How to remove oil stains from cotton clothing

Updated February 21, 2017

An oil stain on your favourite shirt is a disheartening sight. Cooking oil, motor oil, oily hair products and lubricants can all mar the surface of cotton clothing. Before you toss the shirt into the garbage or use it to wash your car, you can try a simple method of removing the oil from the garment. While many commercial products claim they can remove oil stains, the products are harsh and can damage the fabric. Often, oil stains can be removed from cotton clothing using items probably already found in your home.

Place the garment on a clean towel with the oil stain facing up.

Pour cornstarch or talcum powder over the stain and let it sit for 24 hours.

Brush or shake off the powder. If oily powder residue clings to the fabric, brush away the oily residue with your fingers and repeat all of the steps until no oily residue remains.

Wash the garment with liquid washing powder or liquid dish washing detergent. Use warm water to wash the garment and cool water for the rinse cycle.

Check the garment after washing to ensure the stain is gone. Be sure to check the garment before drying.


If the stain still remains, try treating it with rubbing alcohol. Test the alcohol in an inconspicuous area of the garment before treating the spot as alcohol can sometimes damage the colour.

Things You'll Need

  • Towel
  • Cornstarch or talcum powder
  • Liquid washing powder or liquid dish washing detergent
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About the Author

Kaye Morris has over four years of technical writing experience as a curriculum design specialist and is a published fiction author. She has over 20 years of real estate development experience and received her Bachelor of Science in accounting from McNeese State University along with minors in programming and English.