How to Remove Oil Smells from the Basement


Sidney asked: How do I an oil smell in the basement? The basement has a lingering smell of heating oil. What is most effective way of reducing/eliminating that odor?

Many homes store their heating oil tanks in the basement. It’s a convenient location, but can be hazardous when they begin to leak oil. The fact that there are oil fumes means that there is likely an oil leak or spill somewhere in the basement. It is recommended that you have the tank inspected by a qualified professional to ensure there are no leaks or damage. Then, you will be able to remove the lingering odor with one of the items below.

You Will Need:

  • Odor absorber
    • Coffee grounds
    • Activated charcoal (available from pet stores)
    • Vinegar
  • Bowls

Steps to Remove the Oil Smell:

  1. Fill some bowls with fresh coffee grounds (do not use those that have already been used in the coffee machine).
  2. Set the bowls around the area where the odor is lingering.
  3. For stronger odors, set out additional bowls.
  4. Leave them set out overnight or up to a couple of days.
  5. The coffee grounds will absorb the odor from the air.
  6. When finished, dispose of the product appropriately.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • There are additives that can be added to the oil tank to eliminate or minimize odors. Contact the company that delivers your oil or services your tank for additional information.
  • There is a commercial product called Odor Kill. Contact your oil company for availability.
  • Keep all open flames out of the area until you are sure there no leaks or spills.


  1. I have a strong oil smell in my basement from the foundation wall. The oil tank was removed about ten years ago, but the smell in the foundation is still there on the inside of house. Is there a product, such as a paint, etc., to remove this smell?

    Thank you,

  2. Fuel oil odors are permanently removed using VaporRemed, which is available online or from stockists listed on

  3. Lenny, take a look at the product Oil Solutions. You can see a live demo of the product working on It’s much better than VapoRemed, which I say doesn’t work. They are supposed to be enzymes that eat the fuel, but there is no indication of how much they eat or how long it takes. Plus, you have to keep them hydrated. I can’t imagine keeping my floor wet 24/7. Bottom line, VapoRemed doesn’t work.

  4. Lenny, just go to the website and see for yourself. Kevin seems to have formed an opinion about how VaporRemed works or does not work. Hope you do the due diligence.

  5. Your list of materials needed includes activated charcoal and vinegar, yet the instructions do not note these being used. What’s up?

  6. Bill,
    Use the activated charcoal or vinegar the same way as the coffee grounds. There is more information about those ingredients in the article How to Remove Rotten Food Odor from House, which says that “Each of these items will absorb odors that are present. You do not have to use all of them, but choose one or two and place one bowl for every 30-40 square feet of room space.”

  7. We also had an oil smell in our basement that seemed to be coming from the foundation wall and the area around our oil tank. To my great surprise, the oil smell disappeared after we started using a dehumidifier (just a 70-pint unit from a home improvement store). I always assumed that the oil smell was an entirely separate issue from basement moisture, but apparently humidity can bring out old oil smells that otherwise would no longer be noticeable. Please add a comment if you have relevant experience or knowledge. The first thing I tried was coffee grounds, and that had little or no effect in our case.

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