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How to get oil stains out of clothes

Oil is in a lot of products we use daily, so it's easy to get an oil stain on your clothes. Read on to find out how to remove oil stains!


how to remove oil stains from clothes

Whether we realise it or not, oil has become a massive part of our everyday lives. Many of us feel unable to face the world without our morning application of skin cream containing mongongo nut oil – a true South African miracle for dry skin – and who among us doesn’t have a bottle of canola or palm nut oil in our kitchen cupboards for whipping up a rich and delicious filling for a hearty bunny chow feast? Unfortunately, despite how useful oil is, and as you may have already discovered, it stains.

The good news is that removing oil stains from clothes is actually very easy. Even if you have no idea how to get oil stains out of clothing now, you will be an expert by the time you finish reading this guide.

The number one rule for removing oil stains is to use appropriate cleaning products, so you don’t further damage your garment. For example, a liquid laundry detergent specially designed to remove stains, like OMO, is perfect for fighting tough oil stains. Always read the manufacturer’s guidelines and test the product on a small area first.

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

How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes

Learning how to remove oil stains from clothing that can easily be washed in your normal cycle is a piece of cake. Be sure to always check the clothing care label on the garment before treating your item. Here’s how to remove oil stains using nothing more than a good laundry detergent and your washing machine:

  • Your first task is to remove as much excess oil from your clothing as possible. This is best done as soon as possible after you’ve spilt oil, before it has a chance to soak deep into the fibres. The best way to do this is by dabbing the oily stain with a clean, soft cloth. Don’t rub or scrub as this could cause the stain to spread. If you’re out at a restaurant, a paper towel will suffice.
  • As soon as possible, apply a stain remover to the stain and allow the clothing to sit for a few minutes so that the cleaning product can soak in and start to break up the greasy particles. If you don’t have a stain remover handy, or just prefer not to use one, you can apply a small amount of liquid laundry detergent like OMO, or create a thick paste using a powdered detergent and a drop or two of water. Always follow the instructions on the bottle of your chosen cleaning product and test it on a small patch of the stain before using on the whole area.
  • Pop the dirty clothing into the washing machine with the correct dosage of OMO and set your machine to a high temperature – around 60 degrees if you’re setting the temperature manually, or choose the sanitise setting if your machine includes this option. While it’s not recommended that you wash all clothing at a high temperature, heat does help to break down grease. Check the care label on your garment to ensure you wash your item at the correct temperature.

After your wash has finished, be sure to thoroughly inspect the clothing as soon as it comes out of the machine before it’s had a chance to dry. If the stain remains, repeat the above steps and wash again at the recommended temperature until the clothing is clean.

Dealing with Dry-Clean Garments

For items labelled ‘dry-clean only’ it is possible to attempt to clean the stain yourself, saving you time and money. However, if in doubt always seek advice from a professional dry cleaner. Here’s how to remove oil stains from clothes that are dry-clean only at home:

  • You’ll want to start off in the same way as if you were treating a standard fabric – using a clean, dry cloth to dab the stain and remove as much excess oil as possible.
  • Next, use a dry, absorbent powder and sprinkle over the stain, creating a generous covering. Talcum powder, baby powder, corn flour, baking soda, and even coffee grounds are all excellent choices. Leave the powder on the stain overnight, giving it a chance to absorb the oil and draw it out of the fibres. In the morning, simply shake the powder off, and use a blunt object like a spoon to gently scrape any damp clumps away.
  • If a small amount of powder remains on the clothing, very lightly dampen a clean cloth and wipe away the remaining powder. Be careful not to saturate the garment – it’s best to keep it as dry as possible.
It’s always important to understand which products are good at removing oil stains, and are completely useless, or could cause damage. Here’s a handy guide for you to turn to. A laundry detergent with a built-in stain remover is ideal. These types of detergents combine the cleaning power of regular detergents with the amazing stain removal properties of pre-treatments. Dishwashing Soap like Sunlight is specifically designed to cut through the greasy film that’s left on dishes after a delicious meal, so it’s an excellent go-to product for treating oil stains on clothing. Plain water – Water and oil don’t mix, it’s as simple as that. If you try to flush out oil stains from clothing using water alone, you’ll find that the water simply sits on the surface of the oil, rather than penetrating the fibres of the clothing – completely useless! Bleach can be very good at hiding stains that have caused discolouration, but in terms of oily stains, it won’t do anything at all to draw the oil out of the clothing, rendering it useless. Bleach can also damage some delicate fabrics, so in greasy situations, it’s best to avoid.

Originally published