How to Remove Vaseline and Ointment Stains From Clothes and Carpet

ointment stains

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Greasy prescription creams, petroleum jelly, ointments, and salves are meant to soothe the skin and help us feel better. But they can also leave greasy stains on clothing and linens. Learn how to remove stains like Vaseline, Neosporin, Vicks VapoRub, Aquaphor, and other ointments from clothes and linens.

Stain Type Oil-based 
Detergent Type   Stain remover or heavy-duty laundry detergent
Water Temperature Hot

Project Metrics

There are a few factors to keep in mind before removing the stain.

  • Working Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour

Before You Begin

Test any detergents or cleaning solutions in an inconspicuous area first to ensure that it does not discolor the fabric.

Remove any blobs of ointment from the surface of the fabric with a dull knife or spoon. Never rub. Blot the area with a dry white paper towel. As with any stain, the sooner the fresh stain can be treated, the better the chances of success for removal.

If the garment is dry-clean-only, take the item the dry cleaners as soon as possible and point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner when you drop off the garment.

If you are using a home dry cleaning kit, treat the stain with the provided stain remover before putting the garment in the kit's cleaning bag and tumbling in the dryer.

For cleaning stains on silk and vintage fabrics, consult a professional cleaner.

What You'll Need



  • Dull knife or plastic edge
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Washing machine (optional)
  • Soaking basin (optional)

How to Remove Vaseline or Other Ointment Stains From Clothes

  1. Remove the Solid Residue

    When a blob of Vaseline or ointment lands on fabric, use a dull table knife or the edge of a credit card to lift away as much of the ointment as possible from the fabric. Do not rub because you will just push the ointment deeper into the fibers and make it more difficult to remove the stain.

    Can't Clean Right Away? Powder It

    After removing the excess ointment, if you do not have time to treat the stain, sprinkle the greasy area with a bit of cornstarch, baby powder, or talcum powder to absorb the oil.

  2. Treat With Stain Remover or Heavy-Duty Laundry Detergent

    Treat the oily/waxy component of the stain with a stain remover spray or gel that contains the enzyme lipase that will help break down the oil. This is particularly important for stains on synthetic fabrics like polyester that tend to trap oily stains. Work the cleaner into the stain with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush. If you do not have a stain remover, then use a heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent (Tide and Persil) that contains enough stain-lifting enzymes to remove the oil.

    Allow the cleaning solution to remain on the fabric for at least 15 minutes then scrub stain lightly with a soft brush and rinse the area in hot water.

  3. Wash as Usual

    Wash the stained item as usual in the hottest water recommended on the garment care label. Check the stained area before placing the garment in the dryer. The high heat from a dryer can set the stain and make it nearly impossible to remove. If a stain remains, repeat the stain removal steps.

  4. Remove Tints With Oxygen-Based Bleach

If the ointment is tinted, you may need to do some additional work to remove any traces of the dye. Mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (brand names are: OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite) and cool water following the package directions. Completely submerge the entire garment and allow it to soak for at least 8 hours. Check the stain for any traces of dye. If it is gone, wash as usual. If it remains, mix a fresh oxygen bleach solution and repeat.

How to Remove Vaseline and Ointment Stains from Carpet and Upholstery

You will use the same methods to clean carpet and upholstery. When cleaning furniture and upholstery, always use the least amount of cleaning solution as possible to prevent over-wetting the fabric and cushion filling.

What You'll Need


  • Water
  • Carpet cleaning solution or dishwashing detergent


  • Dull knife or plastic edge
  • Clean, white cloths
  • Vacuum (optional)
  1. Remove the Ointment Residue

    If a glop of ointment falls on the carpet or on fabric furniture, lift away as much as possible with a spoon or dull knife. Do not wipe it up because that only pushes it deeper into the fibers of the carpet or upholstery.

  2. Blot the Area With a Cleaning Solution

    Use a commercial carpet cleaning solution or make your own by mixing one teaspoon of dishwashing detergent with two cups of cool water, stirring well to mix. Dip a clean white cloth or paper towel into the solution and wring lightly. Working from the outside edge of the stain toward the center (this helps prevent spreading the stain even larger), sponge the stain with the cleaning solution. Continue blotting until no more oil or color is transferred from the carpet to the cleaning cloth.

  3. Rinse Away the Cleaning Solution

    Dip a second clean white cloth in plain water and sponge the stain to remove any traces of the cleaning solution. If you do not do this step, the detergent solution can attract more soil. 

  4. Blot, Air Dry, and Vacuum

Finish by blotting with a clean dry cloth and allow the carpet to air dry. When dry, vacuum to lift carpet fibers.

For more stain removal tips, consult our stain removal guide.