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How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes

Oil stain on white cloth

Removing oil stains from clothing starts with pretreating, but the stains need to be removed when the fabric is dry without rinsing with water beforehand.

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By Mary Gagliardi
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Whether it’s cooking oil, greasy food stains or motor oil, get rid of oil stains from clothes and fabric with the right pretreating technique. Oil stains aren’t like other stains — you handle them in an entirely different way.

Remove oil stains from dry clothes

Oil stains in fabric are much easier to get out when you don’t rinse the stain with water before pretreating.

Pretreat stains with dish detergent

One of the best things to use for pretreating oil stains is actually liquid dishwashing detergent (the kind you use for hand washing dishes) because it’s formulated for greasy dishes. Look for a traditional dish detergent instead of one made with plant-based cleaning agents.

Keep dish detergent out of the washer

Liquid dishwashing detergent generally makes lots and lots of suds, so only use it for pretreating oil stains and rinse it away before you put your clothes in the washer, otherwise you’ll likely end up with excessive foam.

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Gather your supplies

  • dishwashing liquid
    Liquid dishwashing detergent

Steps to get rid of oil stains

  1. 1

    Apply dish detergent to the stain

    Apply enough liquid dishwashing detergent to saturate the oil stain. Gently massage it completely into the stain.

    dishwashing liquid
  2. 2

    Wait 5 minutes

    Allow a little time for the dish detergent to break up all of the oil.

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  3. 3

    Rinse the stain

    Completely remove the dish detergent from your clothing by rinsing with warm water. This is important to keep the dish detergent out of the clothes washer.

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  4. 4

    Machine wash with bleach

    If your clothing is white and bleach-safe, wash in the hottest water recommended on the care label using a good laundry detergent and 1/3 cup Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach.

    If the fabric has color, or is white and includes any spandex, wash it in the warmest water recommended using detergent and Clorox 2® for Colors.

    Tip

    Always avoid bleaching wool, silk, leather, mohair and spandex.

  5. 5

    Air dry and check for success

    Air drying is important. Damp or wet fabric can hide residual oil that was missed when pretreating. To completely remove the oil from your clothes, repeat the treatment again, starting with dry fabric.

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Frequently asked questions

Can you remove oil stains with color, like balsamic vinegar and olive oil, using dish detergent?

When an oil stain has a color component (like greasy pizza sauce, pesto or gravy), after treating with the dish detergent, but before machine washing, treat the stain again with liquid Clorox 2® for Colors. It’s okay to do this right after rinsing away the dish detergent. Apply a little Clorox 2®, rub it into the stain and wait 10 minutes, then machine wash.