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How To Remove Oil From A Basketball Jersey


My washer broke down and got hydraulic fluid all over my whites including my reversible two layer white/navy blue basketball jersey. How do I get this out? I am in desperate need of assistance, Dr. Laundry!


This is quite a problem because your basketball jersey is probably made of synthetic fibers, and synthetics love oil! Fortunately hydraulic fluid is not the heaviest oil out there, and proper pretreating should work to get it off your laundry. Liquid dishwashing detergent (the kind you use for hand washing dishes) can be very effective at breaking down oil so it’s easier for a regular laundry detergent to remove. Petroleum based detergents (Dawn is one example) are the most effective, especially when you apply them directly to the stains on dry fabric.  That means you need to let the wet clothes you found stained in your clothes washer air dry completely, which I am sure at this point has already happened.

Here’s how you can proceed:

  1. Apply enough liquid dishwashing detergent to the stains and gently massage it in. Apply enough detergent to make sure the stain is thoroughly saturated.
  2. Wait 5 minutes, and then rinse the detergent off the fabric using warm water. Since you have a lot of laundry that is affected, you will probably be using a lot of liquid dishwashing detergent. Note that this is not a recommended product to use in a clothes washer because it causes tons of suds!! Because of that, don’t use a clothes washer to rinse the items. Instead, rinse the items in a clean sink — a plastic dishpan makes this super easy.
  3. Next, machine wash the items using detergent and Clorox 2® Stain Remover and Color Booster for extra cleaning. Use the hottest water you can—the hotter the water the better the cleaning. Also, at this point you are washing laundry that is (probably) overall pretty clean, so select an extra rinse cycle to make sure the load is thoroughly rinsed.
  4. Finally, let everything air dry, and check for success. You will find any stains that missed that first pretreatment step, and they can be treated again for eventual success. With the large number of items that you are working with, it may be hard to hit every stain the first time around.

If you try the above with only limited success, you could try stronger de-greaser products that hardware stores usually carry. Goo Gone and DeSolvIt are two examples of products that include directions on their labels for use on textiles. Note that not every product a hardware store sells that can dissolve oil is appropriate for fabric or for use in a clothes washer, though. Clothes washer manufacturers recommend against washing solvent-soaked rags and cloths in their clothes washers or dryers because of the increased risk of spontaneous combustion, and there should be warnings on both your washer and your dryer, and definitely in the User’s Guide for these appliances. I hope this information is useful—please let me know if you have any other questions, and thanks for writing!

–Dr. Laundry

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