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How to remove grease from clothes

Don’t panic – grease marks are easier to get out than you think.

Updated

grease stain on clothing about to be washed

A splash of grease from the frying pan or a greasy stain on your work clothes needn’t be a laundry nightmare. Getting grease out can often be much simpler than dealing with other types of stains as oily substances can be effectively broken down by most soap-based products, such as washing detergent. Read on to find out how to remove grease from clothes.

Removing grease stains from clothes: 3 top tips

Act fast

You stand the best chance of getting a grease stain out if you get to it quickly. Don’t give it time to set in the material. Dealing with the stain ASAP is key.

Avoid water

Don’t try to apply water to grease (unless you’re mixing it with some kind of detergent). Grease doesn’t mix well with H2O and you actually run the risk of making the stain worse.

Be fabric savvy

Always check the label on the garment – those instructions trump all others. If the item is dry clean you’ll be best off taking it to a professional cleaner. It’s also not a good idea to use the detergents mentioned below on delicate or speciality fabrics, such as silk, suede or velvet.

You will need:

  • Tissue or dry paper towel
  • A piece of cardboard or a towel
  • Washing machine
  • Toothbrush
  • Liquid biological detergent
  • Small amount of water
  • Washing-up liquid
  • Shampoo
  • Aloe vera gel
  • Hairspray
  • Cornflour or baby powder

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Laundry detergent method

Household products such as laundry detergent or washing-up liquid are your go-to choices, as grease is relatively easily broken down by soap-based products.

Depending on what you have handy in your home, pick from one of our methods below and learn how to remove grease from clothes for good.

  1. Put cardboard or a towel under the stain

    Make sure the stain is flat and easily accessible. Place the cardboard or towel inside the garment, under the stain.

  2. Dab any excess grease with a tissue or paper towel

    Carefully dab any extra grease with a tissue or paper towel.

  3. Dilute liquid detergent with a small amount of water in a bowl

    Dilute a teaspoon or so of liquid biological detergent with a small amount of water.

  4. Apply the detergent and water solution directly to the stain

    Apply the solution to the stain and rub gently with your fingers.

  5. Rinse the garment under a running tap

    Use cold water to rinse the garment thoroughly to remove any remaining detergent.

  6. Use a washing machine and wash on the hottest setting (depending on the fabric)

    Check the care label on your item and wash on the hottest setting suitable for the fabric.

  7. Air dry the stain and repeat steps in necessary

    Make sure the stain has been completely removed before drying; if not repeat the stain removal process or try the method below.

Washing-up liquid method

Although it’s usually best to use a product designed for cleaning clothes, liquid dishwashing detergent can also be a great way of removing grease stains from clothes.

  1. Place cardboard or a towel under the stain

    Layout the garment flat and place the cardboard or towel inside, under the stain.

  2. Dab excess grease with a tissue or paper towel

    Carefully dab any excess grease with a tissue or paper towel.

  3. Dilute washing-up liquid with water

    Dilute a small amount of liquid dishwashing detergent with water.

  4. Work the detergent into the fabric with fingers

    Using your fingers, gently work the detergent into the fabric. You should see the stain begin to dissolve almost immediately as most dish detergents absorb grease directly.

  5. Rinse off the liquid dishwashing detergent and wash normally

    Rinse the detergent off and wash normally with laundry detergent.

Shampoo method

Shampoo is another soap-based product like laundry detergent that is also great at tackling grease.

  1. Pour shampoo directly onto the stain

    Pour a small amount of shampoo onto the stain (but making sure to cover it). 

  2. Leave for 10 minutes

    Leave the shampoo to soak into the stain for 10 minutes.

  3. Wash regularly

    Wash in the machine on your regular cycle.

If you’ve spilt cooking oil on your clothes, check out our guide: How to get cooking oil out of clothing.

Aloe vera method

The amino acids in aloe vera are great at breaking up grease. Try to use 100 per cent aloe vera as it works the best.

  1. Lay out your garment

    Lay out your garment so the stain is flat and easy to access. 

  2. Damp with cold water

    Dampen the stain area with cold water.

  3. Rub aloe vera gel into the stain

    Rub aloe vera gel in for a couple of minutes. 

  4. Wash the item, preferably with cold water

    Wash the item (cold water is recommended).

Hairspray method

It might sound a little ridiculous but hairspray is great at working on dried grease stains (it’s also pretty good at getting pen marks out of fabrics too).

  1. Lay out the garment

    Lay your garment out flat.

  2. Place the cardboard or towel underneath the stain

    Place the cardboard or towel underneath the stain and between the fabric (you don’t want the hairspray going through to the other side of the clothing).

  3. Apply the hairspray directly to the stain

    Apply hairspray so the stain is damp.

  4. Allow the hairspray to soak for 20-30 minutes

    Allow the hairspray to do its stuff on the grease (20-30 minutes should do it).

  5. Wash normally in a washing machine

    Wash in your machine according to the care label instructions.

Has your lifestyle during the Covid-19 lockdown affected the type of stains you get on your clothes?

How to remove grease stains from delicates

You’ll want to take extra care with fabrics such as silk, satin and dry-clean only garments.

  1. If there is any excess grease dab at it with a tissue or paper towel (be careful not to rub the grease in further).

  2. Sprinkle on an ample amount of cornflour or baby powder, making sure to cover the stain completely. 

  3. The stain will slowly be absorbed by the flour/powder – for best results, leave it overnight. 

  4. Either shake off the powder or brush it off gently with a clean toothbrush. 

  5. Wash as directed by the fabric care label (get it dry cleaned if necessary).

We have more guidance here on how to remove oil stains from clothes, including general tips and ways to remove oil from delicate garments.

How to remove grease stains with a stain remover

You can also opt to use a commercial stain remover – just make sure to follow the instructions carefully.

It’s always best to test any product on an inconspicuous spot on your garment to ensure it doesn't affect the material (under a collar or hem, for example).

And remember, getting to the stain as quickly as possible is the best way to ensure it comes out.

How do you get dried oil stains out of clothes?

It’s a bit more difficult, but you can remove already-dry oil stains from your clothing using the same technique you would with grease.

You can use washing up liquid, aloe vera or even hairspray – just be sure to follow the instructions we’ve outlined above for best results.

Been working on your bike or car? Read our tips on how to get bike and car oil out of your clothes.

Originally published