How To Get Oil Stains Out Of Clothes

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As someone who grew up in a big Italian family, thin, golden-fried chicken cutlets are pretty much a staple in my diet. My grandmother made them for me as a kid. My mother made them for me as a teenager (the best remedy for my teen angst). And now I make them for me and my husband.

But if I didn’t love eating chicken cutlets as much as I do, I would never make them again.


The inevitable grease splatter.

I can’t tell you how many shirts and dresses I’ve nearly ruined flipping breaded chicken in vegetable oil in a frying pan. And I say nearly because luckily, there are lots of ways to get oil stains out of your clothing.

From cooking oil to motor oil to salad dressing, here’s how to get oil and grease stains out of clothes.

Treat Oil Stains as Soon as Possible

Dirty sauce stain on fabric from accident in daily life.

Set-in stains are much harder to remove than fresh ones, so do your best to remove oil stains as soon as they happen. The fresher the stain, the more methods you can use to remove them. The longer they sit, the more the oil will seep into the fabric fibers and cause discoloration. And for delicate fabrics, this can cause irreparable damage.

It’s also important to treat and remove oily stains before you throw your clothes in the washer and dryer. Hot water and the high heat from your dryer will only bake the stain into your clothing even more and make it that much more difficult to remove.

When it is time to launder your clothing, be sure to read the washing instructions on your care label. Stain-treated or not, you should always wash items in the water temperature specified on the care label.

Keep in mind that oil stains can spread with ease. So no matter which of the following methods you try, it’s always best to put a piece of cardboard or an old towel behind the stain to prevent it from transferring onto the other side of the garment. Failure to do so can result in two stains – one in the front and one in the back.  

Ready to learn how to get olive oil, salad dressing, butter, and cooking oil stains out of your clothes? With the exception of clothes that require a dry cleaner, here are some DIY hacks that you can use to remove oil stains with everyday household items that you probably already have in your pantry.

Related: The 7 Best Clothing Subscription Boxes [For Men And Women]

Baking Soda and Liquid Dish Soap

With baking soda and dish detergent, removing oil stains is way easier than you may think.

First, use paper towels or napkins to blot out any excess oil. Next, lay the garment on a flat surface and hit it with a few drops of dish soap. Grab an old toothbrush and gently rub the soap into the stained area. 

Next, sprinkle baking soda onto the dish soap and let it sit for about an hour. Then rinse off the baking soda and soap with hot water. Once the baking soda and soap are gone, dip the garment back in hot water and let it sit out for another hour or so. At this point, you can let it air dry or throw it in the washing machine and wash and dry it as you normally would.  

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Even if you never cook with baking soda or vinegar, these two staples deserve a spot in your pantry.


Because they’re both excellent cleaning agents that you can use to clean everything from your coffee pot to your kitchen drains to your windows.

To use the baking soda and vinegar method to remove stains, start by removing excess oil with a paper towel and sprinkling baking soda over the stain. Let it sit for 24 hours.

After 24 hours have passed, use an old toothbrush to brush off the excess baking soda. Then spray a mixture of one part vinegar and four parts water onto the stain. Scrub it off with a toothbrush and rinse it with water.

Don’t have any baking soda on hand? Baby powder is a great alternative that works in a similar manner. 


Chalk sticks work in much the same way as baking soda. To remove a stain with chalk, just remove the excess oil with a paper towel, rub the chalk directly onto the oil spot, and let it sit for a few minutes. With this method, it’s best to throw the item in the washing machine immediately. 

Just be sure to use white chalk, not the blue or green or pink chalk sticks that your kids use to color on the sidewalk. Colored chalk can seep into the fabric and easily stain clothing, especially if the garment you’re trying to clean is white or light in color.


It may seem odd that an oil-based product can help to remove oil, but it’s true. That greasy WD-40 that we use to lubricate squeaky doors is great at removing set-in oil stains.

Though not recommended for use on delicate fabrics, WD-40 is an emulsifier that has the ability to lift oil out of fabrics. It’s perfect for using on dried butter stains that you didn’t even know were there (like those little greasy dots from that piece of popcorn you dropped in your lap at the movies last weekend).

Apply a few spritzes of WD-40 to the affected area and let it sit for a few minutes. Wash and launder the garment immediately, otherwise, the oil from the WD-40 can create a stain of its own.

Enzyme-Based Laundry Detergent

Most liquid laundry detergents don’t fight oil stains all that well. But enzyme-based laundry detergents do.

With a liquid detergent such as the enzyme-based Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent, you can remove all sorts of oil stains from your clothes.

Start by blotting excess oil off the garment. Put paper towels or clean cloth rags on the front and back of the stain and press into the stain from both sides.

Next, pre-treat the stain by soaking it in dish soap. Let the soap soak in for a few seconds, then use your fingers (or a soft toothbrush) to rub the soap in. Once you’ve rubbed in the soap, let the garment sit for a few more minutes before tossing it into the washing machine.

