Getting grease stains out of clothing can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Grease and oil leave behind a stubborn stain that can be difficult to remove if you don’t treat it right away. With the right techniques and products, you can successfully remove grease stains from clothing and save your favorite shirt or pair of pants.
This complete guide will provide tips and step-by-step instructions for getting grease stains out of any type of fabric. We’ll cover:
- What causes grease stains and how to identify them
- Removing fresh grease stains vs. old/set-in stains
- Pre-treating and pre-washing grease stains
- Using dish soap, laundry detergent, solvents and other DIY stain removers
- Laundry tips for washing grease-stained clothes
- Special considerations for delicate fabrics
- How to prevent grease stains in the future
Follow these methods properly and you’ll be able to banish even the most stubborn grease and oil stains from your clothes.
What Causes Grease Stains?
Grease stains on clothing are typically caused by oil-based products such as:
- Cooking oils like olive, vegetable, canola, etc.
- Butter, margarine and spreads
- Salad dressings and mayonnaise
- Engine oils and lubricants
- Cosmetics like lotions, creams, moisturizers
- Lipstick, chapstick, lip balm
- Sunscreen and tanning oils
- Baby oil
- Petroleum jelly
These types of oils contain lipids that bond strongly to fabric fibers. The oil soaks deep into the fabric, leaving behind a stubborn stain. Food-based grease stains also contain proteins and carbohydrates that help bind it to the fibers.
Grease stains often appear as:
- Darker or discolored spots on fabric
- Translucent/see-through spots that don’t fully dissolve in water
- Stiff, waxy feeling spots on fabric
- Yellow or brown stains
Identifying a grease stain promptly is key to removing it quickly and effectively before it has time to fully set into the fabric.
Removing Fresh Grease Stains
When dealing with a fresh grease stain that just occurred, immediate action is required to lift the stain before it dries and bonds to the fabric:
Step 1: Blot Excess Grease
- Lay the stained fabric on a layer of paper towels or clean rags.
- Gently blot the stain to soak up as much excess oil or grease as possible.
- Avoid rubbing or scrubbing vigorously as this can push the stain further into the fabric.
- Place fresh paper towels or rags under the fabric as needed to absorb the grease.
Step 2: Apply Dish Soap
- Apply a small amount of dish soap like Dawn directly onto the stain.
- Use your fingers to gently massage the dish soap into the fabric.
- Let sit 1-2 minutes to allow the soap to break down the grease.
Step 3: Rinse Under Cool Water
- Rinse the fabric under a stream of cool water while continuing to gently rub the stain.
- Check the fabric—if the stain persists, repeat steps 2-3 until it is fully removed.
- Avoid hot water as this can set in any remaining oil.
Step 4: Launder as Usual
- Once the stain is removed, launder the clothing as usual with detergent and the recommended water temperature.
- This will help remove any leftover soap residue and traces of grease.
- Avoid drying the clothing until you can confirm the stain is fully gone.
Removing Old, Set-In Grease Stains
For grease stains that have set into the fabric and changed color, use a multi-step process with stain-fighting products:
Step 1: Pre-Treat the Stain
- Apply a grease-fighting pre-wash stain remover spray or gel directly onto the set-in stain.
- Let it soak 5-10 minutes to penetrate and loosen the stain bonds.
Step 2: Make a DIY Stain Remover
- Mix a DIY stain-fighting solution like:
- 1 part dish soap + 1 part baking soda + 1 part vinegar
- or 1 part dish soap + 1 part hydrogen peroxide
- Apply this mixture to the stain and let sit another 10 minutes.
Step 3: Wash with Hot Water
- Launder the clothing in the washing machine with laundry detergent using the hottest water safe for the fabric.
- This helps activate stain-fighting ingredients to fully release the grease.
Step 4: Air Dry & Repeat if Needed
- Air dry the clothing in sunlight to help naturally bleach any remaining stainResidue.
- Check carefully – if any faint stain remains, repeat the process focusing on that spot until it’s gone.
Pre-Treating Tips for Stubborn Grease Stains
To maximize your success, optimize the pre-treatment phase when tackling stubborn, set-in grease stains:
- Use an old toothbrush to gently scrub pre-wash stain removers into fabric. This helps it fully penetrate.
- For heavy stains, let pre-treatments soak 15-30 minutes before washing.
- Apply stain remover to the backside of stain too so it can fully penetrate the fabric.
- If one pre-treatment doesn’t work, try another like baking soda paste, vinegar, etc.
Should You Pre-Wash Grease Stains?
Pre-washing especially dirty or heavily stained clothes before the regular wash can help free up stubborn stains. Here are some tips:
- Soak heavily stained items in a sink or bucket with hot water and a stain remover.
- For delicate fabrics, soak in cool water instead.
- Agitate and massage stained areas by hand while soaking to help break up grease.
- Soak at least 30 minutes, up to a few hours for bad stains.
- Rinse thoroughly before washing as normal.
However, you don’t need to pre-wash lightly stained items that will go through a regular wash cycle soon. Simply apply stain remover directly to spots just before washing.
One of the most effective grease stain removers is ordinary dish soap like Dawn. Here are some tips for using it:
- Apply a few drops directly onto the stain and massage in.
- Lather with warm water and scrub to break down oils.
- For tough stains, make a paste with dish soap and baking soda. Spread onto stain, let sit, then rinse.
- Use dish soap in the washing machine – add 1/2 cup to a regular load or 1 cup for heavily stained loads.
Avoid detergents containing lanolin or bleach, which can set in grease stains. Opt for fragrance-free dish soap where possible.
