Tips needed: Best practices for cleaning engine area and proper crud disposal

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Jan 21, 2016
Statesville, NC
Hi Friends,

Due to an oil leak, I'm in the middle of replacing a distr o-ring, dist cap, rotor, etc., and the area around the distributor is just caked with crud. I'd like to clean things up before I reassemble everything, but being new to DIY, wanted to ask you all for best practices for cleaning the engine area in general.

I'd like to be sensitive to the environment, and I've heard you're not supposed to take your vehicle to the local car wash/pressure-washer place to do this kind of cleaning, but not sure. But I also don't want to mess up my driveway with dark patches, or have harmful chemicals run-off into my trees, plants, etc.

Which environmentally friendly cleaners/degreasers have you had success with? I've seen some threads recommending anything from Dawn to Simple Green Engine Degreaser. For protecting my driveway, should I just put a tarp down under my vehicle, and then spray everything away when done? Lastly, when cleaning parts in a tub, even with environmentally friendly cleaning agents, how do you all dispose of the waste water? What are your best practices?

Thanks everyone!
I've not found an environmentally friendly cleaner other than Purple Power that works well.

Oven cleaner on a hot engine then spray off (while still hot) is definitely the best way to clean your engine, but it's not environmentally friendly.

My county has a chemical collection tank. I bring my chemicals there to dump.
I forgot about steam cleaning! @ontherxs and I did a steam clean of his 2H before installation and it worked really well with a couple of brushes (varying sizes) as well as purple power. Takes a long time but works well.
If you pull parts off and want to clean them, come by and use my parts washer. I use kerosene in it and it works great. I have used the same kerosene for years. The pump has a filter so I just keep re-using the same kero over and over. As for cleaning parts on the truck, I typically use Simple Green and a pressure washer. When I'm done I pressure wash the driveway. The crud gets diluted by the water during the process so that by the time it hits my grass it doesn't hurt least it hasn't so far.

I did do a muriatic acid radiator flush one time and that stuff killed a spot of grass where I washed it off the driveway. I didn't worry too much about it though. MA is a common brick cleaner so, while it may burn plants if it is concentrated, it seems to be pretty benign once it gets diluted enough or once it dries.
Pretty much the same process as @roadstr6 I make it a habit to clean as much as I possibly can prior to taking it apart. Just makes life a whole lot easier when you are not fighting nasty parts the whole time. My pressure washer has earned it's keep. take a look under the hood of Heather's 80, all you see is dirt from the last trip and anything that is currently leaking, makes finding those leaks easier.

Baking Soda will neutralize the muriatic acid

cut & paste
Simple Green is a brand of cleaning products produced by Sunshine Makers, Inc. Their best known product is Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner, which in 2004 totaled sales of at least $5.7 million USD. It is advertised as an environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and biodegradable cleaner.
I always found the best solution is park in my neighbor's driveway when they are out, use Simple Green and water. Removes all the oil and grease and my driveway is clean.

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