Oil stains on clothing can be tough to deal with, especially when they seem determined to cling to your clothes. Whether it’s a splash from cooking, a mishap in the garage, or a stubborn grease mark, these stains can seem nearly impossible to remove.

However, with the proper techniques and a little elbow grease, you can successfully banish those stubborn oil stains and restore your clothes to their former glory.

In this guide, we will explore effective methods and practical tips to help you tackle those persistent oil stains, ensuring your favorite garments remain clean, fresh, and free from unwanted greasy marks. So, roll up your sleeves, and read on to learn how to conquer even the most stubborn oil stains.

Why Are Oil Stains Hard to Remove?

If you have ever had to deal with a stubborn oil stain, you know firsthand that they are more challenging to remove than other messes. These stains are difficult to remove because oil is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. This property makes them resistant to conventional water-based cleaning methods.

When oil comes into contact with fabric, it spreads and adheres to the fibers, making it harder to remove. Many textiles, especially natural fibers like cotton or wool, have porous structures that absorb oil more efficiently. The oil molecules penetrate the tiny openings between the fabric fibers, embedding the stain and making it more stubborn to remove.

Over time, oil stains can undergo oxidation, making them even more challenging to remove after they set. Oxidation occurs when the oil reacts with oxygen in the air, leading to a chemical change that makes the stain more resistant.

Now that you understand the science behind tricky oil stains, let’s dig into how to remove them once and for all.

How to Remove Oil Stains From Clothes (Step-by-Step)

A pile of clothes in a green laundry basket.

If stubborn oil stains are ruining your favorite clothes, don’t worry! The following step-by-step guide on effectively removing stains from your garments will walk you through each stage of the process, providing detailed instructions and helpful tips along the way to ensure success.

Supplies You Will Need

Before you start tackling stubborn oil stains, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • Hot water
  • Dish detergent
  • Towel or dish towel
  • Toothbrush
  • Baking soda

1. Blot the Oil Stain

The first thing you will need to do is use a towel or dish towel to blot the stain as soon as possible. The quicker you respond to an oil stain, the easier it will be to remove it from the clothing.

Avoid rubbing the stain, as it can push the grease further into the fabric fibers. Blotting helps remove the excess oil and prepares the stain for further cleaning.

2. Apply Dish Detergent and Baking Soda 

Next, lay the fabric on a flat surface and place a few drops of dish soap directly on the stain. Rub the fabric together with your hands, or use a toothbrush to work the soap into the stain. The dish soap helps break down the oil and grease, making it easier to remove.

For stubborn stains, sprinkle some baking soda onto the stained area along with the dish soap. Use a toothbrush to tamp the fabric gently, ensuring the baking soda and soap cover the stain. Afterward, let the mixture sit until the baking soda dries slightly to form a paste-like consistency.

3. Use Hot Water to Rinse

To get oil stains out of clothes, allow dish soap and baking soda to work on the stain for about an hour, and then rinse the fabric with hot water. Once you finish rinsing the garment, immerse the cloth in a container of hot water and let it soak for another hour. Hot water helps further break down the oil and grease, facilitating easier stain removal.

4. Wash Clothes

After rinsing and soaking the clothes in hot water, use a washing machine to clean them with warm water and your preferred laundry detergent. Follow the wash instructions on the tag, and carefully separate and sort the clothing accordingly.

If the stain persists, repeat the previous steps until you achieve the desired results. Be careful not to dry the clothes in the dryer, as the heat may cause them to set.

5. Air Dry Clothes 

Finally, you will need to find a well-ventilated area to hang or lay the clothes to dry. Hang lightweight clothing, such as shirts and dresses, on clothes hangers and use clothespins or clips to secure them in place.

For heavier items, like jeans or sweaters, lay them flat on a clean, dry surface, such as a drying rack or clean towel.

A man doing his laundry.

Can You Use Color-Safe Bleach to Remove Oil Stains?

Unfortunately, color-safe bleach is not the go-to option for tackling oil stains on clothes. While it excels at preserving color and maintaining fabric integrity, its power to break down oil stains is limited. Oil stains require specialized treatments such as solvents or dedicated stain removers specifically formulated to dissolve or lift oil from fabric fibers. 

Save your color-safe bleach for tasks like brightening whites, addressing color fading, or tackling general dirt and grime.

Is It Possible to Remove Set-In Oil Stains?

Dealing with set-in oil stains on your clothes may be more challenging, but don’t lose hope just yet – there are steps you can take to improve their appearance. 

Begin by attempting to return the oil stain to a liquid state by treating it with hot water. Next, gently blot the stain using baking soda to absorb as much oil as possible. Try applying dishwashing liquid and working it into the fabric to tackle the set-in stain. 

Finally, launder the garment, opting for air drying instead of high heat from the dryer, as it can potentially set the oil stain further.

Mistakes to Avoid

When it comes to removing oil stains from clothes, avoiding certain mistakes can make all the difference in achieving success. Here are a few things to steer clear of:

  1. Using cold water: Cold water may seem like a safe choice, but when dealing with oil stains, opt for hot water instead. Hot water helps to bring the oil back to a liquid state, making it easier to wash away.
  2. Waiting too long to address the stain: Procrastination is not your friend when dealing with oil stains. The longer you wait, the more time you give it to set into the fabric. Act promptly to increase your chances of successful stain removal.
  3. Rubbing the stain: Resist the urge to scrub the stain vigorously. Instead, opt for a gentle blotting motion. Rubbing can spread the stain to other parts of the garment.

Let ZIPS Take Care of It

A ZIPS employee providing excellent customer service.

At ZIPS, we treat your garments with the utmost care to maximize their longevity and keep you looking your best every day of the week. If you’re struggling with stubborn oil stains, we’ll do whatever it takes to get your clothes looking like new again.

For other tricks and advice on how to remove other types of stains, like sweat stains and beyond, check out the ZIPS blog!

Find a location near you, and let us take care of it today!