Diesel in the Air

Spilled diesel fuel leaves an unpleasant odor that can nauseate some people, especially if they have to be down below in heavy weather. It’s tough to get rid of the odor once it takes hold. When the diesel in the fuel tank aboard Freelance, my Pearson 36 cutter, became contaminated, my fuel filters clogged and disabled the engine. I changed the primary and secondary filters and bled the fuel line, but the stench coming from spilled fuel was awful. I tried oil-absorbing rags, bilge cleaner, and whatever else I could find on board, but the smell remained.

Then a retired diesel mechanic stopped by the boat and, without missing a beat, told me to get some liquid Calgon fabric softener. It was, he said, one of the tricks of his trade. I followed his advice, and when I wiped down the affected areas, the fumes disappeared and the boat was once again livable. A few months later a local charter company called me about a diesel spill on one of the boats they manage. I recommended Calgon and even gave my bottle to them to use. It worked perfectly again, and the boat’s owners were thrilled. One good turn always leads to another. Niels R. Jensen

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