Skip to content
Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Stained Pillow Cases from Oily Hair

By Dr. Laundry October 7, 2011

Q:  My husband has oily hair and has left the pillowcases yellowed. How do I make them white again and do I soak them (how much and how long) before washing? I’m afraid this has built up over time.

A:  This is quite a problem, not just because of the oil build up, but also from the likelihood that these pillowcases have been going into a hot dryer following each wash cycle.  Heat from the dryer can “set” stains, making them very difficult to get out.  However, with a series of soaks you should be able to whiten the pillowcases substantially.  I would pre-soak several times with a couple of different products so you can solubilize the oil, as well as break up and remove residual body soil.  It’s best to work on the oily residue first:


  • In a plastic dishpan, dissolve 1 scoop of powdered Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster in 2 gallons of very hot water—getting it up to around 160°F (using water from a tea kettle with hot tap water works well). Completely submerge the pillowcases (weigh them down if necessary—glass pie dishes work well) for 8 hours or overnight.  Rinse the pillowcases and dish pan before the next step.

  • Pre-soak with a Clorox® Regular-Bleach soaking solution.  Add ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon of water and fully submerge the pillowcases for 5 minutes.  Drain the soaking solution and then wash the pillowcases in hot water using detergent + ¾ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach.

  • Air dry the pillowcases and check to see if any yellowing remains.  If it looks like you are making progress, then repeat the steps if necessary.


In the future, make sure you always wash your sheets and pillowcases using hot water, a good detergent that contains enzymes, and ¾ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  Pretreating the area of the pillowcase that gets oily with a little liquid laundry detergent before washing will also help keep the oil build-up under control.  Good luck!