Heavy duty and liquid laundry detergents can also help remove grease due to containing surfactants and enzymes designed to break down oils and proteins.
- Use extra detergent for greasy loads – up to double the normal amount.
- Soak clothes in detergent solution before washing.
- Consider a detergent booster or pre-treater with added stain fighters.
- Wash in hot water to activate grease-cutting ingredients.
- If grease remains after washing, don’t put in the dryer! Re-wash using techniques such as soaking or pre-treating until grease is fully removed.
Chemical solvents are powerful at dissolving oil and grease stains. However, some can damage fabrics or fade dyes, so test first!
- Hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol – apply a small amount directly to stain. Rinse promptly.
- Dry cleaning solvents – lightly sponge onto stain then rinse.
- Lighter fluid – sponge onto stain outside only. Rinse thoroughly.
- Baby oil – rub into stain, wash with dish soap after.
- WD-40 lubricant – spray onto stain, let sit 5 minutes then wash.
Other DIY Stain Removers
In addition to dish soap, try these homemade stain fighters:
- Baking soda – Make a paste with water. Rub into stain, let sit, then rinse.
- White vinegar – Sponge onto stain. Let sit briefly before rinsing.
- Hydrogen peroxide – Pour onto stain. Let bubble up, then rinse.
- Lemon juice – Squeeze fresh lemon juice onto grease stain. Place in sun to dry/bleach.
- Talcum powder – Pour onto stain. Let sit to absorb grease, brush off.
You can also mix ingredients like vinegar + dish soap for an extra-strength treatment. Test mixtures first since acidic ingredients can damage delicate fabrics.
Laundry Tips for Greasy Clothes
Follow these tips when laundering grease-stained clothes:
- Wash soon after staining occurs, before grease has time to fully bond.
- Pre-treat stains with a remover before washing.
- Wash heavily soiled clothes separately from lightly soiled ones.
- Use the hottest water recommended for the fabric type.
- Wash greasy clothes with extra detergent – up to double the usual amount.
- Repeat wash cycle if needed to fully remove grease.
- Avoid overloading the washing machine which can trap grease in clothes.
- Line dry and check for remaining stains. Re-wash if needed.
Taking extra steps ensures you fully clean greasy, oily clothes and prevent stains from setting permanently into the fabric.
Special Considerations for Delicates
Delicate fabrics like silk, wool, and rayon require a gentle approach. Follow these tips:
- Always check garment labels for washing instructions.
- For fresh stains on delicates, blot immediately with a clean cloth. Avoid scrubbing.
- Use cool water to rinse. Hot water can damage delicate fabrics.
- Opt for liquid dish soap or laundry detergent made for delicates. Avoid powder detergents.
- Mix mild soap with cool water. Gently sponge onto stain instead of direct rubbing.
- Dry clean delicates if grease stain remains after gentle hand washing.
- Avoid soaking delicate fabrics to prevent water marks or bleeding dyes.
- Lay flat to dry away from direct sunlight.
With extra care, you can successfully remove grease while keeping delicate fabrics looking their best.
How to Prevent Grease Stains
Here are some tips to avoid grease stains on your clothes in the first place:
- Wear an apron when cooking, grilling, frying, etc. to protect clothing.
- Immediately rinse cooking oils like salad dressing off clothing before it sets in.
- Roll up sleeves when greasing pans or handling oily engine parts.
- Apply lotions, cosmetics and sunscreens carefully to avoid drips and spills.
- Keep paper towels nearby to blot grease spills quickly.
- Use a barrier cloth between skin and clothing when applying lotions.
- Store clothing protected in garment or plastic bags when travelling to prevent oil transfer.
Developing careful habits when handling greasy substances can go a long way in keeping your clothing stain-free!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the best stain remover for grease?
Dish soap is highly effective at grease removal. Dawn dish soap in particular works very well. Pre-wash stain remover sprays also help tackle set-in grease stains.
2. Does baking soda remove grease stains?
Yes, baking soda is a versatile stain remover that can dissolve grease. Make a paste with water and baking soda and rub it into the stain before washing. It helps absorb oil and acts as a mild abrasive to loosen stain bonds.
3. How do you get old grease stains out of clothes?
For stubborn, set-in stains treat with a pre-wash stain remover before washing. Then wash with dish soap or laundry detergent in very hot water. Soaking clothes in detergent solution also helps release embedded grease stains. Repeat as needed until the stain is fully gone.
4. Does vinegar remove grease stains?
Yes, white vinegar is acidic so it helps break down grease and oil bonds. Use it straight or mix with dish soap for extra cleaning power. Sponge vinegar onto the stain, let sit briefly, then rinse thoroughly before washing. Start with small amounts to avoid damaging delicate fabrics.
5. How do you get grease out of clothes that have already been dried?
Re-wet the stained area, apply a liquid pre-treatment and let soak in for 15-20 minutes. Then wash with hot water and extra detergent. The heat and agitation will help loosen up the grease stain. You may need to repeat the process multiple times for dried-in stains. Let air dry and check carefully before drying again.
Removing grease stains from clothing takes a bit of work, but armed with the right techniques you can successfully banish even the most stubborn oil spots. Identify stains promptly and treat them while fresh if possible. Pre-wash heavily soiled garments using dish soap, baking soda, vinegar or other DIY solutions. Then wash with hot water and extra detergent. It may take multiple washes to fully extract set-in stains. With some elbow grease and the methods in this guide, you can keep your favorite clothes looking clean and grease-free.