14 Effective Grease and Oil Stain Removal Tips

by Paul Michael on 5 May 2011 12 comments
Photo: Tom Godber

Oil is a worry in more ways than one. Not only is it rapidly rising in price and taking more each week from our budgets, oil is also the source of one of the toughest stains to remove from clothing, fabrics, concrete, and more. But it doesn’t have to be.

Armed with these handy tips, you can at least bring down the oil stain in a fight. Bringing down oil prices, well that’s another matter entirely. (See also: Dropping the Price of Gas to $2.50 a Gallon in a Week)

Note: The key to all of these tips is to treat the stain as quickly as possible. The longer you leave it, the tougher it is to remove.

1. Cornstarch and Dish Soap — Fabric

Lay your item of clothing on a flat surface and liberally sprinkle cornstarch over the stain. Let that soak in for at least 30 minutes, but one hour is preferable.

Next, rub dish soap into the stain (use a nail brush if you want to get into the fibers). Finally, wash using the directions on the care label. Air dry.

2. Hair Spray — Fabric

I have no use for hair spray on my head, but for years I have used it as a cheap fixative for charcoal drawings. However, it’s also a fine stain-removal tool. Spray the oil or grease stain liberally with hair spray; it should take quite a lot of it out instantly. Then, wash and air dry.

3. Cheez Whiz — Fabric

Really? Yes indeed. I saw this one on "The View," and the stain guru swore by it.

You don’t even need to let this one sit. Just apply some of the goopy Cheez Whiz (or a generic version) onto the oil or grease stain and smear it in. Then throw your garment in the wash, and it should take the grease right out.

4. Shampoo — Fabric

It makes sense. Shampoo is designed to get grease and natural oils out of your hair. So why not your clothing? Just grab a little of your usual shampoo (or go out and buy some for greasy hair if you, like me, don’t have any hair) and rub it into the stain like a pre-treatment. Then wash as directed. It should work like a charm.

5. WD-40 — Fabric and Concrete

Among the thousands of uses for WD-40, stain removal is up there as a very effective use for this versatile product. And most of us have it in the garage, a place where oil is more likely to get on our clothing.

Just spray the stain with WD-40 and let it soak for around 30 minutes. Then rub in a little dish soap and wash as directed.

6. Cornstarch and Dry-Cleaning Solvent — Fabric

Once again, lay your item of clothing on a flat surface and liberally sprinkle cornstarch over the stain. Let that soak in for at least 30 minutes to one hour.

Next, place some kitchen towels on a counter, and place the item of clothing, stain-side down, on the towels. Proceed to blot or pat the back of the stain with a rag soaked in dry-cleaning solvent. Replace the paper towels frequently as they absorb the oil.

When you have removed as much of the stain as you can, apply a little laundry pre-treatment solution. Then wash as directed, and air dry.

7. Waterless Mechanics' Soap — Fabric

There are several brands available, including Kutol, Gojo, and good old Lava.

Rub the stain with the dry soap for several minutes, allowing it to penetrate the whole stain. The grease-cutting properties of the soap will help to break down the oil stain. Leave it for 30 minutes, then repeat. Finally, wash as directed and air dry. Simple Green is also good for this.

8. Coca-Cola — Fabric

I have covered the many uses of Coca Cola before, and stain removal is a great one. There is actually some caramel food coloring in Coke, but not enough to do any staining damage. At least, not if it’s left on for just a few hours.

Simply pour some Coke onto the stain and let it soak for an hour or two. Then wash as directed and air dry. Your oil or grease stain should be completely destroyed, and there will be no sign of the Coke, either.

9. Coca-Cola — Concrete

The first step is to soak up as much oil as you can. Use old shop towels, rags, holey tees, or socks you plan to throw in the garbage; it’s all good.

Next, take a 2-liter bottle of room-temperature Coke and pour it all over the stain. If the stain is well-covered and there’s plenty of Coke left, save the rest for another day. Now let the Coke sit on the stain overnight, at least 8–10 hours. The acidic properties will help eat away the oil stain.

Soak up the Coke with more towels, and use pressure with a blotting movement to help pull the oil from the concrete. Then, using a stiff-bristled brush, apply some dish soap and hot water to the stain.

Now, rinse with warm water. The stain should be history.

(By the way, it doesn’t have to be Coke. I’m not a brand loyalist if I’m pouring it all over my floor, and the basic properties are the same.)

