by Amy Gordon
(last updated June 17, 2019)
Oil and grease stains in fabric can cause ugly marks. Fortunately, they don't need to be very difficult to get out of your clothes. Oils respond well to most soaps, and can often be easily lifted if you catch them in time.
Oils can be lifted with most emulsifiers, like soap or detergent. First, try dabbing at the stain with some liquid laundry or dish detergent. Even bar soap or liquid hand soap will work to help lift the stain if you are not at home but need to treat the stain quickly to prevent it setting into the fabric. Apply the liquid and toss the garment into the washing machine, or if you are not near the machine, gently rub with the soap or detergent, and run water through the back of the stain. Add more soap, rub again, and rinse again.
Don't forget to check for the stain before putting the stained item into the dryer—the heat from the dryer will set the stain, making it more difficult to remove the oil. If you do accidentally set the stain, try spraying the stained area with WD 40, waiting a few minutes, and then rubbing in dish detergent before putting the garment back into the wash.
You could also try pre-treating the stain with lighter fluid. Spray the stain with lighter fluid, and then put it into the wash. Be careful not to have any open flames nearby.
Another pretreatment method is to use a bit of shampoo. Dab at the stain, rub the shampoo in a bit, and add more shampoo before running the shirt or pair of pants through the wash cycle.
There are a number of stain-removing sprays and sticks that you could use. Read the back of the package to see if they work on oil stains.
As a last-ditch method, try pouring some Coca Cola on the stain and washing the stained article of clothing in the washing machine in cold or cool water.
Another important thing to remember—don't put oil-soaked clothing into your washing machine. While your machine can probably handle clothes that have had a drop of oil or butter spilled on them, especially if the clothes have been rubbed with soap, rinsed, and pretreated, oil-soaked clothing can ruin your washing machine. Check your owner's manual for further warnings and advice. It's best to hand wash oil-stained clothes before putting them into the washing machine.
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