Grease and oil stains can be tricky to remove from fabric, and especially from clothing. The following steps will help you remove engine grease and oil stains and maybe salvage your favorite outfit or tablecloth. If you are looking to remove food grease, see our article on How to Remove Food Grease Stains.
Cleaning Engine Grease and Oil
What you will need:
- Plastic spoon
- Paper Towels (white)
- Grease-fighting dishwashing liquid (such as Dawn or Ajax)
- Nail brush or Toothbrush
- Baby Powder or Cornstarch
- Laundry Detergent
How to Remove the Stain:
- Scrape off as much of the grease or oil as possible with the spoon, being careful not to grind the grease in to the fabric.
- Using a paper towel, blot at the grease stain, using a lifting motion, until no more of the stain comes off on the paper towel.
- Sprinkle the stain with baby powder (or cornstarch) and allow to set for 5 to 10 minutes to absorb some of the stain (flour or salt may be effective alternatives as well).
- Remove the baby powder (or cornstarch) with a paper towel or nail brush (being careful not to spread it onto other parts of the fabric).
- Place a drop or two of dishwashing liquid on the stain, add a drop of water and work it into the stain with your thumb and forefinger.
- Using the nailbrush or toothbrush, rub the stain in a circular motion on both sides of the fabric.
- Wash the item as per the directions found on the care tag.
- When washed, air dry the fabric by either laying flat or hanging from a clothes line. DO NOT place in the dryer until you are sure the stain is completely gone – if any stain remains the heat from the dryer will set the stain and it will be virtually impossible to remove.
Additional Tips and Advice
- While this procedure is generally safe for all types of fabric ALWAYS read the label to determine proper washing instructions.
- If the grease stain is on a delicate fabric such as silk or wool, consider taking the item to a professional cleaner.
- The laundry aisle of your local grocery store most likely has numerous products available to pre-treat grease stains (i.e. Tide to Go, Shout, etc.). Always read and follow all directions carefully, making certain that the product is appropriate for the fabric you are treating.
- Removing a fresh grease stain is often easier than removing one that has set in. Consequently, the sooner you can treat the stain, the better. Even if you can’t get the item into a washer right away, it is best to pre-treat the stain anyway. If you don’t have access to dishwashing soap, even liquid hand soap is better than nothing.
- If you have a grease stain that has been set in, either by passage of time or by drying the fabric in the dryer, try spraying the stain with a little WD 40, rubbing it in, and then washing the fabric as usual. NOTE: Always test a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric before applying the WD 40 to make certain no damage or discoloration will occur.
- As an alternative to the WD 40, you may treat a set in stain with lighter fluid (being careful not to do so around any open flames or other heat source). Simply rub a small amount of lighter fluid into the stain and wash as usual. NOTE: Always test a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric before applying the lighter fluid to make certain no damage or discoloration will occur. CAUTION: Lighter fluid is considered a hazardous substance and can cause injury if not used correctly..
- Some people swear by the Coca Cola method of stain removal, and will treat a set in grease stain with Coca Cola. Of course the soda will leave its own mark, but will come out after washing, hopefully taking the stain with it.
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