How to Get Cooking Oil Stains Out of Clothes

Save your favorite items from stains—even if you've washed and dried them

How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes

The Spruce

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 1 - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $0-$10

Splattering or spilling cooking and vegetable oils, like sunflower oil, olive oil, and other vegetable oils, can cause frustrating stains on your clothing, especially after a long evening standing over the stove. Oil stains can darken and permanently set into the fabric once dried, so acting swiftly with home remedies is the key to removing these stains from clothing. Because oil stains are hydrophobic, meaning they cannot be treated with water alone, they can require a more involved removal process, but you'll have to act fast.

Oil stains also affect different fabrics with varying severity. For example, oil stains on synthetic materials are much more challenging to treat than those on cotton fabrics. Fortunately, you can take effective methods to remove cooking and vegetable oil stains from your washable clothes using products you likely already have in your cupboard, like grease-cutting dish soap or baking soda and vinegar. Have an old soft toothbrush on hand to rub in the ingredients to release the stain. Never place an oil-stained garment in the dryer, as the high heat will bind the oil to the fabric fibers making it much more difficult to remove in the long run. Read on to learn how to get cooking oil stains out of clothes, even those garments that have been washed and dried multiple times.

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Watch Now: How to Remove Cooking and Vegetable Oil Stains

Stain type Oil-based
Detergent type Heavy-duty
Water temperature Cold to hot
Cycle type Normal

Before You Begin

As with any stain, the sooner the fresh stain can be treated, the better the chances of success for removal. Do not rub immediately. That will only push the stain deeper into the fabric fibers and make the stain harder to remove. Check the care label on the garment and test any detergent or cleaning solution in an inconspicuous area first to ensure that it does not discolor the fabric. While most cleaning methods are gentle enough for a diverse range of fabrics, knowing an item's specific care needs will help you choose the best stain removal option.

materials for removing vegetable oil stains
The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Dull knife, spoon, or credit card
  • Soft toothbrush
  • Washing machine

Materials

  • Baking soda
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Paper towels
  • Hot water
  • Cardboard
  • 1 can WD-40

Instructions

How to Remove Cooking and Vegetable Oil Stains From Clothes

  1. Remove Excess Oil

    Remove any oily solids from the fabric with a dull knife or spoon, and blot liquid oil stains with a paper towel. This will make it easier to treat the stained area of the fabric and prevent any oil from seeping into other parts of the material.

    use a dull knife to remove excess oil
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 
  2. Apply Baking Soda and Vinegar

    After removing excess oil, you can use baking soda to pull even more oil out of the fabric. Baking soda is a dry ingredient that draws oil and grease out of fibers and into itself. Use a liberal amount of baking soda to coat the stain. Once the baking soda is damp from oil or grease, remove that layer with a dull plastic knife or the edge of a credit card. Apply another layer over it until it is not drawing up any more oil. If the stain is very large, leave the dry baking soda on the stain overnight. If the stain is tiny or minor, you can leave the baking soda to sit for about 30 minutes to an hour.

    After the allotted time, use your hand or toothbrush to brush off the baking soda from the stain. Pour about a capful or more of white distilled vinegar directly onto the stain to further break it up. Use the soft toothbrush to scrub the vinegar. Once most of the stain is gone, proceed to the next step.

    removing oil stains from clothing

    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu

  3. Apply Detergent

    If some of the stain is still visible, apply a heavy-duty laundry detergent to the stained area. Saturate the stain until both sides of the fabric are soaked. Most liquid laundry detergents can effectively remove grease, but for tough stains, you may need to try a liquid dish soap.

    apply detergent to the garment
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 
  4. Let Sit

    Allow the liquid to sit for at least three to five minutes. You can let the liquid sit for up to 10 minutes, but don't let the area dry. As the solution seeps into the fabric, the grease will begin to break down.

    allow some time to let the detergent work itself into the stain
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 
  5. Wash as Directed

    Check the clothing care label to determine what water temperature to use when laundering the garment once the stain is removed, and then wash in the hottest water advised. 

    add garment to the washing machine as directed
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 
  6. Inspect Stained Area

    Check to ensure the stain is removed before machine drying the clothing. Ensure there is no hint of a mark or darkened ring on the garment. Repeat the previous steps if any trace of the stain remains and allow the clothing to air-dry. When the stain is gone, it's safe to wash and dry normally. 

    inspect the garment to ensure the stain is gone
    The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu 

How to Remove Set-In Cooking Oil Stains

If you are removing old cooking oil stains from clothes, it may be tough but not entirely impossible. Try this strategy.

  1. Cut and Place the Cardboard

    Cut a piece of cardboard that is larger than the stain. Place the garment flat on a surface such as a table or counter. Place the piece of cardboard directly under the stain so that the treatment only affects that one layer of stained clothing. The cardboard will protect the rest of your garment, and it will prevent the oil from being reabsorbed into the fabric.

  2. Apply WD-40

    Depending on the size of the stain, either spray or use a cotton swab to smear the stain with this solvent.

  3. Add Baking Soda

    Add a thick layer of baking soda over the WD-40. Use an old, soft toothbrush and scrub the baking soda into the stain using small circular motions. As the baking soda becomes damp or clumpy, brush it off and replace with a new layer of baking soda. Keep repeating this until your baking soda looks clean and clump-free.

  4. Add Liquid Detergent

    Once the baking soda is gone, add a thick layer over the stain of either your liquid laundry detergent or liquid dish soap (either works).

  5. Launder as Usual

    Pop the garment into the washing machine. Wash as usual in either hot water so the stain remains liquified for full removal.

  6. Inspect the Stain

    Once you remove the item from the washer, check if the stain is fully removed. If not, repeat the steps. If it is removed, it is safer to air-dry the item rather than run the risk of putting it into the dryer to reset any remaining stain.

When to Call a Professional

If your stained garment is labeled dry clean only, blot excess oil and visit your dry cleaner right away. Point out and identify the stain to help your professional cleaner choose the proper treatment. If you choose to use a home dry cleaning kit, treat the stain with the provided remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag. For removing oily stains on vintage clothing, consult a professional cleaner.

Tip

You can sprinkle oil stains with cornstarch or baby powder to help absorb the oil from the fabric. This is particularly helpful for non-washable clothes and shoes.

Additional Tips for Removing Oil Stains

In addition to the methods mentioned above, you can use dish soap to remove cooking oil stains instead of laundry detergent. However, higher-end dish soaps that advertise gentleness on your hands may not be as effective because they contain lotion and other additives. Look for brands that focus on grease removal rather than softness.

Instead of washing the entire garment in hot water, you can try running hot running water only on the oil-stained part of the clothing after treating it with laundry detergent or dish soap and then wash as you usually would. Always read the clothing tag first as some fabrics can be damaged by very hot water. Even though at-home removal methods tend to be effective, if the stain persists, contact a professional cleaner for more specialized advice.

additional tips for removing vegetable oil stains
The Spruce / Ana-Maria Stanciu