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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

How can I get vehicle oil out of jeans?

By Dr. Laundry January 3, 2016

Q: How can I get vehicle oil out of jeans?


A: Whether you call it vehicle oil or engine grease, it’s one of the most challenging stains to get out.  It is very helpful to start with a strong solubilizer/solvent that is appropriate for fabric.  There are a few different degreaser products you can try–Goo Gone and De-Solv-It are the two I am familiar with—that are typically available at hardware stores.  First you should check to make sure you can safely apply any product you want to try on your jeans with a quick colorfastness test:

  • Apply a drop to a hidden part of the jeans, like the denim facing inside the front pocket.
  • Wait one minute and then rinse and blot dry with a towel.
  • If there’s no color change then you should be able to safely use the product on the jeans.


Assuming the jeans pass, then you can try the following:

  • work on the jeans when the stained area is dry; that is, don’t rinse it first!
  • Apply the degreaser full-strength directly to the stain and rub it in, letting it sit for 3-5 minutes.  This helps solubilize the oil and jumpstarts stain removal.
  • Next apply a little liquid laundry detergent or liquid dishwashing detergent (the kind you use for hand washing dishes) and rub it into the stain; wait another 5 minutes.
  • Now wash the jeans using the correct amount (don’t underuse!) a good detergent in the hottest water recommended on the care label.  Definitely use the hottest water you can—the hotter the water the better the cleaning, especially for oily stain removal.
  • Finally, let the jeans air dry.  If any residual oil remains, you can repeat the treatment with a better chance of eventual success if the jeans have not been in a hot dryer.


I hope this is helpful—please let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for writing.


–Dr. Laundry