How to Clean Salad Dressing Stains

salad next to a napkin stained with salad dressing

The Spruce / Daria Groza

Oil-based salad dressing and vinaigrette stains can take a toll on your wardrobe. The oily stains can remain even after you think you've pre-treated and treated again.

Unfortunately, once an oil-based stain dries, it may permanently set into the fabric. ​Along with using the proper cleaner to pre-treat and wash the stain, time is of the essence: Use the hottest temperature water that is safe for the fabric as soon as you can after the fabric is stained.

What You Need


  • Butter knife or spoon
  • Stain remover stick, gel, or spray
  • Liquid laundry detergent or dish soap
materials for removing salad dressing stains
The Spruce / Daria Groza 

Removing Fresh Salad Dressing Stains

If the spill or spot just happened, take these steps:

1 . Use a spoon to remove as much excess salad dressing as possible. You can also use the back edge of a butter knife. Avoid damaging the fabric by rubbing too intensely on the stained area. The goal is to only remove the excess salad dressing. Don't try to dig into the fibers of the stained area or stretch the fabric. The rest of the stain will be removed in the next steps.

using the back of a knife to scrape off extra salad dressing
The Spruce / Daria Groza

2 . Apply a stain stick, gel, or spray remover. A stain remover gel or spray will do a better job of seeping into all the parts of the fabric. If you use a stick stain remover, treat both sides of the stain. Wait several minutes for the stain remover to penetrate the salad dressing stain fully. Rinse the stain remover out with warm or hot water before moving on to the next step.

person applying a stain remover to a napkin
The Spruce / Daria Groza

3 . Use liquid detergent to rub through the stained fabric. Liquid laundry detergent can break up the oil-based salad dressing if you rub it into the stained area. Use a few drops at a time and rub it gently into the stain. Work from the outside of the stain to the inside so that the oil doesn't spread and create a bigger mess. You can also use mild basic dish soap if you don't have liquid laundry detergent. Good dish soap also works well for breaking down oily salad dressing stains.

person using small pumps of detergent on a stained napkin
The Spruce / Daria Groza

4 . Allow the garment to sit for three to five minutes. This gives the laundry detergent or dish soap enough time to work. For tough or large stains, let it sit for up to 10 minutes.

person waiting for the stain removal agent to set in
The Spruce / Daria Groza 

5 . Wash in the hottest water that is safe for the fabric. Hot water will work with the laundry detergent to break down the salad dressing stain and leave your clothes looking pristine. Check for any residue after the washing cycle finishes before you put it in the dryer. After a stain is dried, it can be very difficult to remove it. Repeat the steps above if the salad dressing stain remains.

person placing the stained napkin into the washing machine
The Spruce / Daria Groza

How to Treat Dried Salad Dressing Stains

If your stain has completely dried on your clothing but hasn't been run through a clothes dryer or ironed, the steps above should remove even an older stain. However, if it has been ironed or put in a dryer, you may need a different tactic.

Rub liquid laundry detergent or dish soap onto the dried stain. Try soaking the stained clothing in warm or hot water for up to 30 minutes at a time. You can also cover the stained area with baking soda, which may draw out the oil from the stain. Persist until you there's no improvement or the stain is removed.

person using hand-held detergent on a dried salad dressing stain
The Spruce / Daria Groza