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Remove oil stains from clothes

man cleaning oil from his hands

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Even though grease and oil stains are often difficult to remove from clothing, you by no means have to put up with stains on your clothes or throw away your favorite shirts right away. A good detergent can remove a variety of oily and greasy stains during washing. It all depends on the right laundry routine!

What are the similarities and differences in grease vs. oil?

In the household, fats and oil are often used in cooking. There are some differences between the two, though. The first is their physical appearance. Oil is usually in liquid form, while fat or grease is semi-solid. They are also different in terms of their origins. For example, fats mostly come from animals, and oils mostly come from a plant source (e.g. sunflower, olive). The good news is that, in spite of their differences, the method to remove oil stains from clothes is the same as removing grease stains from clothes.

What are the different kinds of grease and oil stains?

Grease and oil stains can have many causes, including common oils used in cooking such as olive oil, coconut oil and vegetable oil. Certain foods also have a high oil content. These include peanut butter and butter in general. Both can create dark stains when they come in contact with clothing. Hair care products, petroleum jelly and lotions also contain oil and can stain your clothes. Luckily, removing all of these kinds of stains follows the same basic principles.

Step-by-step instructions to remove oil stains from clothing

Got an oil stain on your pants or shirt? Here you can learn how to remove this stain:

  1. Wash the fabric as soon as possible so you have the best chance of successfully removing the stain.
  2. Gently blot the stain with a paper towel or old (but clean) cloth to remove excess oil.
  3. Pre-treat the stain either with a wet bar of Purex® Fels-Naptha® Laundry Bar or Zout® Stain Remover. Make sure you do a colorfastness check. You can also pre-treat with laundry detergent by applying a small amount of detergent directly to the stain and letting it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Set your washer to the highest possible washing temperature according to the care label.
  5. Choose the right laundry detergent based on the garment fabric. We recommend Persil® ProClean® laundry detergent Check the washing instructions inside your clothes for specific details from the manufacturer.
  6. After washing, check to see if the grease and/or oil stain has been completely removed.
  7. Repeat the process if necessary.

Choose detergent and stain remover

Commercial detergent and stain remover manufacturers have developed detergents and stain removers specifically formulated to treat grease and oil stains. Depending on whether the garment is washable, white or colored, or heavily soiled, you'll find the right product specifically for cleaning grease and oil stains. Always refer to your laundry care instructions and follow them carefully. For colorful fabrics, please always test your stain remover in a less visible area to check for potential color bleeding.


Before you put your clothes in the washing machine, take the time to pretreat the stain. Gently blot the stain with a piece of paper towel or a clean white cloth to remove excess grease. If the fabric is washable, spray the stain with a special stain remover formulated for grease and oil. Alternatively, you can apply a small amount of detergent directly to the stain, rub it in gently and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Wash and rinse

For the next step, simply refer to the instructions on the detergent and stain remover. You may need to rinse the oil stain remover out of the fabric under hot water before washing the clothes. Follow the instructions for the clothes on the stain remover and rinse them. Then wash your clothes on the highest allowed wash temperature for the fabric with the detergent of your choice. Use the dosage for “heavily soiled” laundry.

It is very important to wash the clothes immediately after spotting the grease stain; this will make it much easier to clean.

Check if the stain is gone

If the grease and/or oil stain has not completely disappeared, repeat the pretreatment and washing process. Do not dry the clothes in the dryer. High temperatures can set the stain, making it much harder to remove.

Removing oil stains from various fabrics

Removing oil stains from everyday clothes such as jeans, shirts, sweaters, polo shirts and blouses requires the above steps—and you can use the same steps if you want to remove these types of stains from tablecloths, cloth napkins and bedding, too.

If you need to remove oil stains from delicate fabrics like silk blouses or wool sweaters, first carefully read the manufacturer's instructions on the stain remover of your choice. You may need a special detergent for the process—washing delicates needs a slightly different setting and detergent, so take care with these garments.

Do not attempt to use DIY stain removers to clean garments that are dry clean only, such as suits or dresses. While many natural or DIY stain removers can be quite effective at removing stains from your clothing, garments that may only be dry cleaned may not react well to the mixture of oil, grease and your chosen stain remover. This can lead to color changes in your clothes. You should protect your clothes from this and take them to the dry cleaner instead.

Stubborn oil stains on clothes

The hot temperature of the dryer can set grease stains, making them harder to remove. Nevertheless, this does not mean that all is lost. You can still remove grease stains from clothes after they’ve dried. First of all, apply a small amount of grease to the stain. No, we haven’t gone crazy. This sounds farfetched, but it actually helps to “revive” the stain. Then, repeat the above steps: Pretreat the stain and wash the garment at the highest temperature allowed for this piece of clothing. Dry it again once the stain is completely gone.

We hope these tips have helped you remove oil stains from clothes—and shown you how to prevent them from forming in future. For more tips, head to the laundry section on our website.