What do I do about my fuel soaked fuse and balsa?

Sixstringz asked this question:

I just discovered that I have a ruptured fuel tank that has drained several ounces of fuel into the fuse of my airplane and has probably been soaking there for at least a week. This is a tail dragger and the fuels has had opportunity to saturate the entire length of the airplane all the way to the tail where I can never get to unless I start cutting into Monokote.
    I would appreciate any suggestions for removing as much of the oil as possible without tearing apart the airplane, or is that the only thing I can do to?
    The best sounding suggestion I have so far is to mix talcum with alcohol and pour that inside letting it work it's way back to the fuel exposed area... Will this work or create a worse mess?

BTW: I live in California so K2R is not an option (it is banned here from what I understand).


John Murphy brings us one of the most popular answers...that doesn't work for us environmental wackos here in California, because it's not available...
There is an aerosol carpet spot removing product called K2R which you can usually find in grocery stores or department stores. Just spray it on and let it dry to a white powder. It is an excellent product for drawing fuel out of balsa wood. It may require a few coats to draw all of the fuel out. The bad new is you may still have to remove the covering to get to the soaked area. This product was recommended to me and I can personally vouch that it work great.

Herbert M Winston:
Maybe John didn't scroll down to your BTW, but before you pour in a talcum/solvent mix, you might want to try pouring in the ground clay type of ordinary cat litter, or Dri-Sorb used in auto repair shops for oil spills. Let it lay in there for a few days, pour out, re-fill again. Then, if still oil soaked too much, try mixing Fuller's Earth or Diamataceous Earth w/a solvent for the rest of the cleanup job.

Scott Buckner: 
I read about just this thing earlier today on someone's Website. IMO, you'll most likely have to strip off the covering to get all the fuel-soaked mess out. In other words, if you used an alcohol/talcum mixture, how else would you expect to get the caked-up talcum out, or even check whether all the soaked-in fuel has been removed? Yup, ya gotta cut and there's no way around it, it would seem to me. But the again, that's just me.
    Here's the method I saw today, remembering it off the top of my head: Douse the whole fuel-soaked areas with plaster of Paris powder (just straight powder, no mixig with any liquid whatsoever) and let it sit for 1-2 days. Then remove the caked-up crud. You'll usually just have to sand those areas very lightly to get the new covering to stick. If it doesn't, you'll have to put a light application of acetone (I'm almost 100% positive it was acetone) on the areas where the new covering doesn't stick.


Bill Archibald:

Bad News, Six.
upon stripping my Extra's forward fuse top, I found areas where the cowl had rubbed tiny holes in the covering and the 1/32 ply had gotten fuel soaked.
    In different spots/areas, I mixed baby powder (both regular and cornstarch) with alcohol, I mixed it with Acetone, I sprinkled it on dry. I let it all sit for two days. I repeated and let soak for a week. Yes, much of the fuel was absorbed by the mixtures, but there was plenty of residue to prevent good solid adhesion by the covering. Maybe balsa will give up the fuel better that aircraft ply. I'm going to try the Plaster of Paris approach, but have very little faith. 
    BTW, when I tried K2R a few years ago on the same situation as yours, repeated coats never got ALL of the fuel out of the wood. So don't fret not being able to get it in SoCal.
    I'm beginning to think it is truly impossible to rid wood completely of fuel.


You could try either kitty litter or oil-dry (from auto parts house). Just put enough to fill about 1/2 inch deep the length of the fuse, and let it sit for a few days. Then, dump it out and check progress. If needed, do it again.  Might also help to heat bottom of fuse with heat gun while the stuff is in there. Good Luck!!


Doug soarmax: 

Hey 0, I had the same thing happen to my Uproar. I think it had been leaking for several weeks from the screw on cap (GP type tank) before I noticed fuel dripping from the bottom hatch after a first flight. You what I did? Not much. I just pulled the tank out and tightened the cap, pulled the battery and r'cer out, took the foam rubber off, and squeezed out as much fuel as as I could, blotted everything I could find with paper towels, put everything back in the way it was before, and flew, flew, and flew some more. The ultimate range check. I was two hundred and fifty miles from home at the time and I didn't feel like being someone else's pit crew. Model fuel is mostly alcohol and nitro and that's going to be gone in the couple of days, the oil in a few weeks on its own. Not to worry. -Doug


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