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How to Get Grease Stains Out

Advice from our experts

Why does grease stain?

Have you ever tried to wash out grease stains? If so, you know it’s a challenge. The reason is, grease is hydrophobic, meaning it hates water.

And, if you’re working with synthetic fabrics, they’re also oleophilic, meaning these fabrics are attracted to grease.

To make matters more complicated, the laundry detergents we use to clean clothes contain mostly water and only a small about of detergent. For this reason, it’s difficult for the cleaning agents to penetrate grease stains.

This is why rinsing a grease stain with water before pretreating isn’t helpful for removing grease stains. The water protects the grease from the cleaning agents as the grease tries to repel the water.

Keep reading to learn more about different types of grease stains and how to remove them.

Steps for removing grease stains

Grease stains need to be pretreated before washing. The pretreatment will depend on the type of grease (or oil). Also, don’t rinse grease stains before pretreating.

This is the basic process for removing grease and oil stains from clothing.

  • Step 1 Blot the stain with a clean cloth, napkin or paper towel.
  • Step 2 Apply liquid laundry or dish detergent.
  • Step 3 Rub it in and wait 5–10 minutes. If the stain is still there, pretreat it again.
  • Step 4 Wash the item in the hottest recommended temperature on the care label. For white, bleachable fabric without spandex, add 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®. For colored fabrics, use regular detergent and Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster.

    These steps are general. However, different types of grease and oil stains sometimes require different methods to remove them.

    But, there is one commonality in treating many grease and oil stains: Liquid dish detergent—the kind formulated for greasy dishes. But, it generally makes lots of suds, so you only want to use it for pretreating. Rinse any detergent out of clothing before putting it in a washing machine so you don’t end up with excessive foam.

Steps for removing specific food grease and oil stains from clothes

Bacon and hamburger grease

  • Step 1 Blot the stain with a clean cloth, napkin or paper towel.
  • Step 2 Apply liquid laundry or dish detergent.
  • Step 3 Rub it in and wait 5–10 minutes. If the stain is still there, pretreat it again.
  • Step 4 Wash the item in the hottest recommended temperature on the care label. For white, bleachable fabric without spandex, add 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®. For colored fabrics, use regular detergent and Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster.

    After you follow these steps, air dry the item and check to see that the stain is gone. If you missed any greasy spots, you won’t notice them until the fabric is dry. If the stain is still there, just repeat the treatment again.

    You’ll also have a better chance of success if the item stays out of a hot dryer until the stain is gone.

Cooking oil

  • Step 1 Pretreat the stain with something that breaks up the oil. Try liquid Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster Liquid or liquid dishwashing detergent.
  • Step 2 Apply a little, rub it into the stain and wait 10 minutes. Make sure not to let it dry.
  • Step 3 If the item is white and bleachable, wash it in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®.
  • Step 4 Air dry and check to see if the stain is gone. If it remains, repeat the treatment.
  • Step 5 If the item is colored, wash it in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and more Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster Liquid.
  • Step 6 Air dry, check for success, and repeat the treatment if the stain is still there.

Olive oil

Work on the stain when the fabric is dry. Don’t rinse it with water first.

  • Step 1 Apply a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent to the stain and gently massage it in. Wait 5 minutes, and then rinse with warm water.
  • Step 2 If your item is white and bleachable, wash the item in hot water using a good laundry detergent and 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®.
  • Step 3 If the item has color, or it contains spandex, wash it in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster.
  • Step 4 Air dry and check for success.

    Air drying is important because damp or wet fabric can hide residual oil. If you miss any of the stains when you pretreat with the dishwashing detergent, you’ll probably see some residual oil. But, you can get it out by repeating the treatment again on dry fabric.

    Curious about removing stains from a greasy meal, like spaghetti? Read this article.

Outdoor grill: White fabrics

Say you accidentally brush up against a grill. You might find the stain is a mix of grease and ash. If the item is white and bleachable:

  • Step 1 Apply Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel directly to the stain and rub it in.
  • Step 2 Wash the item right away in the hottest water recommended on the care label. Use a good detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®.
  • Step 3 Air dry the item and check for success. If any stain remains, repeat the treatment. You’ll have a chance of success if you keep the item out of a hot dryer before the stain is completely gone.

Outdoor grill: Colored fabrics

If the item is colored, pretreat the stain with Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster.

  • Step 1 Apply a little to the stain, rub it in, and wait 5-10 minutes, without letting it dry.
  • Step 2 Wash the item in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and more Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster.
  • Step 3 Air dry the item, check for success and repeat the treatment if necessary.

Popcorn oil

Pretreat the stain with Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster, or a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent.

