How to Remove Oil Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

How to Remove Oil Stains From Carpet

The Spruce / Hilary Allison

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 45 mins
  • Total Time: 1 - 6 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to 20

Whether it is cooking oil, pizza, candle wax, or motor oil, the stains often end up on carpets and furniture fabric. Fortunately, most oil stains are simple to remove from carpet and upholstery with some supplies you probably have on hand and a bit of patience.

Follow these steps to remove oil stains from carpet and upholstery.

Stain Type Oil-based
Detergent Type Enzyme-based stain remover, absorbent powder, dishwashing liquid with grease cutter, ammonia
Water Temperature Hot

When to Call a Professional

If the carpet or upholstery is vintage or silk, sprinkle with cornstarch and call a professional before attempting to remove the stain or if you need more stain removal tips.

Before cleaning any furniture, always follow the manufacturer's care label on cleaning upholstery. This tag can be found under the sofa cushions or fabric skirt with letter codes that indicate how to clean the furniture.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 dull knife
  • 1 soft-bristle brush
  • 1 vacuum
  • 2 white cloths
  • 1 roll paper towels
  • 1 small bowl
  • 1 set measuring cups and spoons

Materials

  • 1 box cornstarch or talcum powder
  • 1 bottle ammonia
  • 1 bottle dishwashing liquid with grease cutter
  • 1 container carpet stain remover

Instructions

How to Remove Oil Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

Oil stains are easier to remove from some types of carpet fibers, like wool, than others. Synthetic fibers, particularly olefin, attract and hold onto oil making the stains more difficult to remove.

The same cleaning techniques and products recommended for carpet can be used to remove oil stains from upholstery. If you need to use the wet cleaning steps, be careful not to over-wet the fabric because excess moisture in the furniture cushions can cause mildew to form.

  1. Remove Oily Solids

    If the stain is caused by a blob of butter or a slice of pizza, carefully lift away any oily solids from the fibers using a dull knife or the edge of an old credit card.

    Using a dull knife to remove an oily stain

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

    Warning

    Do not rub the stained area because it will only push the oil deeper into the carpet and make the stain larger. Blot the stain with a paper towel until further cleaning can be done.

  2. Powder and Vacuum

    The first step to remove any oily stain from carpet is to absorb as much of the oil as possible. By using an absorbent powder, you may not have to take one of the additional options to remove the stain.

    • Sprinkle the stain liberally with cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb the oil.
    • Work the powder into the carpet with a soft-bristled brush.
    • Allow the absorbing powder to sit on the stain for at least fifteen minutes, but up to an hour is better.
    • Vacuum to remove the powder. 

    How you proceed next will depend on if you want to buy a stain remover or make your own.

    Sprinkling baking soda on the oily stain

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Remove Oil Stains with a Stain Remover

  1. Treat the Stain

    Select a commercial carpet stain remover that containers enzymes that will break apart the oil molecules so they are easier to lift from the fibers. Check the ingredient label for the enzyme lipase, which degrades fat-based stains. Follow the product label directions for application.

  2. Air-Dry and Vacuum

    Allow the freshly-cleaned area to air-dry away from direct heat. Avoid walking on the damp carpet. When the carpet is dry, vacuum to lift the fibers.

How to Remove Oil Stains With a Homemade Cleaning Solution

  1. Create the Stain Remover

    If you do not have a carpet cleaning product, you can make a cleaning solution yourself.

    • Mix one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid with a grease cutter in two cups of hot water in a small bowl.
    • Add one tablespoon of household ammonia.

    Warning

    Check the label when mixing ammonia with another cleaning product, to make sure that chlorine bleach is not an ingredient. Never mix ammonia and bleach as the combination produces a toxic gas.

    Using a cleaning solution on an oily stain

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Treat the Stain

    Work from the outside edges toward the center of the stain to prevent it from becoming larger. Gently scrub the stain with a soft-bristled brush dipped in the cleaning solution, then blot with a dry paper towel until the stain is removed. 

  3. Rinse and Repeat

    Rinse the area with a cloth dipped in plain water to completely remove any soapy residue. Any residue left on the carpet or upholstery will attract more dirt. Blot dry with a clean cloth. Repeat the cleaning steps until no more stain remains.

    Blotting the area with plain water

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  4. Air-Dry and Vacuum

    Allow the area to air-dry away from direct heat and avoid walking on that area of the carpet until it is fully dry. Vacuum to lift any matted fibers.

Tips to Remove Oil Stains on Carpet

For the best results when removing oil stains, follow these tips.

  • Don't rub the oil stain—blot instead. Rubbing pushes the oil deeper into the carpet fibers and can make the stain larger.
  • Don't ignore the stain. It won't go away. Treat an oil stain as soon as you possibly can.
removing oil stains from carpet

The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleaning and Sanitizing with Bleach After an Emergency. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.