Removing Grease Stains from Clothing

Grease or oil stains can be difficult to remove from clothing. This is a guide about removing grease (oil) stains from clothing.
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December 1, 2013 Flag

Grease stains can be caused by a number of things including motor oil, cooking oils, animal fat, salad dressings, and fried foods. For light stains on washable fabrics, a simple laundry pre-treat is usually all that is needed to remove many stains. On dry-cleanable fabrics (or for heavy stains on washable fabrics), it's often necessary to use a solvent (dry spotter) to break down and remove the oil.

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Three Basic Rules for Grease Stains

1. Act fast for best results. Fresh grease stains can be fairly easy to remove if you act quickly. However, once heated or left to oxidize (which can happen within a matter of hours), the stains will darken in color and become difficult, or even impossible, to remove.

2. Don't treat grease with water. Oils are hydrophobic, they don't break down with water. Grabbing a wet cloth to wipe up a greasy, oily stain will only make the stain bigger and more difficult to remove.

3. Before committing to any cleaning agent or technique, pretest it on an inconspicuous area of the fabric.

Treating Fresh Stains

Step 1: If any solid material remains on the surface of the fabric (e.g. a glob of butter or salad dressing) gently scrape off as much as possible using your fingernail or the edge of a spoon. Work outward from the center using light strokes. Take care not to press too hard or you'll drive the grease deeper into the fabric.

Step 2: Apply an absorbent like cornstarch, baking powder, or talcum powder to the stain and leave it on long enough to absorb as much of the grease as possible. This may take from 30 minutes to a few hours. To remove the absorbent, invert the fabric while holding it over a sink or garbage can and gently shake off the excess. Brush the stain gently with a stiff bristled brush.

Step 3: For washable fabrics, treat with a laundry pre-treat and launder in hot water; air dry. For dry-clean only fabrics, sponge the dry fabric with a dry spotter (dry cleaning solvent) until the stain is gone (see below).

Treating Older Stains (post-oxidation or heat)

Washable fabrics: Treat older grease stains from gravy, soup, mayonnaise, and other oily foods by applying a petroleum-based dish soap to the stain, allowing it to soak in for 30 minutes to 1 hour. After soaking, machine-wash the item in warm water. If the stain remains after washing, don't hot-air dry or iron the fabric. Let it air dry completely and try sponging it with a dry spotter. Tip: Use petroleum-based dish soap only. Plant-based soaps will not work. Also, to avoid discoloring the fabric use clear dish liquid only, nothing colored.

Dry-clean only fabrics: Using a cotton swab or a cloth pad, apply a dry spotter and a few drops of mineral spirits to the fabric, letting it soak in for a few minutes until saturated. Blot with a clean cloth and repeat until the stain is removed. When finished, dab the fabric with cool water and dry flat.

Stain-cleaner Definitions

Dry-cleaning fluid (dry spotter): Dry spotters are effective in removing oily and greasy stains, especially from water-sensitive fabrics. They can be used on virtually any fabric without damage, and will not set stains. (Always perform a pretest just in case.) They are commonly available where laundry detergents are sold or can be purchased from local dry cleaners (K2r and Afta are common examples). Use them sparingly on upholstery and carpet, as these types of solvents tend to deteriorate the foam and stuffing used in upholstery cushions and the latex adhesives used to glue carpeting together. Dry spotters should only be used on dry fabric in a well-ventilated area (preferably outdoors). Never use them on clothing that you haven't taken off yet and keep them out of reach of children!

Laundry Pre-treats (combination solvents): These cleaning agents can help remove a lot of greasy stains just in the course of routine laundering. Pre-treats are applied and allowed to soak into the stain for a few minutes before washing (follow label directions). Common examples of pre-treats include Shout and Spray n Wash. Pre-treats need to be rinsed out or laundered after use, and should not be allowed to dry on the fabric.

Remember, there is no single technique or product that takes care of every stain on every type of fabric. If a fabric isn't washable or is very expensive, the absolute safest thing you can do is take it to a professional cleaner. Show them the stain and tell them (if possible) what caused it and what you have done to try to remove it. Then keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best!

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December 4, 2013 Flag

For removing tar and grease from clothing, I first use some WD-40 and work it into the spot until it starts to break down. Then I use some cream-type hand cleaner (available at an auto-parts store) and rub that into the remaining spot. Then, if needed, I use a small bit of baby shampoo and warm water to remove anything that is left before tossing in the clothes washer. This has always worked with even the hardest roofing tars and auto grease stains. Good Luck!

