How to Remove Oil Stains from Clothes Easily

No matter what kind of oil or grease stain you’re dealing with—whether it’s from automotive oil, car door grease, cooking oil, butter, or margarine—there’s good news: it’s possible to remove them, although it can be a bit tricky.

The key is to tackle the stain as soon as possible because the longer it stays, the more challenging it becomes to eliminate. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing the stain, as this can push the oil deeper into the fabric, making it even harder to get rid of. Also, make sure the stain is completely gone before tossing the clothing item into the dryer, as the heat can set the stain permanently.


You might already have some household items that can help you effectively remove these oil stains. Here are our top tips for getting rid of them.

How to Remove Fresh Oil Stains from Clothes

Acting quickly is the key to successfully removing oil stains from clothes. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Check the care label on your clothing for any specific instructions, especially for delicate fabrics like silk or cashmere.
  2. Use a butter knife to scrape off any excess grease. Gently blot the stain with a clean, plain paper towel or cloth to absorb as much oil as possible. Avoid using paper towels with printed patterns to prevent color transfer.
  3. Massage liquid dish soap into the stain and let it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly to remove any residue. (Best Dish Soap on Amazon)
  4. Machine wash the garment with a concentrated laundry soap, such as Swash, using the warmest water recommended on the care tag.
  5. Line dry the clothing. Avoid machine drying items with grease or oil stains, as remaining particles could pose a fire hazard if they become too hot. Additionally, heat from the dryer can set the stain into the fabric. Repeat the process if necessary.

How to Remove Old Oil Stains from Clothes

While it’s easier to tackle oil stains when they’re fresh, it’s still possible to remove them from dried clothes. Follow these steps:

  1. Scrape off any remaining oil and apply liquid dish soap to the stain Allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Soak the garment in warm water for about 30 minutes or more. Consider adding a store-bought stain remover or laundry detergent to the water to aid in the stain removal process.
  3. Place the clothing item in the washing machine with laundry detergent, using the warmest water recommended on the care tag.
  4. Line dry the clothing, avoiding the use of a dryer for items with oil stains.

Don’t worry if the stain persists; you can repeat the process until it is completely removed

How to Remove Set-In Oil Stains After Washing

If you’ve tried the previous methods and the oil stain is still stubbornly hanging on, don’t worry—there’s still a chance to salvage your clothing! Follow these steps:

  1. Spray the affected area with a water displacement lubricant like WD-40 to reactivate the stain. Allow it to sit for 15-30 minutes.
  2. Give it another shot with liquid dish soap, trying to treat the stain once more.
  3. Avoid tossing the garment into the washing machine, as water displacement lubricants can be flammable, and residue may linger. Instead, opt for handwashing in the sink with the warmest water recommended for your fabric and a small amount of laundry detergent. (Get on Amazon)
  4. Gently squeeze out the excess water.
  5. Prepare a fresh detergent solution with warm water and repeat the treatment until there’s no lingering grease odor.
  6. Thoroughly rinse the garment in clean water.
  7. Opt for line drying only. Remember, never use a dryer for anything that has ever come into contact with grease or oil, as mentioned earlier.

Additional Tips for Dealing with Oil Stains

Dealing with oil stains, especially on dry clean-only items, can be a bit tricky. If an oily substance like olive oil or sweet potato pie finds its way onto your favorite dry-clean-only shirt or jacket, here’s what you can do:

  • Use a dull knife or the edge of a credit card to lift away solids.
  • Blot as much of the oily liquid as possible with a dry white paper towel, a slice of white bread, or by sprinkling the stain with cornstarch or talcum powder.

For small oil stains, you may try spot treating with a dry cleaning solvent. Note that a stain removal pen won’t be effective against oil stains. Head to the dry cleaner as soon as possible and point out the stain for professional attention.

If the oil stain is older or went through the washer before you noticed it, there’s still hope, especially for cotton fabrics. Follow these steps:

  1. Lay the clothing on a towel, ensuring the stained spot is isolated.
  2. Carefully dab WD-40 using the nozzle attachment or a cotton swab onto the stained area. Use it sparingly, as a little goes a long way.
  3. Sprinkle the area with baking soda, cornstarch, talcum powder, and brush with a soft-bristled brush. Remove clumps until you’re left with a fine powder.
  4. Apply stain remover or heavy-duty laundry detergent on the area, brushing with a soft-bristled brush. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before laundering as usual.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you remove oil stains from clothes after washing?

It is possible to remove oil stains from clothes after washing, but it is more challenging, especially depending on the fabric (cotton is generally easier to work with). It is crucial to try treating the stain as soon as possible and avoid drying the garment until the stain has been successfully removed.

Can baking soda remove oil stains?

Baking soda can be effective in absorbing excess oil. Simply sprinkle it on the stain, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then gently brush it away.

Will dish soap remove oil stains?

While heavy-duty laundry detergent and a dedicated stain treatment are your best options, in a pinch, dish soap can act as a pre-treatment for an oil-based stain.

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