- Don’t delay. Quickly treating an oil stain is the best way to ensure successful removal.
- Baking soda helps absorb excess oil. Sprinkle it on and blot to dislodge soaked-in grease.
- Skip the dryer until you’ve successfully removed the entirety of the stain. Heat will set in the stain.
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You might think that getting rid of stubborn oil stains is an impossible task. But a few tricks can help you avoid permanently staining grease-marred clothes and fabrics. Read on to learn how to properly tackle oil and grease stains with expert tips from Leanne Stapf, chief operating officer for The Cleaning Authority.
What to know before you clean
Oil-based stains go beyond cooking oil. “Mayonnaise, deodorant, motor oil, and cooking oil are all examples of oil-based stains,” says Stapf, so you can treat them all in the same way.
Depending on the size and severity of the stain, you may need to repeat the removal process. Here are a few things to remember:
- Act quickly. Once you notice an oil stain on your clothes, ideally you want to act immediately. A set-in oil stain is much harder to remove than a fresh one. Plus, grease stains darken as they set, making them even more noticeable (and unsightly) over time.
- Check the garment’s care label. Generally, you should use warm-hot water to treat oil-based stains, but if you’re dealing with a special fabric, double-check for any specific instructions.
- Don’t rub the stain. When removing any excess oil, the key is to blot, not rub, says Stapf. “If you rub the stain before blotting, it could push it further into the fabric and make the stain harder to remove.”
- Pre-treat the stain. Don’t just toss the stained garment in the washing machine. It’s always better to pre-treat an oil-based stain with liquid dish soap or baking soda, which helps loosen the stain first.
- Remove the stain before machine-drying: If the stain is still present, the high heat from the dryer will cause the oil to set. Be sure the stain is completely gone before putting the garment in the dryer.
How to remove oil stains with baking soda
Baking soda is an effective option for removing grease stains because it easily absorbs excess oil.
1. Blot the stain. With a paper towel or absorbent cloth, blot the stain to remove as much oil as possible. Don’t rub. “If you rub the stain before blotting, it could push it further into the fabric and make the stain harder to remove,” explains Stapf.
2. Sprinkle baking soda onto the stain. Press the baking soda into the stain using a clean paper towel or cloth. The baking soda will soak up the oil, drawing it out of the fabric. After blotting the baking soda into the stain, don’t wipe it away.
3. Let the baking soda-covered stain sit. Do this for 30 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the stain. This step helps lift the grease.
4. Afterward, use a toothbrush to rub the baking soda into the stain. You can add more baking soda if you feel there isn’t enough remaining after the blotting process. When you’re done, scrape away the remaining baking soda.
5. Repeat. Repeat this covering and rubbing process until the oil is completely absorbed—you’ll know the oil is fully absorbed when the baking soda stops turning brown. Rub thoroughly but be careful not to damage the fabric.
6. Add dish soap before putting clothing in the washing machine. “With the remaining baking soda on top of the stain spot, add a small amount of dish soap and mix in with your finger,” adds Stapf.
7. Toss in the washer. Select the appropriate cycle based on the label instructions. Stapf recommends tossing the clothing right in the wash because the cleaning agents add stain fighting power. She also suggests using hot water unless otherwise indicated on the care label. This is because hot water helps to loosen up the stain, she adds.
8. Repeat if necessary. “If the stain remains, resort back to the baking soda process,” she adds. Avoid adding grease-stained fabrics to the dryer. The heat will set in the stain and prevent you from removing it completely. While hot water sanitizes and helps activate detergent, says Stapf, heat from the dryer sets stain in further.
How to remove oil stains with dish soap
Stapf recommends the combination baking soda dish soap method but explains that it’s also possible to tackle small oil stains using dish soap alone. “Both baking soda and dish soap are effective in cutting through and lifting grease,” says Stapf. She adds that using them together gives you more cleaning power.
For smaller stains, add a squirt of dish soap to the stain, let the dish soap sit so it can absorb and cut through the grease, then toss the clothing item into the washing machine.
Getting rid of set-in stains
You can tell a grease stain is set-in because it’s dry to the touch and darker than before, says Stapf. Set-in oil stains are a lot tougher to remove than fresh ones. But you can’t always take care of a stain as soon as it lands on your clothing.
It may not be possible to completely get rid of a set-in grease stain—especially if you’ve run the garment through the dryer.
However, you can try the same baking soda and dish soap method when dealing with dried oil stains, says Stapf. Cover the stain with dish soap and baking soda and rub in the concoction with a toothbrush. Then, leave it overnight.
“You can also mix in your favorite stain-remover for an added kick,” she adds.
After treating the stain, run the garment through the hot water cycle. Repeat the process as needed.
Some people love to cook, but nobody enjoys getting their clothes splashed with grease. Quickly treating oil stains with baking soda is the best way to banish them. For tough set-in stains, you’ll need a little more elbow grease and patience, but you can use the same process and supplies.
Make sure to avoid putting oil-stained fabrics in the dryer since this can further set-in stains and make removing them even harder.