BrondaBailey’s Weblog

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The Exxon Valdez of our basement

In the nearly six years that we have lived in our house, we have had a lot of fun “projects” to deal with. There was the crazy lady driving through our fence at 1:00 in the morning just after we moved in. Then we had the freak accident of the bathroom faucet blowing off during the day and flooding the entire basement, what a joy that was. Then of course, the two consecutive springs we spent trying to patch holes in the basement walls because we had water leaking in from outside. As if the flood wasn’t enough. Well, we have just finished reclaiming the basement from our latest disaster, the great oil spill of ’08.

About three weeks ago, we purchased a five gallon bottle of vegetable oil to put in our storage. We have a small bottle in the kitchen that I refill for regular use and leave the rest on the basement storage room. So, we brought home this huge bottle, I filled the kitchen bottle and Ron took the remaining 4.8 gallons (just an estimate on my part) to the basement. About a week later, I was in the storage room grabbing something for dinner when I stepped in a wet spot. I looked down trying to figure out what would have made the floor wet when I noticed the oil. The huge five gallon bottle was now only about 1/3 full. Apparently there had been a small hole somewhere in the side of the bottle and the oil had been slowly leaking out, all over the floor. As I walked out of the room and slid on the tile in the laundry room, I realized what a disaster I had. I figured that I wouldn’t let it be a huge ordeal so I grabbed the carpet cleaner and got to work. After the third empty tank of what looked like a disgusting vinaigrette dressing (the oil floating on the top) I realized that floor was still soaking in oil and that it didn’t look like carpet cleaning was the best answer.

So what did I do? I went to the internet for a solution. The funny thing is that most of the places where I found people were talking about getting vegetable oil out of carpet was on blogs. They usually had some cute story about a little baby that managed to get the lid off and they found the kid laughing in the middle of the oil. At one point I wished I had a better story like that. Anyway, there were two answers that were very common; one – to use shampoo on the area then suck it up with a cleaner, two – to sprinkle kitty litter over the area. Since I didn’t have any kitty litter I decided to try the shampoo. By this point I was into the second week of the oil spill and getting sick of trying to get stuff out of storage without tracking oil through the house. So I got out my shampoo and proceeded to scrub the floor. After spending about two hours sucking sudsy shampoo out of the carpet I thought I had it taken care of. However, after it dried, you guessed it, oil slick all over again. Apparently the shampoo hadn’t really worked. So I decided to go get some kitty litter.

By this point I had come to the conclusion that if the kitty litter didn’t work, we would be ripping out the carpet and starting over. So I grabbed a 25 pound bag of kitty litter and poured about half of it on my floor. As I looked at the pile on the floor I realized that I was making a huge mess and felt like singing “The Old Lady that Swallowed the Fly”. After about four hours, I could see the oil soaking into the kitty litter, a pretty promising sign at least. So I let it go for a day or two. Since it looked like the kitty litter was working, spent an entire week putting down the kitty litter, vacuuming up the oil soaked stuff, and spreading out clean litter.

Half way through week two of the ordeal, shortly after starting the kitty litter regimen, the case lot sale started at Maceys and Ron and I agreed that we needed to get some things for our food storage. So, Ron went and bought about 200 pounds of wheat, 40 pounds of lentils (a recommendation by an emergency preparedness expert), and four 5 gallon jugs for water. Ron was kind enough to do this so that I wouldn’t have to try and lift all of the heavy stuff in and out of the store. After he got done, I went and bought the canned stuff that we needed to replenish the storage. After being so proud of ourselves for trying to be on top of our storage, we realized that the storage room was in complete disarray and there was no where to put all of this stuff. So for the rest of the week, the kitchen was cluttered with cans of everything from beans to cream of chicken soup. The family room was holding the wheat, lentils, and water jugs (still empty, hoping that the emergency we were preparing for didn’t happen right away.) By that Saturday, I was so glad to finally have some time to try and finish cleaning the storage room so that we could get the house back in order, that I started vacuuming the floor at 6:00 am after Luke had woken up, eaten, and gone back to bed. So, I cleaned up the rest of the kitty litter on the floor, but put down a little more in the places that had been really bad to make sure that it was all soaked up. That afternoon I vacuumed up the rest of it and proceeded to carpet clean, one more time, to get all of the kitty litter out. As I was just about finished cleaning the floor, Ron came in and said that it would have been really great to have taken a picture of the room with the kitty litter all over for the blog then offered to put some out for me. We had a good laugh and then went back to work. I let the carpets dry and we decided to spend Monday night after our family home evening lesson putting everything in storage. So, Monday we ventured into the storage and were so relieved to touch the floor and not feel the slippery oil feeling. We spent the rest of the night putting everything away, but what a relief to be able to see the kitchen floor again. Although I didn’t get any pictures of the room in its various stages of cleaning, I did at least think to take a picture of the oil jug, sitting on a towel in the laundry room to avoid any more possible spills. So, as a word of advice, if any of you ever have a huge spill of vegetable oil, go straight for the kitty litter, it really is the best way to go.


September 27, 2008 - Posted by | Amusing Anecdote, Bren's Posts | , , , ,


  1. Wow. That’s awful. I hadn’t heard about that.

    On a side note, feline urine is fairly oily. I wonder if cat litter is specifically designed to handle that.

    Semi-realated tidbit: “kitty litter” was originally a brand name, and has since been misappropriated in the same way that “band-aid” is now essentially a meaningless trademark.

    Comment by Jeremy | September 27, 2008 | Reply

  2. Oily messes are definitely my LEAST favorite. That’s an absolutely awful story. Kitty litter is incredible – I’m almost positive that at some point in my life I’ll have a five gallon drum leak all over our carpet – honestly – pretty much everything else happens around here.

    Comment by Liz | September 27, 2008 | Reply

  3. What a mess! My dad uses kitty litter to clean up oil leaks in the garage– he changes the oil in most of the family cars himself, so there are occasional drips and spills. Ok, maybe more than occasional. Good to know that it works on vegetable oil. It seems like those bottles leak anyway– my kitchen shelf always has some residue where I store the oil, no matter how well I wipe the bottle off after using it. Maybe it’s a permeable membrane or something like that. . . I never was one for biology.

    Comment by Ve | September 28, 2008 | Reply

  4. Your friends are kind of nerdy. I know nothing about kitty litter. Maybe I am just stupid. Oh well, I am pretty sure there is not a book at the library that I can check out. I’ll just keep reading this blog to see what other trivia comes of it. Kiss Luke- Mel

    Comment by Mel | September 29, 2008 | Reply

  5. Another use for kitty-litter. One weekend we were camping at Crystal with B*P. The park was full. After we were parked and leveled, we noticed that whenever anyone above us, including B&P, our sewer would back up in our site. No place to move, so we ran into town and bought at 25 lb of kitty litter and keept the area near the sewer covered with kitty litter. Did the trick. Kept the campsite dry and non stinky. Pretty inconvenient, but did the trick. Didn’t spoil the weekend.

    love to all

    Comment by Resqmom | September 29, 2008 | Reply

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