Oil stains are some of the worst stains to deal with, and they are notoriously difficult to get rid of. Oil naturally does not mix with water and many of the usual laundry detergents and cleaning agents. Depending on how heavy the oil is and how long the stain has been there, even the more advanced methods can take some work. And if you aren't paying attention, you might not even notice an oil stain is there until it is too late. Whether it’s from cooking oil, olive oil or something else, your best bet is to deal with it as quickly as possible to prevent irreversible damage.
However, there is hope. There are ways to get stains out of practically anything — even nasty oil stains. All it takes is the right products and tools, the right strategy and some patience.
Note that here we are mostly talking about cooking oil and some types of grease. While motor oil and other oils are awful stains in their own right, in general, we recommend you just use throwaway clothes when working on your car. Sure, you might be able to get those stains out, but the effort required is probably not worth it. However, there's much more hope of success with cooking oil, and there's a greater chance that you need to get it out of something you love.
Before we go any further, please note that these DIY methods of removing oily stains are not 100 percent guaranteed. If you have an oil stain on a much-loved or valuable piece of clothing, we recommend consulting with a dry cleaner or another laundry professional.
Without further wait, here are some of the main strategies you can use to get oil stains out of your clothes. Keep reading to learn more and discover helpful step-by-step instructions.
1. Using Baking Soda to Remove Oil Stains and Grease Stains
Baking soda has a near-endless list of cleaning uses, and helping to get rid of nasty oil stains is one of them. Even alone, baking soda will often absorb or take out the oil or grease from clothes. Here's how to use it properly:
- Lay the garment flat on a piece of cardboard (to protect your work area) and then try to remove as much excess oil as possible with a cloth, paper towel, etc. Blot gently to avoid pushing the stain further into the fabric and making it even more difficult to remove.
- Place some baking soda on the stained area. Be more generous than conservative with it, getting a good layer on there. Baking soda won’t harm your clothing, so feel free to use as much as you’d like.
- Give it some time. Twenty-four hours is preferred, but wait at least several hours for some effect. Try to make sure it isn't disturbed.
- Check to see if there is progress. While the stain might go away with just the baking soda, you might also need to use a hot water and white vinegar solution on the area.
- Lightly scrub the affected area with a toothbrush or paper towel, and then rinse it out with the warmest water you can stand.
- Repeat the above as needed or until you feel you need to try a different method. If this oil stain removal method appears to work, launder the garment using your regular liquid laundry detergent and let air dry. Don’t put it in the dryer until you’re positive the stain is gone.
2. Using Baking Soda and Dish Soap as a Stain Remover
A common cleaning method for getting rid of grease involves using dish soap. Since it’s made to remove food and oil from dishes, liquid dish detergent also does a pretty good job of removing stains from clothing. While this method works well, we think going the extra step and using both dish soap and baking soda when needed is best. Using both dish soap and baking soda is far more likely to work on those tougher stains that give you nightmares. Here's how to do it:
- Blot out or dab the stain as much as you can using a paper towel or clean cloth. Make sure not to rub the stain in deeper or spread it.
- Lay out the article or fabric on a flat surface, ideally with the stain centered.
- Put a few drops of dish soap (or more for those larger stains) on the stained area. Brush in the dish soap with something like a soft scrub brush, toothbrush or even your hands.
- Also, put on a bit of baking soda and brush or scrub that in as well. Be sure not to be too abrasive with it so that you don't damage the clothing.
- Wait for the mixture to work for at least an hour. If you have the time, you might want to wait longer.
- Rinse the area with hot water (if the fabric allows.) Then, soak the area for at least an hour, if not longer.
- Check to see if the stain is gone. If it is entirely or mainly gone, launder the clothing and then air dry it. If not, repeat the above steps.
