How to Remove Vaseline and Ointment Stains From Clothes

How to Remove Vaseline and Ointment Stains

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr, 30 mins - 9 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0

Greasy ointments such as petroleum jelly soothe the skin but they can also end up smeared on clothing and other materials and cause oily stains.

What Is an Oil-Based Stain?

An oil-based stain comes from oily, greasy foods and products, from bacon and burgers to ointments and even deodorants. Synthetic fibers especially attract oils, making greasy stains tough to remove.

The key to knowing how to get Vaseline out of clothes is by quickly breaking down the oils. An oil-based stain can be difficult to remove, but it is possible with supplies you probably have at home. When an accidental spill happens, never rub the spot as the stain can be pushed further into the material fibers. Try to get the stain out while it is still fresh. Take the following steps to remove ointment stains from clothing.

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Click Play to Learn How to Remove Vaseline and Ointment Stains

Stain type Oil-based 
Detergent type   Stain remover or heavy-duty laundry detergent
Water temperature Hot
Cycle type Varies depending on the type of fabric

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.

materials needed for removing ointment stains
The Spruce / Daria Groza

If the garment is labeled as dry clean only, take the item to 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 stains on silk and vintage upholstery, consult a professional cleaner.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Clothes

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

Materials

Clothes

  • Water
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Stain remover stick, gel, or spray
  • Cornstarch or talcum powder (Optional)
  • Oxygen-based bleach (Optional)

Instructions

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.

    person removing excess ointment with a dull knife
    The Spruce / Daria Groza

    Can't Clean Right Away? Powder It

    if you do not have time to treat the stain immediately, remove the excess ointment and 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.
    person using laundry detergent on an ointment stain
    The Spruce / Daria Groza
  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.

    person placing a garment into the washing machine
    The Spruce / Daria Groza
  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.

    soaking the garment in an oxygen-based bleach soak

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Additional Tips for Handling a Vaseline or Ointment Stain

Vaseline and ointment stains will get darker the longer they sit on the fabric and will become harder to remove—in some cases, they can become permanent stains. Once you notice the spot, it is best to get it out as soon as possible.

So what about the piece of clothing with Vaseline or ointment on it that slipped past you and got washed? Can you still remove set-in oily stains? Give it a try using the steps below.

  • Use cornstarch or baby powder on the stain to try to soak up any oily residue. Let it sit for at least 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Then use stain remover or laundry detergent, gently work it into the section, and let that sit for at least 15 minutes, following the process mentioned previously.
  • If you notice the stain still there, air dry and repeat, or try using the stain remover or detergent process again.

You might have to do this a few times before putting the clothing into the washer, but whatever you do, do not put the clothing into the dryer as it will further set in the stain.