If you’ve ever wondered how to remove oil stains from clothing, you’re far from the only one! There’s no one-size-fits-all method for removing stains from clothes, because while treating some stains is as easy as dabbing a bit of laundry detergent onto it before throwing it in the wash, other stains can be much harder to remove.
Like blood stains, grease or oil stains can be among the more stubborn stains you’ll come up against. But the good news is that getting rid of oil stains is actually pretty simple with the right tools and techniques, and that’s what we’ll be covering in this post.
From cooking oil splatters to motor oil drips to ring around the collar, most of us have probably struggled to remove an oil or grease stain from a favorite clothing item. But as you’ll soon learn, hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, and baking soda can help you remove grease and oil from your clothes with easy — even dried oil stains too!
Let’s start by exploring why oil stains are so stubborn, and which stain removers are best suited for the job.
What Makes Grease And Oil Stains So Difficult To Remove?
When you wash your clothes, your laundry detergent and wash water work together to dissolve dirt and grime. But oil and water don’t mix, so tossing an oil-stained shirt in the wash as usual won’t do much at all to remove the oil.
When dealing with oil stains, you need stain fighters that will alter the chemical composition of the stain to make it more water soluble. Hydrogen peroxide is great for that, and it’s why I recommend it for treating grass stains, blood stains, and other organic stains. Dish soap is a great addition as well, because it’s specifically formulated to cut through grease and make it easier to wash away.
While I’ve seen claims elsewhere online that you can use WD-40 to remove oil stains from clothes, I do not recommend it. Not only can WD-40 leave behind stubborn oily stains of its own, but it’s also highly flammable, and not something you want near your dryer!
Will Hydrogen Peroxide Bleach Colored Clothes?
One note about peroxide: I often get asked whether hydrogen peroxide will bleach colored clothing, and I usually respond by saying that I’ve used it on clothes of almost every color of the rainbow without issue. However, hydrogen peroxide can have a bleaching effect on fabrics that aren’t colorfast.
To find out if a garment is colorfast, check the laundry care label — instructions like “wash separately” and “wash with like colors” could indicate that the fabric isn’t totally colorfast. You can also perform a simple colorfastness test by rubbing a damp white cloth on an interior seam or hem. If any color comes off onto the cloth, the fabric is not colorfast.
To remove an oil stain from a clothing item that isn’t colorfast, skip the hydrogen peroxide and just use baking soda and dish soap to treat the stain.
How To Remove Oil Stains And Grease Stains From Clothing
Here’s what you’ll need to get oil out of clothes:
- Clean cloth or paper towel
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Dawn dish soap
- Baking soda
- Old toothbrush or small scrub brush
1. Put Cardboard Behind The Stain And Blot
When treating a grease stain or oil stain, it’s always a good idea to slide a piece of cardboard behind the stain to prevent it from soaking through and spreading the stain. Next, blot the stain with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove as much excess oil as possible — the less oil is left on the fabric, the easier it will be to remove. (And be sure to blot, not wipe or scrub!)
2. Apply Peroxide, Soap, And Baking Soda To The Stain
Next, you’ll apply your stain fighters. Pour enough hydrogen peroxide on the stain to saturate it, then add a couple of drops of dish soap. Sprinkle a bit of baking soda over the top.
Finally, sprinkle baking soda over the top of the hydrogen peroxide and dish soap.
3. Scrub And Wait
Grab an old toothbrush or small scrub brush and use it to work the stain fighters into the fabric — they should form a paste-like mixture. (If it seems too wet or too dry, add a bit more baking soda or hydrogen peroxide.) Let the mixture sit on the stain for about 30 minutes to an hour to give the ingredients time to break down and absorb the oil out of the fabric.
4. Wash, And Repeat If Necessary
Finally, toss the item in your washing machine and launder as usual on a cold (not hot) water setting. (Accidentally setting an oil stain by using hot water is a surprisingly common stain removal mistake!)
After washing, check the stain — if it isn’t completely gone, repeat steps 2-4. (It can be difficult to tell if an oil stain is gone while the item is still wet, so you may want to let it air dry for a while before making any assumptions. Whatever you do, don’t put the item in your dryer until you’re completely satisfied that the stain is gone, as the heat from your dryer could set the stain and make it even more difficult to remove!
But don’t give up hope just yet! There’s a simple trick that can help you remove grease stains that are old, set-in, or dried out.
How To Remove Set-In Oil Stains & Old Oil Stains
One way to make it easier to get old stains out is to revive it with a few drops of lemon essential oil. It might sound crazy, but it really works! Just put some cardboard behind the old stain, saturate it with a few drops of lemon oil, then let it sit for half an hour or so before laundering as usual.
If the stain isn’t completely gone after the first wash, follow the steps outlined in the method above to remove the rest of it.
What If I Can’t Treat A New Oil Stain Right Away?
Dripped pizza grease or salad dressing on your shirt while dining out? Treating the stain on the go can help make the resulting stain a lot easier to remove when you get home. Start by scraping off any solids with a knife or spoon, then use a white napkin or tissue to blot as much of the oil off as possible.
If you have a store-bought or DIY laundry stain stick with you, apply that to so it can start to work on the stain right away. When you get home, follow the stain removal method outlined above.
What About Sweat And Body Oil Stains?
Just like cooking oil and food grease, sweat and body oil on your clothes and sheets can present a challenge as well. Your best bet is to use a laundry stripping technique that involves hot water, laundry detergent, borax, and washing soda. It takes a bit of time and patience, but the results are well worth it!
Do you have a favorite method to get oil stains out of clothes?
How to Get Oil Stains Out (Step by Step)
- Clean cloth or paper towel
- Old toothbrush or small scrub brush
- 3 drops dawn dish soap
- 2 tbsp baking soda
- 2 tbsp hydrogen peroxide
- The first thing you should do when you’re working with an oil stain is to place a piece of cardboard directly behind the stained area. The cardboard will absorb any oil that attempts to soak through and leave grease stains on other areas of your clothes. Once the cardboard layer is in place, blot the oily area with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove any excess oil or grease. Blotting away the excess oil is an easy way to increase your chances of removing the stain completely.
- Next, apply the stain remover products one at a time, starting with the hydrogen peroxide. Gently pour enough hydrogen peroxide onto the stain to saturate it completely.
- Add a few drops of dish soap next—two to three drops should be plenty for a small stain!
- Finally, sprinkle baking soda over the top of the hydrogen peroxide and dish soap.
- Grab your toothbrush or scrub brush and give the stain a good scrub. The baking soda, dish soap, and peroxide should form a paste-like mixture. (If the mixture is too wet or too dry, add a bit more baking soda or hydrogen peroxide respectively.) When you’re finished scrubbing the stain, let the item sit for 30 minutes to an hour to give the ingredients time to dissolve and draw the oil stain out of the fabric.
- Once the wait time is up, toss the item in your washing machine with your usual powder or liquid detergent and select a cold (not hot) water setting. (Hot water could set the stain, so make sure to avoid it!) If the oil still isn’t completely gone after it comes out of the wash, re-apply hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, and baking soda, scrub with toothbrush, and wash again to remove the rest of the stain.