Always take the following precautions when handling, storing and disposing of gasoline.

What are some of the standards and regulations regarding storage of flammable liquids such as gasoline:

Your local and state governments are the first places you should check for standards and regulations on gasoline. There are numerous codes, standards, and regulations that cover storage and handling of gasoline within the United States and Canada. For example, fire codes and regulations restrict the amount of gasoline an individual homeowner can store* (usually no more than 25 gallons), in approved containers of less than five gallons capacity each. The use of tanks or storage of quantities larger than 25 gallons is typically regulated. Most states restrict the amount of gasoline you are allowed to carry in containers in your vehicle.

Fire codes also regulate the amount and type of gasoline storage allowed in other occupancies, including service stations, garages, car dealers, hospitals, and commercial and industrial businesses. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) establishes codes and standards for fire-related safety issues, which can be incorporated into binding regulations. Many of these codes have been adopted by regulation in many communities.

What precautions should be taken when filling a gasoline container?
  • Keep gasoline away from ignition sources like heat, sparks, and flames.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Shut off the vehicle's engine. Disable or turn off any auxiliary sources of ignition such as a camper or trailer heater, cooking units, or pilot lights.
  • Only store gasoline in containers with approved labels as required by federal or state authorities. Never store gasoline in glass or unapproved containers.
  • Portable containers must be placed on the ground, and the nozzle must stay in contact with the container when filling, to prevent buildup and discharge of static electricity. Do not fill a container in or on a vehicle, including in car trunks or truck beds. (Placing the container on the ground minimizes any static electricity buildup that could lead to a spark and cause a fire.)
  • Fill the container at a slow rate. This will decrease the chance of static ignition buildup and minimize incidents of spillage or splattering.
  • Manually control the nozzle valve throughout the filling process.
  • Keep your face away from the nozzle or container opening.
  • Avoid prolonged breathing of gasoline vapors.
  • Never siphon gasoline by mouth. Do not put gasoline in your mouth - gasoline can be harmful or fatal if swallowed. If someone swallows gasoline, do not induce vomiting. Contact a doctor immediately.
  • Keep gasoline away from your eyes and skin, because it may cause irritation.
  • Use gasoline only in open areas that get plenty of fresh air. Never use gasoline to wash your hands.
  • Remove gasoline-soaked clothing immediately.
  • Fill container no more than 95 percent full to allow for expansion.
  • Place cap tightly on the container after filling - do not use containers that do not seal properly.
  • If gasoline spills on the container, make sure that it has evaporated before you place the container in your vehicle.
  • Report spills to the attendant.
  • Use gasoline as a motor fuel only.
When transporting gasoline in a portable container make sure the container is secure from tipping and sliding, and never leave in the direct sunlight or in the trunk of a car.

What is the safest way to store and handle gasoline?

Gasoline must be stored in an approved container or tank. Gasoline containers must also be provided with an approved label as required by federal and state authorities. Storage in anything other than an approved container is strictly prohibited by fire prevention codes.

Gasoline is a flammable liquid and should be stored at room temperature, away from potential heat sources such as the sun, a hot water heater, space heater or a furnace, and away from ignition sources. Gasoline vapors are heavier than air and can travel along the floor to ignition sources. Therefore, appliance pilot lights or igniters should be kept more than 50 feet from where gasoline is stored or handled, and elevated. Other precautionary measures include:
  • Do not smoke where gasoline is handled or stored.
  • Always keep gasoline out of reach from children.
  • For better ventilation, it is best to handle gasoline outdoors.
  • Keep gasoline containers tightly closed and handle them gently to avoid spills.
  • Do not mix even a small amount of gasoline with kerosene or diesel.
  • Do not use gasoline in kerosene heaters or lamps.
  • Store gasoline in a building separate from the house or place of occupancy, such as a shed or garage.
  • Put gasoline in a small engine (like a lawnmower) only when the engine and attachments are cool.
Storage of gasoline requires developing precautions for spill cleanup. Minor spills should be absorbed with sawdust, paper or rags. Larger spills may be contained and collected. Check with your local government or hazardous waste disposal center to determine the proper avenues for disposing of spilled gasoline. Place recovered gasoline and cleanup materials in approved, labeled containers for proper disposal. Never dispose of spilled gasoline or cleaning materials on the ground or into your garbage, drains, toilets or sewers. If you do, it might cause a fire, or seep into streams, bays, lakes or your groundwater.

How long can gasoline be safely stored?

If the container or gas tank will not be used right away, will be exposed to direct sunlight, or will be stored at temperatures above 80° F much of the time, add a fuel stabilizer/additive to the gasoline when you first buy it, prior to storage. Fuel stabilizers contain antioxidants, which prevent gum and other compounds from forming on gasoline; biocides, which prevent microbial growth; and corrosion inhibitors, which prevent the formation of rust and corrosion. Fuel stabilizers/additives are available at auto parts stores.

Many manufacturers of engines put restrictions on the amount of time gasoline should be stored before use in engines. Always refer to the manufacturer's recommendations. Freshness is improved if the container or gas tank is stored in a cool place and is kept almost 95 percent full. However, leave some headroom for gasoline to expand if it warms up in storage. Without an airspace, expansion will force liquid gasoline out of the container or distort the container.

What is the proper way to dispose of gasoline?

Never dispose of gasoline by pouring it onto the ground or into a sewer, street drain, stream or other waterbody, or putting it into the trash. These actions are environmentally harmful and may result in a fire, explosion, or soil, surface or groundwater contamination. Fines and criminal penalties may be associated with improper disposal.

Excess gasoline in good condition can be added to the fuel tank of a gasoline-powered car or truck. See manufacturer's recommendations. (Don't dispose of gasoline/oil mixtures for two-stroke cycle engines this way.) However, it is not easy to dispose of gasoline that has deteriorated. There are organizations that will help dispose of gasoline in an environmentally responsible way. Finding the best option may take some researching. Sources of information are your community's fire department, recycling center, and hazardous waste disposal center. Check the government pages of your phone book to locate these organizations.

Commercial organizations are usually listed in the Yellow Pages under Environmental and Ecological Services and Oils, Waste. You may have to pay for disposal. Therefore, try to purchase only the amount of gasoline that you absolutely need.

Whom should I contact for further information about gasoline?

Contact your local fire department or local government to familiarize yourself with your local fire and building codes regarding storage of gasoline. You may also request a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) covering the potential fire, health and safety hazards of gasoline, from your fuel supplier or service station dealer. If you have further questions, you may want to contact the National Safety Council or the National Fire Protection Association. The National Safety Council is a clearinghouse for information on storage and handling of flammable and/or combustible liquids (including gasoline). The National Fire Protection Association develops codes and standards as well as research and education for fire and related safety issues.