On pre-treated grease stains, enzyme-based laundry detergents are incredibly effective. The hotter the water, the easier it will be to get the stain out – just be sure to check the garment’s care label. If it’s safe for use in hot water, go hot. If the fabric needs to be washed in cold water, wash in cold.

Washing in the wrong water temperature can ruin delicate fabrics. 

Related: How To Create Homemade Laundry Detergent [Is It Worth It?] 

Aloe Vera Gel

If your garment can withstand hot water, you can remove nasty grease and oil stains with aloe vera gel.

Here’s how to do it:

Submerge your clothing in hot water. Break open an aloe vera leaf, scoop out the gel from the inside, and rub the gel into the stain in small circles. Then, wash your clothing in warm water (as long as the care label says it’s okay to do so).

Avoid the dryer and let your clothing air dry or line dry for the best results.

If you don’t already have one, add an aloe plant to your kitchen windowsill or patio. Aloe vera gel is an excellent natural remedy for burns, an antioxidant that can heal wounds, and a natural skin care product that can prevent and improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles.


With a little bit of cornstarch and a damp sponge, you can remove grease from all sorts of fabrics.

Start by sprinkling some cornstarch directly onto the stain. Let it set in for about 15 minutes, then brush it off with a damp sponge or a clean rag. Follow the washing directions on the care label, and either hand wash the item in a sink basin or toss it in the washing machine.

This isn’t the best method for tough stains or set-in stains, but it works well to prevent fresh, wet oil from settling into the fibers of your clothing.

Stain Removers

It’s always best to tackle a fresh stain the moment it happens – but that’s not always possible. Sometimes we don’t even realize we have an oil stain until we’re about to throw our clothes into the washing machine.

There are lots of products on the market that you can use to pretreat stains before you wash clothes. Here are some of our favorites: 

Wash and Stain Bar by The Laundress

Wash and Stain bar by the Laundress

The Wash and Stain Bar by The Laundress looks like a regular bar of soap, but it’s much more powerful.

Wet the bar and rub it gently on any area of your clothing that’s stained with oil, grease, sweat, and stubborn dirt. Rinse the garment under a faucet, press it together to get the soap out, and let it air dry. It’s as simple as that!

If you travel frequently, this is a must-have in your overnight bag. As long as you have access to a sink, you can remove any stain with this soap bar (and never have to worry about carrying a stain remover stick that could leak or spill in your bag).

You can use this stain bar on clothing before you toss it in the washing machine, but you can also use it on items that you can’t throw in the washer. The next time you drip salad dressing on your upholstered dining room chairs or spill oily tomato sauce on your favorite area rug, whip out this stain bar and spot treat it immediately.

Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover

Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover

Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover can remove even the toughest oil and grease stains. On fresh spots, add a few drops and let it sit for a few minutes before throwing your clothing in the washer.

On stubborn, set-in stains, add a few drops and scrub with a toothbrush in a circular motion. It will take a few minutes for the fabric to absorb the product. After five minutes or so, if it doesn’t look like the stain has lifted, scrub again.

OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover

OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover

With more than 25,000 five star reviews on Amazon, there’s no question about it:

OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover works.

This powdered stain treatment is chlorine-free and color-safe. It fights against all sorts of set-in stains (including oil spots), and it’s perfect for use on clothing, upholstery, rugs, and all sorts of household surfaces.

You can add OxiClean directly into your washing machine tub prior to starting your wash cycle. But for older, more stubborn stains, it’s best to pre-soak your oil-stained clothes in a bowl of OxiClean before laundering.

OxiClean is a type of bleach, so it’s always best to wear protective gloves when using the product, especially if you’ve never used it before.

Is it Hard to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes?

It can take some time and some TLC to get oil stains out of clothes, but the sooner you catch and treat the stain, the easier it is to remove.

With effective stain-removers or everyday household items, you can get oil stains out of clothes. Depending on how severe the stain is, you might have to put in a bit of elbow grease, but it can be done!

So the next time you splatter your clothes with cooking oil or accidentally drip butter or salad dressing on your favorite shirt, act fast. Take the garment off and start treating it as soon as possible.

Allowing an oil stain to set in can ruin a garment, but with quick action, no one will ever know you splattered yourself or dripped on yourself while cooking or eating. 

You might also be interested in: How to Get Scratches Out Of Glass [Without Ruining It]

How To Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes: 

  1. Baking Soda and Liquid Dish Soap
  2. Baking Soda and Vinegar
  3. Chalk
  4. WD-40
  5. Enzyme-Based Laundry Detergent
  6. Aloe Vera Gel
  7. Cornstarch
  8. Wash and Stain Bar by The Laundress
  9. Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover
  10. OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover

Jessica Heston

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