How to Remove Motor Oil from Upholstery

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Neda asked: How do I clean motor oil from my car seats? They are fabric.

Grease and motor oil are common stains found on car upholstery. They can be stubborn to remove, but with some persistence, will come out completely.

You Will Need:

  • Soft cloths
  • Dawn dishwashing soap
  • Water
  • WD 40 (for dried stains)
  • Old toothbrush

Steps to Remove the Stain:

  1. Oil stains become more difficult to remove the longer they sit. Treat any stains as soon as possible for the best results.
  2. Begin by blotting the stain with a soft cloth or paper towel until no more oil transfers to the cloth.
  3. If the stain is dried, a small amount of WD 40 can be applied to make the stain “fresh” again.
  4. Place a few drops of Dawn dish soap on the stain.
  5. Blot it with a clean cloth to work it into the stain.
  6. A few drops of water can be added as well. If the stain is really stubborn, scrub it with an old toothbrush.
  7. Continue blotting until the stain is removed.
  8. Rinse by spraying some clean water on the area.
  9. Blot the upholstery dry with a clean cloth.
  10. Repeat until all of the soap is removed.
  11. Allow the surface to dry completely.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If the stain is fresh, cover it with talcum powder (baby powder or cornstarch may also work). Allow it to set on the stain overnight. The powder will absorb the oil. Brush or vacuum the powder away and the stain will go with it. Repeat as necessary until the stain is gone.
  • There are many grease stain fighting cleaners available in the laundry aisle. Stain removers such as Shout, Spray ‘n Wash and Tide To Go can all be used to spot clean upholstery.
  • Some upholstery colors will fade when exposed to stain removers. Test a small hidden area first to ensure there are no unwanted effects to the color or texture of the fabric.
  • If no WD 40 is available, lighter fluid can be substituted. Be sure to wash and rinse the area thoroughly after using either of these products.

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