Removal of Oil Stains in Clothes

Updated February 21, 2017

Oil stains leave dark, noticeable marks on clothing that won't come out without a fight. Clinging to the fibres of your clothes with an admirable tenacity, oil stains create a frustrating situation for whoever has to deal with them. Whether it's oil spatters from cooking or oil from the car, the treatment is almost the same.

Remove the Oil

Try to remove as much oil as possible by blotting new stains with paper towels and scraping old stains with something dull. A plastic knife or spoon works well for this. Once you have removed as much oil as you can get out, lay the garment flat so the stain is facing up. Cover the stain with baking soda, cornstarch or baby powder. The powder will help to absorb some of the oil from the clothing. Leave the powder on the stain for at least an hour to allow it time to work.

Treat the Stain

After you brush away the powder into the trash, the stain needs to be pretreated prior to washing. Cover the stain with a liquid washing powder or a grease-fighting liquid dish soap and use a soft-bristle brush to work it into the stain. The stain should be left to soak for at least 15 minutes. If you don't have any liquid detergents available, mix powdered washing powder with water so it creates a thick paste, and gently scrub it into the stain with a cloth.

Time to Wash

With the stain pretreated, the garment is ready to be washed. Check the label for any special washing instructions. The garment needs to be washed with the hottest water it can handle to effectively lift the remaining oil. Follow the directions also for the recommended amount of detergent. A cup of white vinegar added into the rinse cycle can help to get rid of any odour that may be hanging around as the result of the stain.


If the oil stain was from gasoline or diesel fuel, it can make the clothing flammable. Keep the garment away from sparks or flames, and avoid using solvent-based cleaners on it. When it comes to drying, hang the garment outside or in a cool, dry place rather than placing it in the dryer, especially if you can still smell the oil. For all other oil stains, avoid placing the garment in the dryer if you can still see the stain. The heat from the dryer can set the stain, making it difficult, if not impossible, to remove.

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