Getting bike grease on your clothes can be annoying and frustrating. Grease stains are notoriously difficult to remove, and bike grease contains some very stubborn substances like lubricating oils and petroleum distillates.
However, with the right techniques and cleaning solutions, you can successfully get bike grease out of clothes. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the steps and best practices for removing bike grease stains from fabric.
Table of Contents
What Makes Bike Grease Difficult to Remove?
Before jumping into grease stain removal methods, it’s helpful to understand why bike grease can be so stubborn on clothes. This gives insight into which techniques and solutions work best.
There are a few key reasons bike grease stains are hard to clean:
- Oil-based formula – Most bike greases contain mineral oils and petroleum distillates as a lubricating base. Oil attracts oil, making it bind quickly to fabric fibers.
- Additives – Grease contains thickening agents like lithium soap or molybdenum disulfide. These additives are designed to stick tenaciously to metal bike parts. They cling to fabrics too.
- Drying/curing – Once a grease stain sets in, some of the oil components can undergo a chemical “curing” reaction. This makes the stain even more insoluble.
- Particulates – Bits of carbon, dirt, and metal dust in used grease form a gritty physical stain barrier. This can clog fibers and resist cleaning.
With this in mind, successful grease stain removal requires liquifying and breaking down the oily, sticky grease gunk – along with mechanical agitation to get particles unstuck.
Step 1: Act Quickly for Fresh Stains
When dealing with any stain, fast action is always best. The quicker you can treat a fresh bike grease stain, the better chance you have of removal.
Try to address fresh stains immediately. The longer grease has to penetrate and bond with fabric, the harder it will be to get out.
Blot Excess Grease
If you’ve just gotten bike grease on your clothes, the first step is to gently blot away any excess grease still sitting on the surface of the fabric.
- Use a clean, dry, absorbent cloth or paper towel
- Press – don’t rub – to lift grease off the fabric
- Continue blotting until you’ve removed as much free grease as possible
- Don’t push the stain further into the fabric
This helps prevent the stain from spreading, setting deeper into the weave, and becoming even harder to remove.
Once you’ve blotted up any excess grease, it’s time to act fast and pretreat the stain.
Pretreat with Dawn Dish Soap
Pretreating is a key step for fresh grease stains. It breaks up and penetrates the oily stain so it can’t set.
Dawn dish detergent is highly effective at cutting through grease due to its surfactant formula. Pretreat bike grease stains by:
- Applying a small amount of original blue Dawn directly on the stain
- Gently scrubbing with your fingertips, a toothbrush, or other soft brush
- Letting it sit for 5-10 minutes to penetrate and loosen the oil
The quicker you can pretreat with Dawn, the better chance you have of lifting the stain.
Step 2: Remove Loosened Grease and Particulates
Once you’ve pretreated the stain, it’s time to start removing the loosened grease and abrasive particulates mechanically. This prevents them from resettling and binding to the fabric again.
Use an absorbent cleaner along with agitation from washing to begin lifting the grease.
Launder in a Wash Cycle
After pretreatment, run the stained garment through a regular wash cycle using hot water, detergent, and your preferred grease-fighting booster:
- Detergent – Use a full dose of regular laundry detergent like Tide or Persil; detergent helps lift and emulsify oily grease.
- Baking soda – Add 1/2 cup of baking soda along with detergent; it helps break down oils and acts as a mild abrasive.
- Dishwasher detergent – Use 2-3 tbsp of dishwasher detergent instead of laundry detergent; the stronger surfactants cut grease.
- Oxygen bleach – Add an oxygen bleach like OxiClean which helps break down oil stains with activated oxygen.
Wash in the hottest water safe for the fabric. The mechanical action of the washing machine coupled with the detergent and additives will help begin releasing the oil and particulates from the fabric weave.
Dry and Check Stain
After washing, place the garment in the dryer to dry completely. Then check the stain.
At this point, there should be visible grease removal, but often a faint stain or discoloration may remain if the grease was allowed to set awhile before treatment.
If the stain remains, do not despair. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until the stain and oily residue is completely gone. It may take 3-5 wash cycles depending on the garment and how quickly the stain was initially treated.
Step 3: Use a Grease-Cutting Spray Treatment
For older, set-in grease stains that remain after repeated laundering, a dedicated oily stain remover is required.
Grease-cutting spray treatments contain powerful surfactants and solvents specifically designed to penetrate, liquify, and lift stubborn oil-based stains like bike grease.
Some of the best grease stain spray options include:
Spray-On Prewash Stain Removers
- Zout Grease & Oil Remover Spray – removes set-in oil stains easily
- Carbona Oxypowered Oxi Stain Devils – oxygen activated formula
- Shout Advanced Ultra Gel – clings to vertical & angled fabrics
- BunchaFarmers Grease Release Spray – eco-friendly citrus remover
Apply a generous amount of grease stain remover spray directly onto the affected area. Let it soak in for 5-10 minutes. Then launder as normal in hot water.
