How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes - Public Goods Blog

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How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes – Tips & Tricks

Oil stains don’t have to ruin your clothes. Here are a few highly effective tips and tricks for how to remove them painlessly.


Image of a yellow oil stain on a white shirt

Over the years, you’ve likely come head-to-head with a persistent oil stain that threatens to ruin your clothes. Maybe you were cooking without an apron, and a little oil splashed onto your shirt, or you were eating pizza and dropped it across your lap.

Whether it’s a small grease spot or a major spill, removing oil and grease stains from clothes can be a real pain. They’re among the most difficult to remove stains and can be especially tricky if they’ve set into the garment over time.

In this article, we’ll cover tips for how to remove oil stains from clothes the right way. (And, in a way that won’t crucify the environment through the use of harsh chemicals or chlorine bleach.) We’ll start by taking a look at a few tips before getting started.

Tips for Removing Oil Stains

It’s obvious, but we’ll say it anyway to be safe. Always check your tags for care instructions before washing or attempting to spot-treat any oil stains, especially if they’re made of something more delicate such as wool, silk, cashmere, or lace. The last thing you want is to damage your favorite shirt or blouse by simply trying to do the right thing!

Otherwise, if you’re trying one of these methods for the first time or are concerned about the fabric, do a spot test on a hidden part of the garment. It’s also a good idea to act quickly and treat the stain as soon as it happens.

A chart of the best household supplies for fighting oil stains

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Remove Oil Stains From Clothes

When it comes down to removing oil stains from your clothes, you may have more options than you realize! While removing fresh and still-wet stains will be easier than those that have been on the fabric for a long time, don’t fret.

And yes, this is true even if your shirt or hoodie or blouse or blue jeans or whatever it is has already been washed and dried. It just may take a few extra rounds of treatment before getting clean.

We’ve listed below some of the best ways for how to get oil stains out of clothes. Whether your stain is from olive oil, marula seed oil, pizza grease, motor oil, or anything in between, the techniques below offer straightforward, highly successful ways for minimal-stress stain removal.

Baking Soda and Dish Soap

This works pretty simply and can effectively remove oil stains that are brand new as well as those that have been dried or set for a long time. Provided you have the supplies, this is one of the best ways to remove oil stains from your clothes!

If your stain is especially prominent or has been on your garment for a long time, you can repeat this process as needed.

  • Step One – If your oil stain is still wet, blot away excess liquid with a paper towel (our tree-free paper towels work great!). Careful not to rub it around too much and inadvertently spread the stain!
  • Step Two – Lay your garment flat, place an old rag or piece of cardboard under the stain to keep it from bleeding through, and sprinkle pure baking soda over the affected area. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  • Step Three – Lightly agitate the stain with a clean and wet toothbrush, working the baking soda into the fabric. And be extra careful if your garment is more delicate.
  • Step Four – Apply a little liquid dish soap (not dish machine detergent) onto the baking soda and stain. Rub it into the spot with your fingers or the toothbrush until it forms a paste with the baking soda. It should evenly cover the spot. Let it sit for ten minutes.
  • Step Five – Remove the towel or cardboard, rinse off the baking soda and soap.
  • Step Six – Place your beloved and soon-to-be-stain-free garment in the washing machine. Wash as usual with laundry detergent. Use the warmest water indicated as safe for your garment. It can be a good idea to wash your clothing item separately, though this isn’t absolutely necessary. If you do wash it separately, be sure to adjust the water level to low out of courtesy to the planet and your wallet.
  • Step Seven – Air dry! It’s important to avoid putting your clothing item in the dryer; if any of the stain remains, the dryer’s heat can make it harder to remove! Only once the stain is completely out is it a good idea to use the drying machine.

Note that it’s essential to use warm or hot water. Grease and some types of oil (like coconut oil) are solid or semi-solid at room temperature. Successful removal requires a hotter water temperature to completely dissolve and remove the stain, contrary to those that are protein- or tannin-based, like chocolate stains, which require cold water.

If you’re looking for a little extra stain-fighting power, once you’ve rinsed off the baking soda and dish soap mixture (in step five), do the following:

  • Soak your garment in a bucket of warm water mixed with oxygen bleach, following the label’s instructions for precise measurements. Let it sit for one hour. Rinse. Oxygen bleach is a great, more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional chlorine bleach.
  • Proceed to steps six and seven to wash and dry your clothing item that should now be free of that pesky oil stain.

Note that if your garment is made from a delicate fabric, such as wool or silk, you should skip the oxygen bleach unless the tags or the container of bleach indicate it’s okay.

TIP – If the baking soda isn’t working, apply an eco-friendly spot-treatment spray, following the label’s instructions, and then wash as usual. This may help lift those last bits of the oil from the fabric’s fibers! Note that it’s a good idea to do this separately from your baking soda treatment.

Baby Powder

In a hurry to remove a fresh grease stain but don’t have baking soda on hand? Baby powder works as an effective and proven alternative. Just follow the same steps as listed above but substitute the baking soda with baby powder. Any type of baby powder will do the trick, though regular old unscented without any dyes will be the best (and most eco-friendly) choice for your clothes.

Chalk

Another variation on the baby powder and baking soda technique, chalk is highly absorbent when up against grease stains. Just follow the same steps as listed above for baking soda.

Since you’ll have to rub the stick of chalk into the stain (as compared to sprinkling a powder), be careful not to rub too vigorously and the oil deeper into the fabric. This can be a little tricky but is a good option in a pinch. Note that you should use white chalk here, as colored chalk could introduce a new stain into your clothes.

Aloe Vera

The pure aloe vera gel that you use on sunburns can also work for removing grease stains. Simply soak your garment in hot water for around 20 minutes, drizzle aloe vera over the stain, rub the aloe into the stain using your fingers or a toothbrush, rinse with warm water, and hang to dry.

Eco-Friendly Stain Removal

Knowing how to get oil stains out of clothes may not be your next party trick, but it can be extremely handy next time you spill anything greasy on yourself in the kitchen or at dinner. While it’s tempting to go for the bottle of bleach or other harsh chemicals, there are plenty of fairly eco-conscious ways, as listed above, for removing oil stains from your clothes.

For more lifestyle and sustainability tips, check out the Public Goods blog. See you next time!

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