How to Get Butter Out of Clothes for Good

Greasy butter removal from your favorite clothes, carpet, and couch

How to Remove Butter Stains illustration

The Spruce / Bailey Mariner

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr, 15 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to $10

While butter can make food taste better, a butter smear does not make clothes, carpet, or upholstery look any better. It can be difficult to remove butter or margarine stains on fabric due to their oily nature. But it's still possible to erase these stains at home with store-bought or homemade products. Never rub the stain though, as it will only push the oils deeper into the fabric fibers and make the stain larger.

Here's how to get butter out of clothes, as well as carpet and upholstery.

Stain type Oil-based
Detergent type Solvent-based stain remover
Water temperature Hottest that the fabric can handle
Cycle type Regular

Before You Begin

As with any stain, the quicker you react, the easier it will be to remove a butter stain.

If a butter drip lands on fabric, immediately blot away as much of it as possible. Use a clean white cloth or paper towel; even a slice of white bread can soak up the oils. If it is a butter blob, use a dull knife or spoon—or something like the edge of a credit card—to remove as much of the solids as possible before blotting. Focus on lifting the butter away rather than rubbing it in.

For set stains, your window for blotting might have already passed. But you can still increase your chances of removing the stain if you don't put the fabric in the dryer until it's been treated and washed.

using a dull knife to lift a butter stain
​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Clean white cloths or paper towels
  • Dull knife or spoon (optional)
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Washing machine
  • Vacuum (optional)

Materials

  • Cornstarch, baking soda, or talcum powder
  • Solvent-based laundry stain remover
  • Dish soap (optional)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Home dry-cleaning kit (optional)
  • Carpet or upholstery cleaner (optional)
  • 2 cups hot water (optional)

Instructions

  1. Apply Cornstarch, Baking Soda, or Talcum Powder

    After blotting away as much of the stain as possible, sprinkle cornstarch, baking soda, or talcum powder over the area. It will absorb oil and help to remove the stain. Sprinkle generously, and allow it to sit on the stain for at least 15 minutes. Then, brush it away with a soft-bristle brush.

    If the fabric must be dry-cleaned, you still generally can complete this step before heading to a professional cleaner as soon as possible. You also can use a home dry-cleaning kit, though they're not always effective on oily stains.

    sprinkling talcum powder on a butter stain
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
  2. Treat With a Laundry Stain Remover

    Next, pretreat the stain using a solvent-based stain removal product, such as Shout, Spray 'n Wash, or Zout. Follow label instructions, making sure the product is suitable for your fabric type. It's ideal to test it on an inconspicuous spot first.

    If you don't have a stain remover, you can apply heavy-duty liquid detergent that contains enough enzymes to break down the oil, such as Tide or Persil. Grease-fighting dish soap is another option. Work it gently into the stain using your fingers or a soft-bristle brush, and allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes before washing.

    If you're using a home dry-cleaning kit, treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

    spraying stain treatment onto a butter stain
    ​The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
  3. Wash the Fabric

    After pretreatment, wash the fabric as usual in the hottest water recommended on the fabric's care label. (Or follow the instructions on your home dry-cleaning kit.)

    Then, inspect the stained area after the wash cycle is complete. Do not put the fabric into the dryer until you're positive the stain is gone, as high heat can permanently set an oily stain. It's best to let the fabric air dry after the wash because butter stains can be difficult to see on wet fabric.

  4. Repeat as Needed

    If the stain is not gone after washing, repeat each cleaning step.

How to Remove Butter Stains From Carpet

Removing butter stains from carpet is a similar process to removing them from clothing and other fabric. In fact, if your carpet can go in the washing machine, you generally would follow the clothing stain-removal process. However, for carpet that can't be washed, you'll have to stick with this dry-cleaning method. 

Tip

Our experts recommend using a small hand-held extractor on carpet and upholstery. The oils from the butter can be rinsed down in to the furniture padding and carpet fiber, which may cause issues as it dries. Extraction helps the fabric dry quicker, which helps minimize drying issues.

  1. Lift Away the Solids

    Using a dull knife or spoon, lift away as much of the solid butter from the carpet as possible. Gently part the carpet fibers to make sure you catch everything, so you don't accidentally rub any butter into the carpet. Blot away liquid butter spills with a clean white cloth or paper towel.

  2. Apply Cornstarch, Baking Soda, or Talcum Powder

    Sprinkle the stain with cornstarch, baking soda, or talcum powder to absorb the oil. Use a soft-bristle brush to work it gently into the carpet. Allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes. Then, vacuum up the powder.

  3. Treat With a Dry-Cleaning Solvent

    Blot the stain with a dry-cleaning solvent or carpet-cleaning product following the product instructions. Use a clean white cloth or paper towel. Keep blotting until no more oil is transferred from the carpet to the cloth.

    If you don't have dry-cleaning solvent or carpet cleaner, mix 1 tablespoon dish soap with 2 cups of hot water. Blot the stain with a clean white cloth dipped into the solution. Then, rinse the area with another cloth dipped in plain water. Any leftover soapy residue can actually attract dirt.

How to Remove Butter Stains From Upholstery

The same cleaning process recommended for carpet can be used to remove butter stains from upholstery. However, if the upholstery is silk or vintage, sprinkle with cornstarch and call a professional before attempting to remove the stain. Delicate fabrics often require specialized care.

  1. Remove Solids and Liquids

    If possible, remove the upholstery fabric from the interior cushion. Or at least attempt to lift the fabric to provide some space between it and the cushion. This will help to prevent the butter from seeping into the cushion.

    Then, use a dull knife or spoon to lift any butter solids off the upholstery surface. Blot liquid butter with a clean white cloth or paper towel.

  2. Apply Cornstarch, Baking Soda, or Talcum Powder

    Generously sprinkle cornstarch, baking soda, or talcum powder on the stained area. Gently work it in with a soft-bristle brush. Then, vacuum it up with a handheld attachment or dust buster.

  3. Treat With a Dry-Cleaning Solvent or Upholstery Cleaner

    Apply a dry-cleaning solvent or upholstery cleaner to the stained area, following label instructions.

    If you don't have one of these products available, you can use 1 tablespoon dish soap mixed with 2 cups hot water. However, be careful not to oversaturate fabric on a cushion, as this can damage the cushion.

Continue to repeat the cleaning steps as needed. If you get to a point where the stain is still present and is not lightening, contact a professional cleaner. They might have some stain removal tips for the specific fabric to prevent the stain from becoming permanent.