How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes

So, you got cozy last night with a greasy hamburger or maybe it was the juicy chicken sandwich you chowed down at lunch that did you dirty. It doesn’t really matter: The point is that there’s blatant evidence of your debauchery, and it’s on your favorite blouse. First, remember that ugly grease stains happen to all of us. Then, take comfort in knowing that your prized piece of apparel is not, in fact, destined for the rag pile. We did a little research on how to get oil stains out of clothes, and it turns out there’s more than one way to save your garment (and your dignity).

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How To Get Oil Stains Out With Dishwashing Detergent

According to the laundering experts at Clorox, all you need is a little dish soap to effectively banish an unsightly oil stain, which makes a lot of sense considering the stuff does a bang up job of degreasing your dinnerware. Best of all, this method is safe for regular cotton tees and form-fitting, spandex-blend basics alike. Here’s what you do:

1. Pretreat

To pretreat an oil stain with dish soap you’re going to want to start off with a dry garment, so resist the urge to start frantically scrubbing at the stain with a wet paper towel: At this stage, water will do more harm than good. Instead, apply a couple of drops of dish washing liquid directly to the stained area of the fabric. Seriously, though, a couple of drops—if you overdo it, you’ll just end up with suds for days (or multiple washings).

2. Let it sit

Before you proceed to the next step, give the dish soap some time—a minimum of five minutes—to work its magic. You can also help move things along by gently rubbing the detergent into the stain so it can better penetrate (and break up) those pesky grease molecules.

3. Rinse

We hinted at this earlier, but just to be clear, even a little bit of dish soap can make a lot of bubbles—so after you’ve given the treatment a little time to do its job, it’s a good idea to rinse away the dish detergent residue with warm water.

4. Launder

Now you’re ready to wash your garment as you regularly would. Follow the care instructions on the tag but keep in mind that the hotter the water, the better. Note: You should also feel free to throw in an additional stain-removing product along with your favorite detergent.

5. Air dry

Oil spots are basically impossible to see on a wet garment, so you won’t know if you’ve been successful until your clothing has dried. However, although hot water is a good thing when it comes to removing oil stains, the same cannot be said of hot air—the latter can actually set a stain. As such, it’s a good idea to air dry the article instead of tossing it in the dryer. Hopefully your garment will be good as new—but if you missed a spot at the pretreatment stage, simply repeat the process for improved results.

How To Get Oil Stains Out With Baking Soda

Let’s say that the garment you got all greasy wasn’t an ordinary T-shirt, but one of your special occasion items. Hope is not lost, even if you soiled something fancy (think, wool or silk). The folks in the know at Persil recommend baking soda for busting oil stains on delicate garments. Yep, the same powder that can clean your shower works wonders nixing oil stains, too. This method takes a bit more patience than the dish soap approach, but it’s just as effective and far safer for delicate items. (Note: We’ll be referring to baking soda, but baby powder and cornstarch are suitable alternatives since all three powdery products will do the same work of absorbing and lifting oil from fabric.)

1. Apply the powder

Lay the garment flat so that ugly oil stain is staring you straight in the eye. Now, pour a pile of baking soda right on top of it. (In this instance, it’s OK, though not necessary, to overdo it.)

2. Wait

Let the baking soda sit on the stained clothing overnight—or for 24 hours to be safe—before you shake off the mound of powder. Keep in mind that you are only removing the excess at this stage, so there’s no need to rinse away any of the baking soda that is still clinging to the fabric once you’ve shaken it out.

3. Launder

Wash the garment in accordance with the care instructions—and be sure to use an appropriate detergent (i.e., something gentle and mild). If the article is dry clean only and you’ve never tempted fate by hand washing before, you can bring the powdery piece straight to the dry cleaners as is—just be sure to point out the problem area in case there are any tricks like they to use on their end.

How To Get Oil Stains Out With Dry Shampoo

Good news: Your beauty product habit might pay off in more ways than one. Truth be told, we haven’t tried this hack ourselves, but there’s some buzz on the internet about using dry shampoo to get rid of oil stains on clothes and the results look impressive. Plus, since dry shampoo is basically just an aerosolized oil-absorbing powder (see above), it stands to reason that this method, courtesy of The Pool, would work. Here’s how the process breaks down:

1. Treat

Spray the (dry) stain with a generous amount of dry shampoo. You will want to use enough of the stuff to see a powdery build-up on the fabric.

2. Wait

Leave the dry shampoo on the stain for several hours.

3. Scrape and treat again

Using a metal spoon, gently scrape away the excess powder from the fabric. Then, apply several drops of dish washing liquid to a soft toothbrush and gently scrub the stain, such that you work the soap into the fabric without damaging the fibers.

4. Launder

Wash the garment as you normally would, and it should be restored to its former glory—just keep in mind that air-drying is still the safest option in case you need to have another go at the stain.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...