How to Remove Oil-Based Stains From Clothing

How to Remove Oil Stains From Clothing

The Spruce / Hilary Allison

It's the worst feeling—you're enjoying a greasy piece of pizza or adding dressing to your favorite salad, and splash! A new oil stain lands on your clothes. Now, you're left wondering if you need to throw out your favorite shirt.

Oil stains can be difficult to get rid of fully, and the first problem could be that they are difficult to see. You might overlook the stain as it blends in with the color of your clothing, a slightly darkened area on the laundry. Add to this the fact that oil stains can commonly reappear just when you think you've seen the last of them, and you've got a tough stain to deal with.


Watch Now: How to Remove Cooking and Vegetable Oil Stains

How to Recognize Oil-Based Stains

It's also important to understand what kind of oil-based stain you're dealing with. There are two main types: petroleum-based and vegetable-based.

Once you know what type of stain you're dealing with, you're ready to gather your supplies and tackle the pesky little problem.

How Soon Should You Wash an Oil Stain?

To put it simply: as soon as possible. Oil stains are some of the most difficult to remove unless you get to them immediately. If clothing and the oil stain dry, the stain may be set permanently. When you see an oil stain land, act fact, and read on to learn how to remove oil stains from clothing.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Cleaning Tools

  • 1 rag or towel


Cleaning Products

  • 1 teaspoon mild dish soap
  • 1 teaspoon laundry detergent


Overhead view of materials needed to remove oil stains

The Spruce / Alicia Long

  1. Blot, Blot, Blot

    Once you see the stain, act fast. Grab a paper towel and gently blot to remove as much excess oil as possible. Don't press too hard, as you don't want to press the oil even deeper into the fabric. Light pressure should do the trick.

    Blotting an oil stain on a pair of jeans

    The Spruce / Alicia Long

  2. Choose a Soap and Treat the Stain

    Once you're done blotting your stain, grab your rag or towel and get it damp. Next, choose your soap. For petroleum-based stains, use mild dish soap. For vegetable-based stains, grab your favorite laundry detergent.

    Add a few drops of dish soap or detergent to the towel and gently rub the stain. You don't want to scrub as it may damage the fabric. Instead, use gentle pressure to get small suds going on the fabric. The suds will help break down the oil.

    Treating an oil stain with soap

    The Spruce / Alicia Long

  3. Launder Your Garment

    Next, you're going to wash your clothes in the warmest water they can stand. The hot water will do a great job at penetrating the fibers and getting into the areas of the fabric that are holding on to the oil. If the fabric absolutely cannot take hot water, wash it in cold like normal, but the hotter, the better.

    Submerging the garment into a wash bin with detergent

    The Spruce / Alicia Long

  4. Check Stain Once Load Is Finished

    For the moment of truth—when the wash is done, check the stain to see if it's still stuck in the fabric. This step is a little tricky, as oil stains can be hard to spot in wet fabric since they usually just make a dark mark. Do your best to figure out if the oil is really gone, and let the fabric air dry if necessary.

    Checking if the stain has lifted

    The Spruce / Alicia Long

  5. Repeat If Necessary Before Drying

    If some oil still remains, repeat the process above until the stain is gone. do not dry clothes with oil stains in them. This will likely lock the stain into the fabric and create a permanent stain.

    Repeating the process if necessary

    The Spruce / Alicia Long

Additional Tips For Getting Rid of Oil Stains

  • If the oil is really stuck, you can try pretreating the stain with baking soda or cornstarch. This will help absorb the excess oil before you stain the soap and hot water process.
  • For durable fabric, you can also use a butter knife to scrape some of the oil off the top of the stain before treating it.
  • If you have a stain that is a combination of an oily stain and another type of stain, deal with the oil first.
  • If you're struggling to tell whether or not an oil stain was removed before drying, let the fabric air dry instead. If after that no darkness remains, you're okay to machine dry like normal.