How to Remove Kerosene from Fabric


Shannon asked: How do you clean kerosene from a sleeping bag? When we moved recently, a kerosene lamp fell over and spilled kerosene all over our brand new sleeping bag. It is made from 100% polyester (shell, lining and filling). I have washed it in the washing machine with regular detergent several times and added vinegar to the wash cycle one time. Nothing seems to get the smell out. Please help!

Kerosene spills on fabrics can be a real challenge to remove. These spills bring about two separate cleaning challenges, removing the oil and then removing the smell. There are ways to accomplish this with items that are readily available. It will be necessary to have a washing machine available that is large enough to fit the item. If the item is too large for your home machine, consider utilizing a large capacity washer and dryer at a local Laundromat.

Removing the Oil Base

You Will Need:

  • Cleaner that will cut through the oil such as:
    • Dish detergent (Dawn is preferred)
    • Facial cleanser (good for smaller stains)
    • Shampoo designed for oily hair (cheaper brands tend to have less additional fragrances, etc.)
    • Borax
  • Washing machine

Steps to Remove the Oil Base:

  1. Depending on the amount of kerosene spilled, it may be possible to spot clean the stain. For larger areas, it is likely best to wash the entire piece in the washing machine.
  2. Begin by spreading some cleaner directly on the stain. Work it in with a soft cloth or with your fingers to allow the cleaner to really work into the affected area,
  3. Next, place it in the washing machine (do not place with other items or the smell will transfer) and wash as normal with the hottest water setting that the fabric can tolerate.
  4. When the wash cycle is complete, check the areas for any oily areas and treat by repeating the steps above. Don’t worry about the remaining smell as that will be tackled in the next section.
  5. Do not place the piece in the dryer until you are sure that all of the oil is removed. Kerosene is highly flammable and could ignite if placed in the dryer.

Removing the Lingering Odor

You Will Need:

  • White vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Washing machine

Steps to Remove the Odor:

  1. There are several different methods that can be employed to remove the smell from the fabric.
  2. The first will require a second washing to remove the smell after the oil is gone. Sprinkle the entire area that was stained with baking soda. If it is still wet from the previous washing, there will no need for additional water, but if it has dried, it may help to moisten the area first so the baking soda has something to adhere to.
  3. Next, place it in the washing machine with laundry detergent and wash as normal.
  4. When the rinse cycle begins, add two cups of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. Allow the washing machine to agitate for a few turns to distribute the vinegar.
  5. Now, turn off the washing machine and allow the piece to soak in the vinegar water for at least two hours.
  6. Turn the machine back on to continue the rinse cycle.
  7. If desired, a second rinse cycle can be used to remove the vinegar.
  8. A second option is to add 5-10 ml of eucalyptus oil to the wash cycle to assist in removing the odor. Wash as normal.
  9. Dry the piece by either placing it in the dryer (ensure all oil is removed first) or hanging it outside. The more air that it is exposed to, the more the smell will be able to evaporate.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • If the oil has all been removed, allowing the piece to hang outside on the clothesline for several days will help in evaporating the smell and removing it.
  • If all else fails, it may be necessary to have the piece professionally cleaned.
  • Alcohol such as vodka is an old-time remedy for removing odors. Spray the piece with vodka (test a small hidden area first to ensure there is no damage to the fabric) and allow it to air dry completely.


  1. Heather says:

    How do you clean black soot from a kerosene heater from a white coat? I was running a kerosene heater last winter while I left for a short period of time. My pit bull bumped the heater and black soot filled my kitchen and my daughter’s coat turned black from the soot. How do I clean it; please help!

    Check it out! We’ve answered your question! Yippee!

  2. Biplab says:

    I want to know that what is the procedure to remove/reduce the smell from one liter of kerosene oil. The quality of kerosene is the same, but there are some that have no smell present in the oil. If possible, please give the reply in details.

  3. Melanie says:

    There are a variety of methods for deodorizing kerosene. WiseGeek recommends adding one ounce of rubbing alcohol to a gallon of kerosene, which would be about 1/4 ounce of rubbing alcohol per liter. Therefore, add 1/2 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol to one liter of kerosene.
    To use mineral spirits instead of rubbing alcohol, add 1 1/2 cups of mineral spirits to one liter of kerosene.
    To use paraffin oil, add 2 1/4 cups to one liter of kerosene.
    Another way to deodorize kerosene is to filter the oil through an activated carbon (charcoal) filter. You could also filter the oil with limestone; add the powder to the oil, allow the powder to soak and settle for several days and strain the oil.

    Source: WiseGeek – How Is Kerosene Deodorized?
    Source: Brine Shrimp Direct – Measurement Conversion Chart
    Source: Wikipedia – Activated carbon
    Source: eHow – How to Eliminate a Kerosene Smell

  4. T says:

    I need to know how to remove it from my fabric car seat. Any suggestions?

  5. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Remove Kerosene from Cloth Upholstery.

  6. Elane says:

    I am so troubled!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve taken my cloths to the cleaners for kerosene stains that have been in there for a while. They could not get it out. What can I do at home to clean my cloths? Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Melanie says:

    When an old stain won’t come out, sometimes it helps to freshen it. Carefully apply fresh kerosene on the spot, let it sit about 5-10 minutes, then work to remove the kerosene stain. If nothing else is working, it’s worth a shot.

  8. J says:

    How will I know that it is out/clean enough to dry? I don’t want to start a fire…

  9. Helena says:

    Hi, thanks for all the helpful washing instructions for kerosene soaked clothes. What about removing it from my husband’s leather boots? He often puts his boots in the campfire to redistribute wood. Does he need to toss out the boots due to fire hazard now? (Actually it was tiki torch oil, not kerosene, but I assume they are similar.)

  10. Melanie says:

    This is the article that you need: How to Clean an Oil Spill from Leather Upholstery.

Leave a Comment