How to get motor oil stains out of clothes

Updated February 21, 2017

Those who work in the automotive industry are no strangers to motor oil stains. Even the do-it-yourself types have probably seen their fair share of oil in places it shouldn’t be. If changing the oil in your car proves to be a messier ordeal than you thought it’d be, there’s no need to worry. Your favourite working-around-the-house clothes can be spared with less effort than you’d think; less effort than it took to make the mess, anyway.

Place the garment in the bathtub or sink directly under the faucet and turn on the hot water. Allow the garment to sit under the hot running water for at least 5 minutes before checking the progress. If the stain is still visible, leave the garment in there until it’s gone and launder as usual.

Sprinkle cornstarch all over the area and allow it to sit overnight. In the morning, the cornstarch will have absorbed the grease from out of the garment and should be ready for you to brush it away. Use a grease-cutting dish soap such as Dawn and a clean cloth to gently scrub the area clean of any residual stain and launder the clothing as usual.

Spray the affected area with WD-40 and gently scrub it into the stain with an old toothbrush. This will help break up the stain. Let the stain soak for at least 5 minutes before scrubbing the area again. Cover the area with a grease-cutting dish soap and scrub with the toothbrush once more. After 3 to 4 minutes, toss the garment into the wash to be laundered as usual.

Rub hair shampoo into the stain with a clean cloth or soft bristle brush and allow it to soak for 5 to 10 minutes before laundering.


Add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle to help eliminate any lingering odours from the oil.


Some articles of clothing cannot tolerate hot water, so be sure to read the care instructions carefully on the tag.

Things You'll Need

  • Cornstarch
  • Dawn dish soap
  • Clean cloth
  • WD-40
  • Toothbrush
  • Hair shampoo
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