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How to Remove Oil Stains from Clothing & Fabric

September 5, 2023

Accidents happen, and that cooking oil that you were adding to the frying pan can easily plop onto your shirt. The motor oil that you were working with can also splatter onto your clothing. The good news is that you don’t have to throw away the shirt. It might take a bit of effort but it is possible to remove motor oil stains from clothing and fabric.

Generally speaking, the sooner you remove the stain, the easier it’ll be. The longer you wait to get oil stains, the more it’ll set in, which will make the process much more difficult.

And remember, you never want to scrub or rub at an oil stain, whether it’s with your fingers or with an old toothbrush. Not only will that spread the stain but it’ll also allow it to penetrate deeper, making it tougher to remove.

Similarly, you don’t want to put a stained shirt into the dryer before the oil stain is completely removed. Why? Exposing the stubborn stains to high temperatures will set the stain in permanently, in which case, you may very well have to throw it out.

What’s the best way to get rid of old oil stains from clothes? Can you use liquid detergent or dish soap? What product should you use? For the answers, keep scrolling. We’ll be going over everything in our oil stain removal guide below.

Things to Consider Before Trying to Remove Grease Stains

How to remove oil stains from clothing and fabricFirst things first, you want to check the care label on the garment. More specifically, you want to find out if it’s machine washable or dry clean only. If it’s the latter, you’ll want to use a razor or credit card to remove any remaining solid particles or stains out of clothes, before blotting away as much of the liquid as possible with a paper towel or clean cloth.

From there, you may be able to get rid of the oil stains with a dry cleaning solvent. For the best outcomes, however, it’s recommended that you bring the item to the dry cleaners.

They’ll have the tools and expertise necessary on how to remove oil stains from clothes and clothing.

As you get oil and for washable garments, there are many things that you can do to remove oil stains. We’ll be going over some of the options in the next section.

How to Remove Oil Stains From Clothes with Baby Powder or Baking Soda

See how to remove the oil and grease stains and stains from clothing and fabric.

Step 1

Using a dull knife or spoon, gently lift away any remaining solid matter (e.g. warm or hot water or. butter) as soon as possible. Be careful not to damage the fabric in the process.

how to remove motor oil stains

Step 2

Sprinkle a generous amount of baby powder or baking soda onto the most removing oil stained area and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes (for extra cleaning power, you can leave it on overnight). That’ll give the powder time to absorb the oil.

Once the baking soda has absorbed the oil stains from clothes again, brush it away from the fabric with a soft-bristled brush. Alternatively, you vacuum away the powder.

Step 3

Rinse the garment with hot water afterward. If the stain is gone, you can proceed to wash the item with cold water as normal. If the stubborn stain is still present, you can try soaking the garment in hot water for about an hour.


  • Baking Soda
  • Dull knife or spoon
  • Water

How to Clean Oil Stains Color-safe Bleach

Step 1: Remove the Solid Matter

Lift away any solid matter with a dull knife or spoon and blot the remaining liquid stains from clothes off with a clean cloth or paper towel. Make sure the garment is as dry as possible and apply a color-safe bleach directly to the stain.

Step 2: Apply the Bleach Onto the Fabric

Using your finger or soft-bristled brush, gently rub the bleach into the stain. Allow it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes (you don’t want the color-safe bleach to dry on the fabric as that’ll complicate the process of removing oil stains).

Alternatively, you can mix the color-safe bleach with warm water in a sink and let the garment soak for about an hour. From there, you can wash the item as normal.

Best Option: Remove Oil Stains From Clothing Using ACTIVE Detergent

How to get oil stains out of clothesYou may need something stronger if the above methods don’t work and ACTIVE detergent is the perfect product for the job. Not only is it a great laundry detergent, but it can also be used to pre-treat and spot-treat your oil stained garment.

Step 1: Wet the Area with the Oil Stains

First things first, you do not want to wet the fabric before working on the stain. Doing that will only coat the surrounding fabric with water and that will make it harder to remove the cooking oil stains (remember, water and oil are opposites).

Step 2: Blot Away As Much Excess Oil As You Can

Consider placing a piece of cardboard underneath the stained layer. That will prevent the stain from transferring to other parts of the garment.

Using a paper towel, cloth, or napkin, gently blot away as much of the excess oil or grease stain as possible (assuming there’s no solid matter on the fabric).

Step 3: Create a Soapy Solution with ACTIVE Detergent

Fill a small bowl with warm water and add a scoop of ACTIVE detergent. You can swish the water around a few times with your fingers to help the powder dissolve. By the end of it, you should have a sudsy, liquid detergent solution.

Tip: If necessary, you can also add some baking soda for extra cleaning power. Dish soap can be used in a pinch but won’t be as effective as ACTIVE detergent.

Step 4: Apply the Detergent Mixture Onto the Oil Stain

Using a small sponge or soft-bristle brush, apply a few drops of the detergent mixture onto the stain. Rub it into the fabric gently with your finger and let it soak in for five to ten minutes.

The active enzymes of the detergent will penetrate into the fibers and dissolve the oil stain.

From there, rinse the area with warm water. If the stain is still present, repeat the above steps. Add some baking soda, if you need to. Once the stain is gone, you can machine wash the item and air dry it as normal with your other clothes.

How to Remove Oil Stains Out of Clothes – FAQs

How to remove oil stains from clothing and fabric

Will baking soda remove cooking oil stains from clothes?

Baking soda will help absorb the excess oil and grease. From there, you can use ACTIVE detergent to remove the remaining oil from the fabric.

You can also combine baking soda with vinegar to create a paste – it’ll be more effective than just using the powder itself.

Should I use hot or cold water to remove oily stains?

Hot water is generally the better choice when you’re trying to remove oily stains from clothes. Cold water, on the other hand, is better for pigment-based and protein-based stains (e.g. blood).

Can you remove set in oil stains with dish soap?

Liquid dish soap won’t be enough to remove dried oil stains. For those, you’ll want to combine equal parts of white vinegar and baking soda to create a paste.

Apply it onto the area with your finger and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.

Having said that, dish soap can be used in a pinch if you have nothing else.

How do you get motor oil out of synthetic fibers?

Some synthetic fibers such as nylon may not react well to high temperatures and solvents. Given that, it’s best to pre-treat the stain with a gentle detergent such as ACTIVE detergent.

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Sophia Grant

Sophia Grant brings her extensive knowledge of laundry and clothing care to the masses with her intensive cleaning guides. Her thorough understanding of fabrics, detergents, and washing techniques helps readers master the art of maintaining their wardrobe. Sophia's advice ensures that anyone can achieve professional-level results at home, keeping their garments looking pristine and lasting longer.

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