Pro Tip: Use Dish Soap and Cornstarch Instead of Baking Soda
If you don’t have any baking soda on hand, don’t despair! You can use cornstarch, too. Follow the steps listed above, replacing the baking soda with cornstarch. Both are absorbent and can be highly effective in soaking up oil stains. When finished, launder in your washing machine according to the garment’s care label.
3. Using Chalk the Same Way You’d Use Baking Soda
While it might not be the first thing you think of, and you might not have any on hand, chalk actually does a great job of helping to get oil and grease stains out of clothing, generally by working like baking soda. It might not work on the toughest stains, but it can be a quick fix for a tiny spill or a few drops — especially if you already have some chalk on hand. Here's how to use it:
- Carefully remove any excess oil using paper towels or an absorbent cloth.
- Rub the chalk or sprinkle chalk dust onto the affected area. Be liberal in its usage, as the chalk is extremely unlikely to cause any damage. We recommend using white chalk as opposed to colored chalk because there is a slight chance the colored variety could cause stains
- Wait for a few hours while the chalk works its magic. The longer you can wait, the more effective it will be. The chalk needs time to absorb the oil.
- Brush off the chalk and examine the area. If you don't see much progress, apply more.
- Wash the piece of clothing as you usually would. Then, air dry and check the stain once again.
- If this isn't working, then you might need to try another method.
4. Pre-Treating with Aloe Vera Gel
You can also use the already incredibly useful aloe vera gel to help remove oil stains from your clothing. It can be highly effective on grease and cooking oil stains. You are going to want to get some warm water and do the following:
- Soak the garment in warm, hot or cold water. The temperature depends on what you are trying to remove the stain from. Check the care label to determine how hot the water can be without damaging the garment.
- Apply aloe vera gel and scrub the afflicted area, using a circular motion if possible. Use some elbow grease to really work the aloe into the stain.
- Wait for at least 15 minutes for the aloe vera gel to set in.
- Rewash the garment in hot or cold water, depending on the washing instructions.
- We recommend you don't use a dryer for this method and air dry if at all possible. If you put your favorite shirt in the dryer only to realize afterward that the stain is still there, it may be impossible to remove because heat sets stains.
- Check to see if the stain persists and then evaluate to see if you need to perform another round of treatment.
General Cleaning Tips and Notes
- While these certainly aren't the worst or most abrasive products you can use on a stain (you aren't working with paint thinner, thankfully), some people might want to wear gloves through the process. It doesn't hurt to protect your skin!
- There might be other methods not listed above, but we picked out the ways that provide the least risk and the most potential payoff. We wanted to avoid bleach and stronger products for the moment, as they cannot be universally used.
- Oil and grease can make things more flammable and dangerous in the wrong environment. Take care when dealing with the stains. While keeping the clothes away from heat sources is obvious, try to make sure you don't accidentally put the clothing too close to a heat source.
- The type of cooking oil can matter, though as a general rule, the above methods should work regardless — except for in the most extreme cases. Focus more on the extent of the stain and how deep you think it soaked in.
- As mentioned, the above treatments might take a while or require a few trips through the washer to truly get the stain out. Take your time and be patient with the process. Try different methods if one isn't working.
- Don't mix your oil-stained clothes with any others. That is just a recipe for disaster, and you will only create more work for yourself. If you can’t wash it immediately, place your oil-stained garment in a separate laundry bag.
- Finally, and unfortunately, sometimes there is nothing you can do. Some fabrics might take to the oil stain too well, and it might have been there for too long. No matter what methods you try, there might not be a way of removing an especially stubborn stain without damaging the clothing itself. At this point, you might need to accept the loss or consider contacting a professional cleaner if you think it's worth the time and effort.
Whether your clothes have a tiny splatter of oil on them or your favorite piece of clothing is drenched in a cooking oil or salad dressing spill, there is still hope for your clothes. Use the above options and use your best judgment and you will have your clothes looking good as new. It might be a bit of work, but we promise it will be worth it. We hope that you will be able to get rid of the stain without too many problems — and may you get back into your best outfit as soon as possible.