10. Lestoil — Fabric and Concrete

Oil to fight oil? Absolutely! Manufactured by Clorox, Lestoil is used to fight grease and oil stains on contact. It’s usually found in hardware stores and has a very strong smell, not unlike paraffin. Simply pour Lestoil onto the stain and let it soak for 20 minutes before washing. Or, if you’re washing a huge greasy load, add some to the wash. It’s also good for removing stains from fabric on sofas, chairs, carpets, and concrete driveways. As always, test in an inconspicuous spot before applying to a place in full view.

11. Aloe Vera Gel — Fabric

Let it soothe away your stain-removal headaches. Soak your soiled clothing in water, then vigorously rub aloe vera gel into the stain. Wash as directed, and air dry.

12. Dishwashing Detergent — Fabric

You see ads all the time boasting the grease-fighting power of dishwashing detergents. From the tablets to regular liquids, they are formulated to cut through the grease and get your dishes and cutlery free from stains and residues.

So take some dishwater detergent to the stain, rubbing in the liquid or powder. You can also add a tablet to your wash; this is very effective for oily mechanics' clothing.

13. Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) — Concrete

You can find this at any good hardware store. It’s a chemical, so please use gloves and safety glasses (although believe it or not, TSP is an approved food additive).

Mix 1 oz. of TSP with ½ cup of talcum powder and 1 cup of warm water. This will make a good paste, which you should apply to the oil stain with a trowel or other spreading tool. Wait for the paste to harden, then brush it away. If the stain is still there, repeat with a diluted TSP mixture of 1 gallon of to warm water with 1 cup of TSP. Scrub it into the stain, let it sit for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water.

14. Pressure Washer — Concrete

If all else fails, a good solution is a high-pressure washer. These can be expensive, but there are alternatives. There are nozzles you can buy for regular hoses that convert them to high-pressure sprayers, but these will never be as effective as a washer with air compression.

So, consider renting one from a local hardware store. They are cheap, and you can get a lot done with them, including removing other dirt and stains around the home. There’s a good how-to video for this right here:

Watch video.

Additional photo credits: Omer Wazir, Kelly Bone
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Guest's picture

Great article on getting out oil stains! Some of these I hadn't heard of before (Cheez-Wiz? Who knew?) and I love how many options are here so that I can substitute for oil removers in case I'm out of something.

Guest's picture

wow.. coke really is good for other things besides drinking.

Guest's picture
GothamGirl

Finally got my first pair of Uggs and yes they are all that.

But then - splat! Buttery eggs on my right Ugg. Ugh.

Simply cannot get it out and am so pissed that these expensive boots are ruined. (Even though I used a $100 gift card to get the $180 boots).

Any suggestions y'all?

Andrea Karim's picture

These are all excellent tips, but I just want to point out that you admitted to watching The View.

Andrea Karim's picture

It should also be noted that power-washing concrete has to be one of the most cathartic exercises known to man.

Guest's picture
Tacit

Who'd have thought that coke would remove oil

Guest's picture
Guest

Awesome tips, I used the dry dishwashing detergent on my bedspread. I accidently left a Bath and Body works oil plug-in on my bed and it leaked all over it. I used the dry detergent by pouring it directly on the stain and rubbing it a circular motion, the stain wasn't all the way gone, so I poured a little more dry detergent and repeated it and with some elbow grease, it soaked all the oil up and I didn't have to wash the bedspread.

Guest's picture
Guest

I've used dishwasher liquid numerous times to get rid of stains. Always works like a charm and saved me a ton of money (on drycleaning) and a lot of clothes!

Guest's picture
Guest

What if the oil stain is coconut oil and it's on a wool jacket that can't be washed and the owner can't send it to the dry cleaner? What should he do to remove it?

Guest's picture
Guest

Damage done! I tried a combination of hair spray and shampoo and have ugly white stains on my fabric.... not sure which one of the two caused it, but since it's so concentrated on the "old stain areas", I suppose it was hair spray. Will dye my clothes black now...

Guest's picture
Guest

Worse than before. Used WD-40 on unsealed colored concrete to get oil stains out. Now I have a WD-40 darker stain on my concrete. Very unhappy!

Guest's picture
Guest

Hairspray on an oil stain on cotton shorts has saved my shorts! Cheers