How to Remove Oil Stains from Clothing

Home and Garden

Dealing with oil stains on clothing can be frustrating, but fear not! With the right techniques and a little patience, you can successfully remove oil stains from your favorite garments. Whether it’s cooking oil, motor oil, or any other type of oil, this comprehensive guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of getting rid of those stubborn stains.

1. Act Fast

The key to effectively removing oil stains is to act quickly. The longer the oil sits on the fabric, the more difficult it becomes to remove. As soon as you notice the stain, follow these initial steps:

  • Blot the stain with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove any excess oil.
  • Avoid rubbing the stain, as it may spread the oil and make the stain worse.
  • Do not apply water or any liquid yet, as it can cause the oil to penetrate deeper into the fabric.

2. Pre-Treating the Stain

Before washing the garment, it is crucial to pre-treat the oil stain to loosen the oil from the fabric. Here are some effective pre-treatment methods:

2.1 Dish Soap

Apply a small amount of dish soap directly onto the stain. Gently rub the fabric together to work the soap into the fibers. Leave it on for 10-15 minutes to allow the soap to break down the oil.

2.2 Baking Soda

Create a paste by mixing baking soda with a small amount of water. Apply the paste to the stain and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. Baking soda helps absorb the oil and lift it from the fabric.

2.3 Cornstarch or Talcum Powder

If the stain is fresh, sprinkle cornstarch or talcum powder onto the oil stain. These powders work by absorbing the oil, making it easier to remove. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes before brushing off the powder.

2.4 WD-40

For tougher oil stains, WD-40 can be used as a pre-treatment. Spray a small amount onto the stain and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. WD-40 helps break down the oil and makes it easier to remove during the washing process.

3. Washing the Garment

After pre-treating the oil stain, it’s time to wash the garment. Follow these steps for optimal results:

3.1 Check the Care Label

Before proceeding with washing, always check the care label on the garment for specific instructions. Some fabrics may require special care or professional cleaning.

3.2 Use Hot Water

Hot water helps to break down the oil and remove it from the fabric. Check the care label to ensure the garment can be safely washed in hot water. If hot water is not recommended, use the highest temperature allowed.

3.3 Choose the Right Detergent

Use a detergent specifically designed to tackle tough stains, such as oil. Look for detergents with enzymes or stain-removing ingredients.

3.4 Wash as Normal

Place the garment in the washing machine and wash it as you normally would. Make sure to separate it from other clothing items to prevent the oil from transferring to other fabrics.

4. Spot Treatment for Stubborn Stains

If the oil stain persists after washing, spot treatment can help tackle stubborn stains. Here are some effective methods:

4.1 Vinegar

Mix equal parts vinegar and water and apply the solution directly to the stain. Gently rub the fabric together to work the vinegar into the fibers. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before rinsing with cold water.

4.2 Rubbing Alcohol

Moisten a cloth with rubbing alcohol and gently dab the stain. Be careful not to rub too vigorously, as it may damage the fabric. Rinse with cold water after treating.

4.3 Stain Remover

If all else fails, commercial stain removers can be effective in removing stubborn oil stains. Follow the instructions on the product and apply it directly to the stain. Launder the garment as usual.

5. Drying and Inspecting

Once the stain is removed to your satisfaction, it’s time to dry the garment. Air-drying is recommended to prevent any residual oil from setting in. After drying, inspect the garment to ensure the stain is completely gone. If any traces remain, repeat the previous steps or consider seeking professional help.

6. Tips and Precautions

Here are some additional tips and precautions to keep in mind when dealing with oil stains:

6.1 Test on a Hidden Area

Before applying any pre-treatment or stain remover, test it on a hidden area of the garment to check for any adverse reactions or color fading.

6.2 Avoid Heat

Avoid exposing the oil stain to direct heat, such as ironing or using a dryer, as it can set the stain and make it more difficult to remove.

6.3 Patience is Key

Removing oil stains from clothing may require multiple attempts or different methods. Patience and persistence are crucial for achieving the best results.

6.4 Seek Professional Help

If you’re dealing with a delicate or valuable garment, or if the stain persists despite your efforts, it’s best to consult a professional dry cleaner who specializes in stain removal.


Oil stains on clothing are no match for these effective techniques. By acting quickly, pre-treating the stain, washing with the right techniques, and spot treating if necessary, you can successfully remove oil stains from your favorite garments. Remember to exercise caution, be patient, and always refer to the care label for specific instructions. With a little effort, your clothing will be stain-free and ready to wear once again!

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