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Bilge Care
Tips for Bilge Care
  • Never use soaps or detergents to clean oil or fuel - it is illegal and increases the pollution problem. See Report Oil and Chemical Spills to learn how to respond to spills.
  • Install an on-board bilge filtration system that filters gas, oil or diesel from bilge water before the automatic pump discharges the water.
  • If you have a large quantity of oil in the bilge, use a bilge pumpout system. Never use the sewage pumpout for the bilge!
  • If the bilge and/or engine compartment still needs significant cleaning after bilge pumpout, use a steam cleaning service.
  • Use oil-only absorbents in the bilge to keep your bilge clean and as a preventative measure in case of engine leaks (see below for instructions).
    Oil-only absorbents
    • Find the product best suited to your needs. Absorbents are sold in many shapes and sizes at marine supply shops. Use flat absorbent sheets for oil drips under the engine and in the bilge, to catch fuel spills at the fuel filler fitting or air vent, while filling a portable tank, and to remove an oily sheen on the water. Bilge socks and pads are designed for use in deeper bilge compartments.
      1. Place an absorbent in the bottom of the bilge and secure it.
      2. Check saturation of the absorbent periodically. 
      3. When saturated, remove absorbent and put it in a leak-proof bag or container. 
      4. Recycle your used oil absorbent.
    • Ask your marina or fuel dock operator if they accept used oil absorbents.
    • If your marina or fuel dock operator does not accept used oil absorbents, visit a local household hazardous waste collection facility.
    • Call (800) 253-2687 for hazardous waste disposal locations near you.
    • Visit Earth911.org for disposal locations.
    • Precautions - Please do not throw saturated oil absorbents in the trash. Oil and fuel are flammable. Keep saturated oil absorbents away from sources of ignition and in a well ventilated area. In California, used oil absorbents are hazardous waste.

 More Information 

Sources: California Coastal Commission and California Department of Boating and Waterway's Boating Clean and Green Program and Earth911.org.

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