How to Get Oil Out of Clothes: Methods and Tips to Remove Stubborn Stains

Peter Chambers

Dec 23, 2023

Washing machines in laundry room

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Knowing how to get oil out of clothes is handy, whether you’re a DIY person or a self-proclaimed home cook. Oil stains can get in the way of enjoying your favorite clothes, but luckily, there are multiple ways to get them out. Here’s what you need to know about removing those stubborn oil stains.

Cooking oil in glass flask

How to Remove Cooking Oil Stains From Clothes

Different cooking oil stains are tough to remove because of their hydrophobic properties. They don’t dissolve in water, so regular washing is not enough to get them out. Here are some steps to get cooking oil stains out from clothes.

What You’ll Need

  1. Dull knife, spoon or any scraping tool
  2. Baking Soda
  3. Vinegar
  4. Old toothbrush
  5. Liquid detergent
  6. Paper towels

1. Remove Excess Oil From Fabrics

Set the garment flat and remove excess oils from the stained area with a dull knife or spoon. Oil splatters from cooking sometimes come with food particles. Get a paper towel and dab on the stained part. Removing the excess oil will make it easier to treat the affected area and prevent the oil from setting in.

2. Apply Cleaning Solution

Apply a generous amount of baking soda to the garment and coat the stain. Let the baking soda absorb the oil for 30 minutes to one hour. This step will help draw the oils out from the fabric. Use a dull knife or spoon to scrape the layer of baking soda away from the stain. Keep repeating this step until it can no longer draw out oil.

Add baking soda to the affected area and leave it overnight for large stains. Scrape off the baking soda using a dull knife or spoon and remove any particles left with an old toothbrush. Use a capful of white vinegar on the stain to agitate it. Brush the stained area again to spread the vinegar. Hopefully, these steps will mostly remove the oil stains from the garment.

3. Pour Detergent on the Fabric

If your clothes still have visible stains, pour laundry detergent on the affected area. Let the soap soak through both sides of the fabric and allow it to sit for five minutes to let the soap work on the oil stain.

4. Wash the Clothes

Check the care instructions on the garment label and wash it as necessary. Just follow the hottest water temperature advised to avoid ruining the garment. Washing the stained clothes in hot soapy water is best to agitate the oil stains.

5. Check Stained Area and Repeat if Necessary

Heated dryers may make stubborn stains more noticeable and difficult to remove. 

Check the affected area after washing. The stain should have lightened or be completely gone, whether small or mild. Repeat the cleaning steps until the stains are gone and air-dry.

Person changing engine oil on a car

How to Remove Stubborn, Old Oil Stains From Clothes

Old oil stains from repeatedly washed and dried fabrics present another layer of difficulty to the equation. However, you can use some everyday household items to return your clothes to their beautiful condition.

What You’ll Need

  1. Piece of cardboard
  2. WD-40
  3. Baking soda
  4. Liquid detergent
  5. Old toothbrush

1. Use WD-40 to Loosen Old Oil Stains

Take a piece of cardboard and place it behind the stained fabric. The cardboard will help protect unaffected areas and prevent the WD-40 from seeping through. Spray the WD-40 on large affected areas or use a cotton ball to dab the stain with the solvent. The ingredients in the WD-40 help loosen oils and stubborn stains in the fabric.

2. Add Baking Soda to Affected Area

Add baking soda to the affected area while it’s still damp with WD-40. The baking soda will help draw the excess oils and solvents from the fabric. Use circular motions with the old toothbrush to agitate the baking soda into the stain. Remove the baking soda as it clumps up. Keep adding baking soda until it’s clean and clump-free.

3. Apply Liquid Detergent

Add liquid detergent to the affected area after removing the leftover baking soda and WD-40 particles. Let the liquid detergent penetrate the fabric.

4. Wash as Needed

Throw the garment in the washer for a complete cycle and use warm or hot water to help dissolve the detergent and the oil stain. The hot temperature will work wonders on the affected fabric.

5. Check Stained Area and Repeat if Necessary

Remove the washed garment from the washer and check the stained area. Repeat the above steps if there are visible stains. Air-dry the washed fabric instead of putting it in the dryer to avoid any remaining oils from setting.

Clothes hanging on a rack

More Tips on How to Get Oil Out of Clothes

Oil stains can be bothersome and a sore sight for many homeowners. Here are some quick tips on how to get oil out of clothes at home.

  • Sprinkle cornstarch or baby powder on non-washable items and fabrics like shoes, wool, or velvet clothing. The powdery substance will help absorb oil stains and prevent them from setting in the materials.
  • Inspect stained areas before putting the clothes in the dryer. A tumble dryer’s high heat can make cleaning oil stains challenging and risky.
  • Like paint stains on clothes, oil stains are easier to remove when wet. Time is your friend when dealing with stubborn stains. Get them out before they dry.
  • Run oil-stained areas under hot water after treating them with solutions or soap instead of soaking the whole garment. The hotter temperature helps loosen the oils and interact with detergents better.
  • Consult a professional when in doubt about garment care or if other methods fail to work. Go to a trusted dry cleaner and point out the oil stain to help them address the issue correctly.
  • Choose dish soap with a grease-cutting formula rather than milder liquids advertised as gentle on your hands. The more potent formulation is more effective at removing stubborn stains quickly.

Fabric Care is Self-Care

Homeowners, home cooks and DIY enthusiasts have their favorite clothes to relax, cook and work in. Caring for these garments is essential in keeping them clean and fresh for prolonged use and enjoyment. Knowing how to get oil out of clothes is a skill every homeowner should have. Oil stains may be challenging, but getting them out is possible. All it takes is a little effort and fabric care know-how to bring clothes back to their original condition.


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