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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Grease

By Dr. Laundry November 16, 2010

Q. I have tried all I can think of to remove grease from a cleaning cloth. Do you have any ideas? For now I am keeping it in cold water to avoid possible spontaneous combustion.

A. This is a very interesting question. I wish I knew a little bit more about the grease and what you’ve tried. Spontaneous combustion normally isn’t something laundry consumers have to worry about, but there are some situations where it’s better to be safe than sorry and just dispose of an oil-soaked cloth safely. Let’s say you’ve spilled a bottle of cooking oil and wiped it up with a dish towel. It’s true that clothes washer and dryer manufacturers don’t want that oil-soaked cloth going into their appliances due to a limited risk of spontaneous combustion, and they put a warning on the appliances and in the user’s guide (which you may have seen). Or, your problem may be from auto engine grease and the like, and I am wondering if you tried paint thinner to get the grease out (which I NEVER recommend). If either of these describe your situation, then I would throw the cleaning cloth out to be safe—check with your garbage service provider to see what they recommend for safe disposal.

In the future, if you have a large cooking oil spill to deal with, you should use baking soda or salt to soak up large amounts of spilled oil, and then use a spatula to transfer the goop to the compost or trash. Any residual grease on the floor or counter can be easily removed with Formula 409® Antibacterial All-Purpose Cleaner. For smaller food-oil or grease stains on fabric, try pre-treating with Clorox2® Stain Fighter & Color Booster or liquid dish washing detergent (like Dawn). Apply it directly to the stain, rub it in and then wait 3-5 minutes. Then, wash it in the hottest water recommended on the care label. Allow the items to air-dry so you can check for success, and repeat if necessary. Engine grease can be pretty stubborn, so you’ll probably have to repeat the treatment to get all of the stain out.