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February 4, 2010 Flag

To remove a stain from an oil drop on your clothes, cover the stain with flour or baby powder for few hours or even over night. Then brush flour or the powder and the stain is removed. You have to do it immediately while the stain is fresh.

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By Dana from Palo Alto, CA

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April 10, 2008 Flag

All oil based stains can be cleaned by using the waterless hand cleaner you find in the automotive department.

I use it on salad dressing a lot. It is very safe. Any thing that is oil based this works great on. Just rub on the spot and put in the wash as usual.

By Rosemary from Ludlow Falls, OH

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May 2, 2005 Flag

To remove body oil stains from collars and cuffs of colored shirts and blouses, rub hair shampoo directly on the stains. Rinse out the shampoo, then wash the clothes as usual.

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Solutions

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December 8, 2016 Flag

This is a guide about removing Carmex stains from clothing. Carmex can leave any oily looking stain if it accidentally gets on your clothing.

A container of Carmex.

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December 8, 2016 Flag

This is a guide about removing food grease from wool clothing. Proper cleaning of stains on your wool clothing will prevent damage to the garment.

A woman eating a salad in a wool sweater.

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December 7, 2016 Flag

This is a guide about removing transmission fluid from clothes. When working on your car or adding more fluids sometimes you can get stains on your clothing.

A mechanic pouring transmission fluid into a funnel.

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December 6, 2016 Flag

This is a guide about mysterious grease stains on clothing. Sometimes clothes come out of the washer with strange grease or oil-like stains on them that were not there before washing.

A woman looking at a mysterious grease stain on her laundered clothing.

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June 14, 2016 Flag

This is a guide about cleaning food oil stains from t-shirts. Cooking or even eating can sometimes result in food oil stains on your clothing.

person in t-shirt pouring food oil in bowl

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April 12, 2016 Flag

This is a guide about removing grease stains on lace clothing. Lace clothing can be rather delicate, making stain removal a bit chancy.

Woman in white lace shirt gazing down

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

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April 17, 2012 Flag

i bought a pair of lovely royal blue cotton trousers, but something leaked in my bag, it was grease. I washed them straight away, but alas the stain was still there. So this time I massaged Fairy liquid into the area and washed again; now there's a small amount of stain left, but it is noticeable. What can I do now?

By Mandy

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Anonymous Flag
April 19, 20120 found this helpful

I just read somewhere a couple of days ago that someone easily removed a grease stain from already laundered clothing by rubbing in a mixture of dawn dishsoap and the thick paste that mechanics use to remove grease from their hands (sorry, can't remember off hand what the paste is called). A local mechanic or oil and lube change place in your area would probably be happy to donate a teaspoon or two of the paste to you.

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July 18, 2013 Flag

I recently applied flea/tick drops to my dog's back. Not long after, I forgot and snuggled up next to her back. Now I have this oily stain on my tee shirt and can't get it out. Any suggestions?

By Cricket P.

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July 20, 20130 found this helpful

Pears Bar soap works great on just that type of oil..Works really good on polyester material as well. Rub the spot with damped bar & wash as usual.

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June 17, 2005 Flag

Just recently as I was eating a quesadilla, grease spilled out of the end of the piece I was eating and spilled on my shorts. The shorts are 100% cotton. I washed them once and hang dried them and the stains are still there. Any ideas on the best method to remove the stain?

Thanks in advance,

Brandon

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January 14, 20090 found this helpful

Hi Brandon,

We are doing a project on this subject. Tide does NOT work.

Baking soda works on a vegetable oil stain. But, not on a car oil stain. We recommend you to try cornstarch. It's the best solution we tried yet. Good luck with the stain.

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November 24, 2009 Flag

My son has a red Ohio State hoodie and got grease on it from his job. He washed and dried it in hopes that the grease would come out. It didn't come out.

He had asked me to see if I could get it out, I used carbon tec (the chemical the dry cleaners use), after I sprayed it with that, I used a toothbrush on it, then sprayed it with Simple Green scrubbed it again with the toothbrush. I washed and dried it in hopes to getting the stain out.

Is the stain in there forever or is there something else I can use to get the grease out?

