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How To Remove Oil Stains From Clothes

There's more than one way to remove oil stains.

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.

One ingredient in my oil stain remover is hydrogen peroxide.

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!

First step to getting out oil stains is to spray the stain with hydrogen peroxide.

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

My best method for getting oil stains out of clothing uses baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and Dawn dish soap.

Here’s what you’ll need to get oil out of clothes:

It helps to put cardboard behind oil stains before working on them so you don't transfer the oil.

Directions:

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!)

After spraying the oil stain with hydrogen peroxide, put a couple of drops of Dawn and some baking soda on the stain.

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.

Scrub the cleaners into the oil stain.

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.

After letting the peroxide, soda, and Dawn work for half an hour to an hour, wash the garment as usual.

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.

To remove set-in oil stains, put a few drops of lemon essential oil on the stain.

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.

Carry a laundry stain stick so you can treat an oil stain right away -- that will make it much easier to remove.

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.

For large areas of oil stains on sheets and clothing, you can remove the oil stains by stripping the laundry.

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?

oil stains

How to Get Oil Stains Out (Step by Step)

Jill Nystul
Today I’ll be showing you how to remove one infamously impossible-to-remove stain: the oil stain. From a pizza stained shirt to jeans splattered with cooking oil stains, many of our cherished clothes have met their untimely demise due to oil stains. But no more!
4.50 from 4 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Active Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Cost $10
Yield 1 clean shirt

Equipment

  • Clean cloth or paper towel
  • Cardboard
  • Old toothbrush or small scrub brush

Ingredients
  

  • 3 drops dawn dish soap
  • 2 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp hydrogen peroxide

Instructions
 

  • 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.
    It helps to put cardboard behind oil stains before working on them so you don't transfer the oil.
  • 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.
    First step to getting out oil stains is to spray the stain with hydrogen peroxide.
  • Add a few drops of dish soap next—two to three drops should be plenty for a small stain!
    After spraying the oil stain with hydrogen peroxide, put a couple of drops of Dawn and some baking soda on the stain.
  • Finally, sprinkle baking soda over the top of the hydrogen peroxide and dish soap.
    oil stains
  • 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.
    Scrub the cleaners into the oil stain.
  • 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.
    After letting the peroxide, soda, and Dawn work for half an hour to an hour, wash the garment as usual.

Notes

Will Hydrogen Peroxide Bleach My Clothes?
I’ve personally used hydrogen peroxide to remove oil stains on fabrics of every color of the rainbow with no issues! However, it’s important to know that hydrogen peroxide can bleach certain types of fabric, but it usually only occurs when the fabric isn’t colorfast.
Colorfastness is the ability of a fabric to maintain its original color without fading or bleeding. To find out if your garment is colorfast, check the label first. Instructions like “wash separately” and “wash with like colors” are often warning signs that the fabric may not be 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. If the item you want to remove oil stains from isn’t colorfast, skip the hydrogen peroxide and treat the stains using just baking soda and dish soap instead.

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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MORE IDEAS FROM

Homekeeping Tips

  • I’ve gotten lots of great stain removal tips from Jillee over the years. I sometimes get calls from my siblings asking if I have any ideas for stains.

  • Pardon me for “saying” this, but I know a much easier way to remove oil, spaghetti and tomato based sauces, possibly you don’t have it there, it’s lemon dish soap! You just drip it on the stain then just cover the whole stain with it by rubbing the dish soap in, and put it in the wash, it works every time!

  • My oily stain go-to is Goo Gone. It even works on stains that’ve been through the dryer. I apply it to the stain then wash. Then I spray it with stain remover and wash again – it sometimes leaves a whitish mark if it’s only washed once. Washing it a second time gets rid of that residue, and some of the Goo Gone scent.

  • Had a favorite blouse with spaghetti sauce stain. Tried everything mentioned here and more. I did get all of the colored stain out but still had an ‘oil mark’. Rather than throw the blouse out I soaked the entire blouse overnight in enough super-cheap olive oil to saturate it completely. Next day hand washed with dawn to remove the oil, rinsed well and tossed in the wash. Blouse looks beautiful. The olive oil blended the rest of the blouse with the oil mark :-)

  • I just had a huge accident with oil. It covered the stomach of a shirt. I did a mixture of dawn, peroxide, and vinegar. Soaked it for a few hours and it was like new.

  • Help! Does anyone know how to remove Pruning Seal from clothing? Thanks for your advice!

    I use Suave clear shampoo to remove most other stains. I use hot water & the shampoo with an old wash rag; I guess it works because of the detergent in it – it removes most stains well.

  • instead of all that work, just use the dawn extra (plain dawn will work too)
    you just put it on, let it sit for a while, then throw it in the wash. it also takes out a lot of
    other types of stains. i’ve used this on my kids clothes when they were growing up,
    my husbands work clothes, kitchen splatters from the stove… just about on everything too.
    like grass stains etc.
    why work hard when you can just put it on , let it rest a bit, throw it in the wash!

  • P.S. Chalk even works on old stains on my husband’s t-shirts (I find them after he’s done the wash). I take them to the laundry room rub the oily stain with the chalk, and toss it back in the hamper. Next time there’s a load, they go through, and stain is gone after the wash. It’s my #1 go-to stain remover for oil stains.

  • CHALK. Buy a package of the big sidewalk chalk from the Dollar Store and keep it in the laundry room. Rub the chalk over the oil/grease spot on your clothes and throw it in the warm wash. I typically hang dry the item to ensure the stain is gone. Rarely do I ever have to use any other stain-removing product. Seriously, this removes 99.9% of all oily stains.

  • I always put loads of talcum on anything oily and leave it overnight to absorb. Next day I dust it off, spray on a degreasing kitchen spray and pop it in the wash. Works every time like a charm. If it happens in a restaurant in Italy most times they actually give you talcum… oh and I’ve asked restaurant staff for flour when talc wasn’t available. Also works well.

    • For old oil stains that have been through the dryer already, I follow above recipe, but instead of washing in cold water I stretch the stained area over a bowl in the sink and pour boiling water through the cloth.pour from a safe height for better pressure. Often you have to do it more than once to get it completely out. But I’ve saved many clothes this way.

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