  • Step 1 Apply it directly to the stain, rub it in and wait 3–5 minutes.
  • Step 2 If the stained item is white, wash it in the hottest water recommended on the item’s care label with detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®. If the item is colored, wash with detergent and more Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster.
  • Step 3 Air-dry and check for success, and repeat the steps if any oil remains.

Restaurant kitchens

Work on the stains when the fabric is dry—don’t rinse them with water first.

  • Step 1 Apply a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent to stains and gently massage it in.
  • Step 2 Wait 5 minutes, and then rinse with warm water.
  • Step 3 If the item is white and bleachable, wash the shirt in hot water using a good laundry detergent and 1/2 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®.
  • Step 4 If the item has any color, or contains spandex, wash it in the hottest water recommended on the care label using detergent and Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster Liquid.
  • Step 5 Air dry the shirt and check for success.

    Air drying is important because damp or wet fabric can hide residual oil. If you miss any of the stains when you pretreat with the dishwashing detergent, you’ll probably see some residual oil. But, you can get it out by repeating the treatment again on dry fabric.

    Can Lestoil be added to a load of greasy clothing? Keeping reading to find out.

Steps for removing other types of grease and oil stains

Baby oil

Pretreat the stain with a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent.

  • Step 1 Apply it directly to the stain, rub it in and wait 5 minutes.
  • Step 2 If the stained item is white and doesn’t contain spandex, wash it in the hottest water recommended on the item’s care label with detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX®. If the item is colored, wash it with detergent and Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster. It’s important to wash it in hot water to help break up the oil.
  • Step 3 Air-dry the items so you can check for success, and repeat if any oil remains.

Crude oil

The key to removing crude oil is using a good solubilizer/solvent to dissolve the stains—preferably before they are wet from wash water.

Read this article for more information on how to remove crude oil stains.

Massage oil

Oily stains benefit from more concentrated cleaning solutions. Larger items like sheets and towels that have stains spread over them can be presoaked for more complete stain removal.

Read this article for steps on removing massage oil stains.

Motor oil

  • Step 1 Rub a liquid laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, or degreaser into the stain and let it sit 3–5 minutes.
  • Step 2 Wash separately with detergent in the hottest water recommended on the care label. You can add a little Clorox® Regular Bleach2 with COLORMAX® to whites.
  • Step 3 Extend the wash cycle. With a top-loading washer, wait 6–8 minutes into the cycle, stop it, and spin the dial back for another 10–12 minutes.
  • Step 4 Check for success at the end of the wash cycle before putting items into the dryer.

    If a stain is still there, re-treat it or take it to a commercial dry cleaner where solvents are used to dissolve stains.

Sunscreen oil

Pretreat the stain using either liquid dishwasher or detergent to break up the oil.

Crayon

Crayons have a waxy component that doesn’t break up in detergent and water solutions—whether the crayon melted in a pocket when left in a hot car or went through a hot dryer. Get the steps to remove crayon stains.

What about lip balm? Find out how to remove it from whites and colors.

Read this article if you’re curious about lip gloss stains.

Do’s and Don’ts for removing grease stains

DO pretreat greasy stains before washing.

DO use a petroleum based liquid dish detergents (the kind you use for handwashing dishes) to pretreat grease stains, which get better results than plant based (natural) dish detergents.

DO consider a more powerful degreaser like Lestoil for pretreating heavy automotive grease stains.

DON'T rinse a grease stain with water before pretreating—always pretreat on dry fabric.

DON'T forget to rinse away all the dish detergent before you put the item in a clothes washer. Dish detergents can cause excessive foam in a washer, so rinse the item completely before machine washing.

DON'T (actually, never) try paint thinner to remove grease.

Grease stain FAQs

Q. What are the different types of grease?
A. Cooking oils like olive, canola, corn, sesame, coconut and butter can all be problematic. Mechanical grease (motor oil, bicycle chain grease, antifreeze and other machine lubricants) are also challenging to remove.
Q. How do you get grease out of upholstery?
A. Use an upholstery pretreater product designed for grease stains to treat the stain before steam cleaning using an upholstery attachment.
Q. How do you remove grease from surfaces?
A. After spraying hard, nonporous surfaces with a multipurpose spray (like Clorox® Scentiva™ Multi-Purpose Cleaner), wipe clean with a paper towel or microfiber cloth. Food contact surfaces should also have a clean water rinse.
Q. What if grease stains are apparent after washing?
A. After drying, grease spots are probably set, and you may not be able to remove them. However, you might try using a good solvent (like Goo Gone) on the grease spots and then re-washing in the hottest water possible. Other than that, a small amount may be removed in the next wash, so consider air drying for the next 3-4 washes and see if you notice a difference.