By Chris T. from Sagamore Hills, OH

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December 30, 20090 found this helpful

PineSol directly on the spot washed in warm water will get out any grease stain including ball point pen! For a dirty stain, you might have to do a bit of rubbing, but when I get those grease stains on clothing, I just pretreat with Pinesol and then wash. It smells a bit piney, but it gets out the grease better than anything else I've tried.

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June 17, 2010 Flag

I have some really difficult set in stains in some shirts. The stains I believe are grease and dirt. I have tried OxiClean, and other stain removers, but have not been able to get out these stains. I have even washed these shirts in hot water. Can you possibly offer a solution?

By Anthony from Greenville, SC

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June 19, 20100 found this helpful

Try Go Jo hand cleaner. Purchase at Wal-Mart or automotive stores.

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August 19, 2009 Flag

How do I remove set in grease stains?

By sblevins71 from Creston, NC

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August 23, 20090 found this helpful

Thanks to Mary Hunt and her Everyday Cheapstake newsletter, I discovered Soilove. I had shirts with grease stains from cooking that I could no longer wear except around the house. They had been washed and dried numerous times.

I ordered the Soilove on-line from Soaps Gone Buy

and could not believe that these set in stains disappeared after just one treatment!

The web site is soapsgonebuy.com

Hope this helps you as much as it did me.

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May 6, 2016 Flag

I just got black grease from our garage door on my new nylon/down ski jacket.
How do I get it off?
Thanks so much!

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September 7, 2004 Flag

I have grease or oil from a pickup truck on my beige 100% cotton pants. How can I get this stain out on the first try without ruining my pants?

Ann

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September 8, 20040 found this helpful

My husband works in a machine shop and gets very greasy. I add about 1/3 cup of ammonia to the soap and warm water. I wash all my clothes this way. It removes any greasy type stains and leaves all the clothes cleaner. It is also easy to find, and cheap.

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July 1, 2011 Flag

I need a stain remover to take out set in oil and grease stains. Any suggestions?

By Judy S.

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July 1, 20110 found this helpful

What kind of clothing article is this?

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September 13, 2013 Flag

There are, I don't know how many, grease spots on the back and front of my Detroit Tiger jersey which is made of polyester and is white what the Old English D in blue and blue trimming. How can I get the grease spots out?

By Warren

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September 15, 20130 found this helpful

I have had great success using Shout Advanced is the squeeze spray bottle. Spray it, let it sit overnight and then wash it in cold water and see if it takes care of the problem. Do not dry it in a dryer or use hot water until you have removed the stain. Hot anything will set the stain permanently.

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March 31, 2011 Flag

How do I removed grease stains from clothes, all types of material?

By pussycat from Birmingham, England

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April 1, 20110 found this helpful

Dawn dishwashing liquid will remove grease and other stains; just be sure to not use the one with bleach.

The cheapest way is to buy the hand cleaner that mechanics use to clean their hands with. Some of it is called Goop or Go-Jo and there are also cheaper off brands that work; just rub a little into the stain and wash as usual.

If the item is nylon, plain old Crisco or cheaper stuff will remove black auto grease; this is tried and true by me.

Hope one of these works for you.

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September 20, 2010 Flag

How do you remove old grease stains from clothing?

By Sandra from Cyprus

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September 22, 20100 found this helpful

I work at a Seamtress shop and we get allot of grease stains out with ease out. Sold at Fabricville and maybe other material and craft stores. I've seen it get grease out of garments previously sent out to dry cleaners. This may help.

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June 15, 2010 Flag

Is there a good homemade formula for removing chocolate or grease stains from cotton clothing?

By Tracy from Kansas City, MO

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June 20, 20100 found this helpful

Years ago I read a tip about using cheap shampoo to remove ring around the collar. I figured if shampoo would remove that 'grease and grime' it would also remove grease splatters from cooking. It 'does' work for that, and lots of other stuff too. I'm not sure about the chocolate, but it's worth a try.

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June 2, 2012 Flag

How do you remove an oil based stain from a white t shirt?

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Home and Garden Cleaning Clothing StainsApril 20, 2012
Guides
A woman looking at a mysterious grease stain on her laundered clothing.
Mysterious Grease Stains on Clothing
A mechanic pouring transmission fluid into a funnel.
Removing Transmission Fluid from Clothes
A woman eating a salad in a wool sweater.
Removing Food Grease from Wool Clothing
A container of Carmex.
Removing Carmex Stains from Clothing
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