these steps until you have completely removed all the kerosene. 
  4. Sprinkle some baking soda on the stained area. 
  5. Now put the cloth in a washing machine but do not add detergent. Start the machine for one wash cycle. Then add two cups of white vinegar and let the cloth soak for an hour or so. Start another wash cycle and add detergent this time.  
  6. Do not put the cloth in the dryer until you are sure that all the oil is removed—kerosene is inflammable and can ignite. Take the cloth out of the machine and dry it according to the fabric manufacturer’s instructions. 

Carpet

Again, if you spill kerosene on your carpet, it’s essential that you act quickly.

  1. Open the windows and turn on the fan. This will ensure that the strong smell of kerosene dissipates.
  2. You need to use an absorbent over the spill. But before you do that, you can spread paper or clothes around the edges of the affected area. This will ensure that the oil does not spread further.
  3. For absorption, you can either use something like baking soda or absorbent towels. If you are using the former, let it sit for 10-15 minutes until it fully absorbs the oil. If you are using the latter, keep blotting the area with towels until you have removed all the oil. 
  4. Spray water to rinse the affected area, blot it with towels, and then let it dry.
  5. If the smell does not go away, try applying some more baking soda to the area. Let it stay for a sufficient amount of time, depending on the intensity of the odor. Repeat this step, if needed.
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Wood

  1. The steps for cleaning kerosene from wood are quite similar to those mentioned above. First, you need to absorb the oil. Spread an absorbent towel or kitty litter over the area. 
  2. Once you are sure that all the oil is absorbed, gather the absorbent material and dispose of it.
  3. A strong detergent can harm furnished wood, so get a softer one. You can dilute it further with water. Then soak up a towel with the mixture and gently wipe the affected wooden area. Let it dry.

Grass

Spilling kerosene over the soil is particularly bad because the oil harms plants. In fact, it is often used to kill weeds, as discussed below. If you spill fuel on grass and don’t do anything, the grass will take a few months to recover. But if you aren’t willing to wait that long, take these steps:

  1. Use sand to absorb the spillage.
  2. Rinse the area with water.
  3. Fuel seeps into the ground, so you must dig up the affected area, taking away 2-3 inches of soil. 
  4. Finally, you have to replace the soil and plant new grass. 

Concrete

You might spill kerosene on your garden slab or your driveway, the latter of which can be particularly dangerous since the fuel is inflammable. So, follow the steps:

  1. Soak up the fuel using kitty litter. Once all of it is absorbed, sweep up the litter and throw it away. Add more litter if necessary, until the spot is completely dry.
  2. Mix some detergent powder with water, dip a brush in the mixture, and scrub the area.
  3. Put an absorbent towel to soak up any remaining residue.
  4. To get rid of the smell, sprinkle some baking soda. Leave it overnight, and then sweep it up.

Hands

If you accidentally spill kerosene on your skin, take these steps:

  1. Use an automotive hand cleaner. It is used to remove grease from the skin while working on cars but works well for kerosene too. Some cleaners are scented and will help you get rid of the fuel’s smell.
  2. If you don’t have the above-mentioned product, you can use a dishwasher or a laundry detergent. Rub your hands together with the detergent and then rinse with water.
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Does Kerosene Kill Plants?

Yes, Kerosene kills plants, and it is used to control weeds. In gardening, the fuel is often used to combat weeds growing in hard surface areas such as driveways and pavers.

However, kerosene is harmful not only to plants but also to humans. Its smoke contains a high level of harmful particulate matter, and chronic exposure to its vapors is associated with greater risks of cancer, respiratory infections, and other diseases. Yet, if used judiciously, kerosene can help in weed control.

The fuel must be kept away from direct sunlight because it is inflammable. One should also avoid physical contact with kerosene as it irritates skin and eyes. You can spray the fuel on the weeds, and they will die within a few days.

But make sure you do it sparingly because high dosages can harm your cultivated plants. Because of kerosene’s harmful effects on human health, it’s best to use it only as a last resort for weed control and that too judiciously.   

How to Dispose of Kerosene?

Kerosene is a flammable and dangerous liquid, so if you dispose of it incorrectly, it will harm both environment and humans. You should never pour it down the drain or simply throw it in the garbage. 

The best thing to do is to take the kerosene to a fuel recycling facility. If there isn’t one located near you, you can take it to a local petrol pump or an automobile repair shop, who will most likely be happy to take it from you. If you don’t have any other option, you can let it evaporate slowly.

Put the fuel in an open container and place it in a well-ventilated area, making sure that it is not within the reach of children or pets. Also make sure that it is kept in a cool, shady place; direct sunlight and heat can cause the fuel to produce fumes. 

Conclusion

In this article, we have looked at whether or not kerosene evaporates. The answer: it does not really evaporate on its own at room temperature, unlike gasoline. So, if you accidentally spill it, you need to act quickly and take the right steps to clean it.

These steps vary according to the surface of spillage. We also looked at how kerosene can be used to control weeds. Finally, we discussed the right ways to dispose of kerosene safely

Team EarthEclipse comprises a group of writers that often write on topics related to the environment, ecosystem, gardening, geography, geology, space, solar and more.