Motor oil, grease, and other automotive chemicals can be tricky to remove from clothing. Success will vary by how bad the stain is, how long it has been sitting, what kind of fabric has been stained, and what you have on hand to fix it.
You're going to want to use your better judgment about these steps. If, for instance, hot water or bleach is called for and you're dealing with a delicate natural fabric like wool or silk, better think again. For those fabrics that should never get wet or become subjected to chlorine bleach, either test them in an inconspicuous area or be extremely careful.
The objective here is to save and restore an item of clothing, not guarantee that it's been ruined. Follow these steps in order for easy oil or grease stain removal:
- Blot the stain away (don't scrub it into the fibers)
- Sprinkle on baking soda (it soaks up oil), scrape away, and repeat until effective
- Blot on dish soap and gently scrub with an old toothbrush
- Rinse and air dry
Note that you should never use water or chlorine bleach on leather, mohair, spandex, silk, or wool. Hot water should be reserved only for desperate circumstances.
How About Vinegar?
Distilled white vinegar has long been the household cleaner of choice for lots of things. Here's a helpful tip if you just can't get the stink or stain out of something:
- Fill a new, clean spray bottle with equal parts vodka and white vinegar
- Spray odors away on just about anything
This solution won't leave that weird chemical scent residue those advertised products do.
Speaking of vinegar, this wonder substance isn't just how grandma used to get her windows crystal clear. It can also lift stains from clothing, along with the added bonus of removing nasty odors, as mentioned above.
Most experts recommend making a solution from equal amounts of vinegar and warm water for soaking darker-colored clothing to minimize the chance of bleaching. You'll want to soak the item in this solution to allow the vinegar to get to work lifting the stain. Scrub lightly after about an hour, and the stain should lift.
Better Living Through Chemistry?
Believe it or not, WD-40 isn't a lubricant - it's also a solvent. That means it's engineered to break down things like oil and grease. Spray a little on a clean rag and dab the stain until it fades.
Another great modern solution to have around is Goo Gone, which smells great and works like a charm. Just follow the instructions on the bottle.
The Importance of Air Drying
If your clothing has been stained with oil, grease, or other petroleum-based chemicals, it is extremely important that you never attempt to dry it in your clothes dryer. Sometimes, even when a stain looks to have been removed, volatile organic compounds remain in the fibers and can ignite in the heat produced by a clothes dryer.
Always hang items out to dry thoroughly and inspect them in bright sunlight to see if the stain is indeed gone.
Whether you choose to nuke an oil stain with modern chemicals or gently lift grease with natural methods, remember to always air-dry oil-stained clothing. And better yet, invest in a set of coveralls for next time.