Multiple treatments may be needed for really set-in stains. Let the fabric completely dry between applications to allow the remover to fully penetrate the stain.
Other Common Grease Stain Sprays
- Brake & parts cleaner – contains strong solvents
- WD-40 or PB Blaster – lubricant removers
- Citrus-based degreasers – d-Limonene solvent cuts grease
Note: With any solvent-based spray, test first in an inconspicuous area to ensure it is safe for your fabric. 100% citrus-based cleaners are gentler if fabric is questionable.
Step 4: Use Laundry Booster Alternatives
In addition to a dedicated grease stain remover spray, you can also use laundry boosting alternatives to help provide extra grease-cleaning power:
Add a few tablespoons of Dawn or other dishwashing liquid along with your regular detergent to help lift oil and suspend grease in the wash water for removal.
The acidic properties of vinegar help break down grease and oil stains. Add 1 cup of white vinegar to your wash cycle.
Dry Cleaning Solvent
Use a small amount of standard dry cleaning fluid, like Dryel, in place of detergent to help dissolve and capture oily grease stains.
Add 1/2 cup clear household ammonia plus detergent to the wash. Ammonia is a solvent that dissolves grease. Ensure proper ventilation.
Trisodium Phosphate (TSP)
TSP is a heavy-duty cleaner and degreaser. Make a paste with a small amount of TSP and water. Rub it into the grease stain and rinse thoroughly before washing.
Note: Only use solvents and chemicals properly according to instructions. Never mix chemical products together.
Step 5: Use Laundry Prewash Sprays
As a final step for really persistent grease stains, apply a laundry prewash spray directly on the stain about 5-10 minutes before washing. This gives the powerful formula time to penetrate and loosen the remaining grease so it can release from the fabric.
Some of the most effective laundry prewash sprays include:
- Zout Laundry Stain Remover Spray – strong grease-fighting formula
- Shout Laundry Spray – concentrated stain lifting power
- Spray ‘n Wash Laundry Stain Remover – penetrates deep into fabric
- Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover – eliminates years of set-in stains
Scrub a small amount of prewash spray into the stain until it is fully dampened. Wait 10 minutes, then launder as normal with hot water and detergent. For really stubborn oil stains, reapply the prewash after drying and repeat the wash cycle.
Helpful Laundering Tips and Tricks
- Wash grease-stained items separately to prevent cross-staining other clothes. The oil can spread.
- Check clothing tags and use the hottest water safe for that fabric. Heat helps dissolve oil.
- Add extra rinse cycles to remove all traces of grease and cleaning solutions.
- Avoid overloading the washing machine, which can prevent clothes from getting fully clean.
- Use laundry tools like a washboard, scrub brush or garment bag clips to help provide mechanical cleaning action.
- If stains remain after drying, do not iron or apply heat, which can permanently set the stain.
Grease Stain Removal by Fabric Type
Certain fabrics and grease removal methods go together better than others. Here are some tips for getting bike grease out of different fabric types:
Cotton, Linen and Denim Fabric
Cotton, linen and denim are very absorbent fabrics. This allows grease to quickly permeate the fibers.
Use hot water washes, repeated detergent pretreatments, and alternate between harsher solvent-based stain sprays and gentler oxygen cleaners to avoid damaging the fabric.
Launder cottons inside-out so agitation happens directly on the stained fibers. Wash repeatedly as needed to lift all oil residues.
Wool and Cashmere Fabric
Wool and cashmere require gentle handling. Start with liquid dish soap applied lightly to lift surface grease.
Then use an oxygen bleach cleaner to penetrate and dissolve the stain without damaging wool fibers.
Limit washing cycles and air dry. Take wool items to a specialty cleaner if stains persist.
Polyester and Synthetic Fabric
Polyester and synthetics resist absorbing grease. This allows stains to remain on the surface.
Use pretreatments followed by washing in warm or cool water. Avoid hot water on synthetics which can set oily stains.
Potent spray removers can be used safely on durable synthetics. Reapply between washings.
Silk and Satin Fabric
Silks and satins are delicate and require extremely gentle handling.
Blot any excess grease carefully without rubbing. Use a small amount of liquid dish soap with cool water and extremely mild detergent like Woolite.
Never use chemical removers or heat, which will damage the fabric. Professional dry cleaning is best for set-in stains.
Step 6: Alternative Cleaning Methods
If you are unable to successfully remove a bike grease stain through traditional laundering, try these alternative stain removal techniques:
Baking Soda Paste
Make a thick paste using 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water. Spread it liberally over the grease stain. Let the paste fully dry then vacuum away. The light abrasion helps lift oil.
