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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 oil stains from clothing and fabric.

Generally speaking, the sooner you remove the stain, the easier it’ll be. The longer you wait, 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 stain is completely removed. Why? Exposing it to high temperatures will set the stain in permanently, in which case, you may very well have to throw it out.

Things to Consider Before Treating Your Oil-Stained Clothes

First 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 before blotting away as much of the liquid as possible with a paper towel or clean cloth.

How to remove oil stains from clothing and fabric

From there, you may be able to get rid of the oil stain 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 to remove oil stains from clothing.

As 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 Clothing with Baby Powder or Baking Soda

how to remove oil stains from clothing fabrics

See how to remove oil stains from clothing and fabric.

Step 1

how to remove oil stains from clothes and fabric

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

Step 2

Sprinkle a generous amount of baby powder or baking soda onto the 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 powder has absorbed the oil, 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 afterwards. If the stain is gone, you can proceed to wash the item as normal. If the 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 Remove Oil Stains From Clothing with Color-safe Bleach

Lift away any solid matter with a dull knife or spoon and blot the remaining liquid 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.

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).

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

You 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 oil-stained clothes.

activewear detergent 1

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 oil (remember, water and oil are opposites).

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 as possible (assuming there’s no solid matter on the fabric).

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 detergent solution.

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. If it’s gone, you can wash the item as normal with your other clothes.

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