How to Remove Cooking and Vegetable Oil Stains

Illustration depicting how to remove oil stains from clothing
Illustration: Zachary Mathre. © The Spruce, 2018 

Cooking and vegetable oils and their greasy residues can pose a pretty big hazard to your clothing. The stains may not look like much since they aren't bright or obvious. Instead, oil stains such as salad dressing stains tend to slightly darken the fabric in the areas they stain. Unfortunately, getting those fibers to let go of the oil can be a little tricky. It doesn't help that once a stain dries, it can permanently set into the fabric. ​The key to getting out oily and greasy stains is to wash clothing in the hottest water that is safe for the fabric and do it as quickly as possible.

Stain type Oil-based
Detergent type Heavy-duty laundry detergent
Water temperature Hot
Cycle type Normal

Project Metrics

Working time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 to 2 hours

Before You Begin

When an oily stain occurs, always use a paper towel or napkin as soon as possible to blot up as much of the oil as possible. This will make stain removal easier. Never place an oil-stained garment in the dryer. The high heat will bind the oil to the fabric fibers making it much more difficult to remove later.

These tips for removing oil stains apply to washable fabrics only. If you have oil on dry-clean-only clothes, take them to a dry cleaner, or use a home dry cleaning kit, following the manufacturer's directions.

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Watch Now: How to Remove Cooking and Vegetable Oil Stains

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Paper towels
  • Hot Water

Tools

  • Dull knife or spoon
  • Washing machine or large sink

Instructions

  1. Remove Excess Oil

    Remove any oily solids from the fabric with a dull knife or spoon. Blot liquid oil stains with a paper towel. This will make it easier to treat the stained area of the fabric. It will also prevent any oil from seeping into other parts of the fabric, creating new areas that need to be treated.

    Tip

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

  2. Apply Detergent to the Stain

    Apply a heavy-duty laundry detergent (Tide or Persil are brand names) to the stained area. Most liquid laundry detergents are able to remove grease, but for tough stains, you may need to try a liquid dish soap. Put enough on the stain so that it soaks through both sides of the fabric.

  3. Let It Work

    Allow the liquid to sit for at least three to five minutes. This will allow it to seep completely through the fabric. As it soaks into the fabric, it will begin to break down the grease. You can let it sit for up to 10 minutes, but don't let the area dry.

  4. Wash as Directed

    Check the clothing care label to determine what water temperature to use. Wash in the hottest water safe for the fabric. The warmer the water, the easier it will be for the oil to be fully cleaned.

  5. Inspect the Stained Area

After washing, check to make sure the stain is removed before you dry the clothing. If any hint of the stain still remains, repeat the previous steps. Allow the clothing to air-dry to make sure there is no hint of a stain or darkened ring in the area. If there isn't, the clothing is safe to wash and dry normally. If any stain remains, you'll need to repeat the steps above.

Additional Tips for Removing Oil Stains

You can also use basic dish soap to get cooking oil stains out of fabric instead of laundry detergent. The fancier dish soaps that are easy on your hands may not be as effective since they may contain lotion or other additives; look for one that promises to remove grease.

Instead of washing the entire garment in hot water, try using hot running water just on the part of the clothing that is stained after you treat it with the laundry detergent or dish soap. Then wash normally. Always read the clothing tag first as some fabrics can be damaged by very hot water.