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. Oil-based stains are one of the most difficult stains to remove, but it can be done with supplies you likely have at home. The key is easier removal is to treat the stain as soon as possible. Take a look at how you can remove stains like Vaseline, Neosporin, Vicks VapoRub, Aquaphor, and other ointments from clothes and linens, carpet, and upholstery.

Stain type Oil-based 
Detergent type   Stain remover or heavy-duty laundry detergent
Water temperature Hot

Project Metrics

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

Before You Begin

Test any detergent or cleaning solution 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 labeled as dry clean only, take the item the dry cleaner as soon as possible and point out and identify the stain.

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 removing oily on silk and vintage upholstery, consult a professional cleaner.

What You'll Need

Supplies

Tools

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

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 (like Tide or 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 the 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.

  4. Remove Dyes 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 (such as 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.

How to Remove Vaseline and Ointment Stains from Carpet and Upholstery

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

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Water
  • Carpet cleaning solution or dishwashing detergent

Tools

  • 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 (helps prevent spreading the stain even further), 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 residue can attract more soil. 

  4. Blot and Air-Dry

Finish by blotting with a clean dry cloth and allow the carpet to air-dry. If the stain remains on carpet or upholstery, repeat the stain removal steps. Once the stain is gone from carpet or upholstery, vacuum the area to lift the fibers.