How to Clean Engine Oil from Carpet

Whatever type of carpet you have, motor oil soaks into the fibers and if not treated properly and promptly can become permanent. The removal procedure is relatively simple especially in light of the permanent damage such a stain could cause. These cleaning tips will also work for other petroleum-based products such as Vaseline.

Cleaning Oil From Carpet

What you will need:

  • Cleaning solution*:
    • Synthetic Fibers: Rubbing (Isoprophl) alcohol
    • Oriental Rugs: 5-6 drops of mild grease-cutting liquid dish soap mixed with 1 quart of water.
    • Wool Fiber: Aerosol brake parts cleaner, then dry cleaning fluid
  • Absorbent white paper towels (colored towels should not be used)
  • Clean, white, washcloth (colored washcloth, or one with designs, should not be used)
  • Plastic spoon
  • Weight (heavy books, dish, etc.)

*Different types of carpet will require treatment with different types of cleaning solution. Where possible, always check with the manufacturer’s recommendations before deciding on a cleaning solution.

Steps to Remove the Stain:

  1. If oil is puddled, use the plastic spoon to scoop up excess oil and dispose of spoon promptly. If the oil has dried, it may be helpful to use a small hand-vac to pick up residue. Avoid using a full-sized vacuum as you may inadvertently spread the stain.
  2. With a sheet or two of paper towel folded into a square, blot at the oil stain using a lifting motion, working from the outside, in. NEVER rub the stain or you may make it worse.
  3. Use paper towels to blot the oil. Use a lifting motion and blot until no more oil comes off on the paper towel.
  4. Apply a small amount of cleaning solution to washcloth.
  5. Test a small, inconspicuous area of the carpet to make sure it can withstand the cleaning solution without staining or fading.
  6. Blot the stain with the washcloth, using a lifting motion, working from the outside, in. Again, do not rub as this may spread the stain.
  7. Repeat the washcloth blotting (rewetting with cleaning solution if necessary) until the stain is gone, or the washcloth no longer picks up the residue.
  8. If stain remains, apply a small amount of cleaning solution directly to the stain and let stand no longer than 5 minutes. Blot with dry, white paper towel as in step # 2 until the moisture is absorbed and the stain is gone.
  9. Cover stain with clean cloth or stack of paper towels and put heavy weight on top (heavy books, etc.)
  10. Leave set for several hours to absorb any remaining liquid.
  11. Remove weights and cloths and let area air dry.
  12. When spot has dried completely, vacuum thoroughly to restore carpet texture and pick up any remaining cleaning solution residue.
  13. If stain still remains after all the above steps, contact a professional carpet cleaner.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • If you have an oriental rug or if your carpet is wool or silk, it is highly recommended that you have the stain removed professionally. These types of rugs/carpeting are delicate and may not be color fast. Make sure you call a carpet specialist that is familiar with the type of rug/carpet you have. When in doubt as to the type of material your carpet or Oriental rug is made of, check the tag, or check with the retailer/installer for your carpet.
  • When cleaning, don’t over saturate the area as this may cause the stain to spread. The cleaning washcloth should be damp, not soaking wet.
  • Avoid walking on any damp areas of carpet. Make sure any spots you cleaned are dry before you walk on them (wet carpet fibers attract more dirt than dry, and you may end up with a bigger stain than you bargained for.
  • To extend the life of your carpet and avoid excessive staining, you should vacuum your carpets at least once a week, and deep clean them at least twice a year.
  • It is highly recommended that you choose a reputable professional carpet cleaner to deep clean your carpets, but if you choose to deep clean your carpets yourself using rented cleaning machines make sure you don’t over saturate the carpet (it might cause the carpet backing or seams to separate) and make sure you have adequate ventilation, using fans to help disperse the odors from the cleaning solution.
  • Whether you have a professional deep clean your carpets or you choose to do it yourself, always allow the carpets to dry completely before walking on them (12 hours is recommended).


  1. Frances says:

    I’m going to try to clean my carpet without a professional now that I have read this.

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