How to Remove Engine Oil and Grease Stains

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)
  • Water
  • Nail brush or Toothbrush
  • Baby Powder or Cornstarch
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Washer

How to Remove the Stain:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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).
  5. 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.
  6. Using the nailbrush or toothbrush, rub the stain in a circular motion on both sides of the fabric.
  7. Wash the item as per the directions found on the care tag.
  8. 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.


  1. Karen says:

    I got axle grease on a brand new pair of pants. I tried the dishwashing liquid bit, but absolutely nothing happened. So, in desperation, I put 50/50 full-strength liquid laundry soap and dish soap, rubbed it in, then I put OxiClean directly on the stain with a toothbrush, and scrubbed. I would periodically rinse with HOT water, and repeat the process. In about 10 minutes, the stain was completely gone! Bear in mind that OxiClean directly on your SKIN can cause mild stinging, and even discolor your skin temporarily. Be careful.

  2. Levi says:

    The method in the article completely took a motor grease stain out of a brand new hat that I bought! I definitely recommend this technique!

  3. Julie says:

    YAY! This method really worked! Took mechanical grease right out of my husband’s shirt and shorts. Thanks!

  4. Barb says:

    Hi, and thanks for the hint. I followed the instructions, and it worked well on a oil stain on a lightweight pair of my husband’s trousers. Saved me from throwing out an expensive, almost brand new pair of trousers. Thanks again!

  5. Stephanie says:

    This works. I didn’t do the baby powder for my stain.
    We use Palmolive Oxy dish soap. It is a great soap!

  6. Zoey says:

    Baby powder combined with WD-40 and Dawn is the key. Brilliant again.

  7. Chase says:

    Help; I dried before removing a stain.

  8. Melanie says:

    Use Coca-Cola or Pepsi, WD-40 or lighter fluid to moisten the stain, then clean as usual. It may help to use a stain-fighting laundry detergent or adding a few drops of Dawn to the wash. See the ‘Additional Tips and Advice’ section above for more information on each method. HowToCleanStuff also has an article on the WD-40 method; How to Clean Grease Stains After Laundry.
    For the Coke method, you can also pour a can of soda into the wash rather than directly on the stain. You can use other sodas instead of Coke or Pepsi, but try to select one with the lowest pH possible. Quitting Soda has a great list of the pH for various types of soda; The Acidity (pH) of Soda Pop.

  9. Farhan says:

    Hi, the above tip was really useful. Today I bought a brand new shirt and it got a grease stain from my bike, but fortunately, with your tip I just removed the stains from my shirt. It really worked. Thank you…

  10. Ashwin says:

    Take salt, shampoo, dishwashing liquid, and laundry detergent powder and mix them together to form a paste. Take a toothbrush and rub the paste on the stain for 3-4 minutes and wash it off.
    I tried this method on my polyster bag, which got a nasty grease stain from my cycle. This worked like a charm for me.

  11. Melanie says:

    I just found my satin pillowcase with grease in both of the corners where it somehow got pinched and was hanging there twisted and dried. What do I do to get this black grease out of the corners of my favorite and sentimental pillowcase? Please someone HELP!

  12. Blaze says:

    Being a mechanic, the most accurate way I found to remove oil stains is using brake cleaner. Simply spray it on the spot and rub with a clean cloth.

  13. Miriam says:

    My husband got an oil stain on his sweater while working on his car. I put half a bottle of vanish stain remover spray on it and left it over night and it still didn’t go. What should I do? I need help!!! 😐 :O

  14. Jacqueline says:

    Thank you for this procedure in removing grease stains on a shirt or clothes…I just followed the procedure above and the result is amazing; proven and effective. So, now my problem is solved.

  15. Carol says:

    I teach keyboards in schools. While carrying the keyboards under my arm, the little black rubber feet sweat in warm weather and have ruined some of my favourite blouses by leaving black marks. It took me ages to fathom where these black marks were coming from & ruining my clothes.
    I would be so grateful if someone could suggest a solution. The stains are old now as I have tried so many methods of removal with no results! Thank you!

  16. Laura says:

    Awesome! Big thanks for saving a favorite sweater and jeans-skirt! :) :) :)

  17. Melanie says:

    Rubber often contains oil, tar, and carbon black dye. Therefore, it would be best to use a cleaning solution that can work for any of those types of stains. Rubbing alcohol is a good choice. Some other options are peanut butter, white vinegar, diluted ammonia (2 tbsp. in 1 cup water), or automotive tar remover. Dish soap that contains ammonia might also work.If none of those work, keep working through the solutions for each of those types of stains until you find something that works.
    These articles might help:
    How to Remove Dye Stains from Clothing
    How to Fix Dye Transfer
    Source: Ziobits – Why are car ties black anyways?
    Source: Wikipedia – Carbon black
    Source: – How to Remove Tar from Upholstery

  18. Sharon says:

    I need a little help. I did a load of my husband’s work clothes that came out fine, but then I put a load of my kid’s uniforms on to wash. Now I have grey ball pants instead of white. How do I get such stains out? HELP!!

  19. Anna says:

    Just wish to let you know – stained my cream pashmina wool scarf with an engine oil…used WD40 + Fairy washing up liquid… all gone in seconds!!!!!! :)

  20. Kelly says:

    I am working with quite a mess after discovering some motor oil had leaked in the back of my car onto a few items, including cloth bags, a hat, and a dog leash, all completely saturated. I blotted all the items, and then coated them all completely in flour for about 15 minutes. I used a large scrub brush to remove all the flour. Then, I used a 50/50 mix of a laundry detergent and Ajax dishwashing liquid to completely coat the items, and I am letting them sit overnight that way. Tomorrow I will rinse them out well to line dry and see if I need to repeat the process. Keeping my fingers crossed for success, and I’ll post an update. Thanks for all the tips!

  21. Meghan says:

    I used the salt, shampoo, dishwashing liquid, and laundry detergent powder method on a pink cotton dress and a pair of UGG boots and it worked a treat! Thanks Ashwin! :)

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