Completely cover the grease stain with talcum powder or cornstarch. Let sit overnight to absorb grease, then shake off and launder as usual. The powder wicks up the oily stain.
Clay Cleaning Bar
Rub an absorbent clay cleaning bar thoroughly over the stain. Rinse the fabric with cool water to make the clay bar release all the lifted grease.
Use a fabric steamer to apply hot concentrated steam directly onto the stained area. The heat will help loosen and melt the grease residues.
Lay fabric stained with bike grease out directly in bright sunlight. The UV rays in sunlight help break down stubborn oil stains.
Using a hairdryer on a low heat setting, pass the nozzle back and forth over the stain to gently warm the grease. Then blot with a clean cloth. The heat melts and lifts the oil.
Step 7: Stain Removal Laundry Detergents
Switching to a dedicated stain removal laundry detergent can provide ongoing protection against bike grease stains returning and resetting into fabric:
- Tide Purclean Plant Based Detergent – Contains natural oil-busting compounds
- Persil ProClean Power-Caps – Enzyme-powered detergent fights oil stains
- Seventh Generation Free & Clear Detergent – Non-toxic for sensitive skin
- Hex Performance Laundry Detergent – Removes tough body oils and grease
- Fels-Naptha Stain Remover Bar Soap – Legendary heavy-duty stain fighter
Use one of these specialty detergents instead of regular laundry soap to help continuously combat oil-based stains with every wash.
Step 8: More Tips for Avoiding Bike Grease Stains
While removing bike grease from clothes can be tedious, you can take some simple steps to help avoid those annoying grease and lube stains happening in the first place:
- Wear an apron or work clothes when lubricating bike parts. Don’t wear your nicer casual clothes.
- Clean bike parts as much as possible before lubricating to prevent grimy buildup.
- Lay down cardboard or shop towels under the bike when greasing components.
- Wipe hands and parts with a rag immediately after applying grease. Don’t touch clothes.
- Allow freshly lubed parts to set 10-15 minutes before contacting clothing.
- Keep greasy rags in a sealed metal container, and wash greasy clothes separately.
- Pretreat clothes that show small grease smudges right away to avoid oil setting in fabric.
Final Tips for Removing Bike Grease from Clothes
- Act quickly when grease gets on clothes! Fast pretreatment improves removal success.
- Use dish soap, not water, for immediate blotting of fresh stains.
- Wash in hottest water safe for that fabric type. Heat melts grease.
- Repeat cycles with grease-fighting additives like baking soda or oxygen bleach.
- Alternate between harsher solvent removers and gentler oxygen cleaners.
- Use laundry prewash sprays and powders directly on set-in stains 5-10 minutes before washing.
- For really stubborn old stains, take garments to a dry cleaner for stronger chemical treatments.
With the right products, techniques and diligence, you can successfully remove annoying bike grease stains from clothing. Just act fast, and be patient! It may require multiple treatments to fully extract set-in grease residues. But your clothes will ultimately emerge fresh, clean and grease-free.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I get grease out of clothes that have already been dried?
Yes, you can still remove dried and set-in grease stains from clothing using spray removers, laundry prewash treatments and repeat wash cycles with hot water and grease-fighting additives. It just takes more effort than catching a stain when still fresh.
2. What is the best grease remover for clothes?
For bike grease, the most powerful stain removers are Dawn dish soap for pretreatment and Zout, Carbona or Shout sprays for set-in stains. Use them before laundering with hot water, detergent and a booster like baking soda or oxygen bleach.
3. What removes old grease stains?
To remove old, set-in grease stains, use a dedicated oily stain remover spray like Zout or Grandma’s Secret Spot Remover. Apply it to the stain, let it soak in 5-10 minutes, then wash in hot water with a laundry booster. Repeat as needed.
4. How do you get grease stains out of white clothes?
For white clothes, apply a laundry booster like OxiClean or baking soda along with dish soap directly on the stain. Let sit briefly, then wash in hot water with bleach-safe detergent. The activated oxygen in OxiClean is excellent for oil stains on white fabric.
5. How do you get grease stains out of cotton shirts?
For cotton shirts, pretreat fresh stains immediately with dish soap. For set-in stains, use a heavy duty spray remover like Zout or Carbona Oxy Stain Devils before washing in hot water. Wash cottons inside-out for best results. Repeat cycles as needed.
Bike grease on clothes can be notoriously difficult to remove. However, by using the effective products and techniques detailed in this guide, you can successfully tackle even the most stubborn grease stains on fabric.
The key is to act fast on fresh stains, while utilizing grease-fighting laundry detergents and treatments like dish soap, oxygen bleach, solvent removers and laundry prewash sprays on set-in grease. With some elbow grease and multiple wash cycles, clothes can come out looking clean and grease-free again.