How to Remove Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) from Fabric


William asked: How do I remove petroleum jelly off of a suede couch? I gave my roommate a tattoo, and I used petroleum jelly to keep it moist. When it was finished, I put a thin layer over the entire thing to seal it before it could heal. She sat on our couch and it got on the back of the couch. I didn’t realize it, and it got in several places.

Petroleum jelly and suede are a dreadful combination. The oil in petroleum jelly can seem impossible at times to remove from this sensitive fabric. Try the method below to absorb the oily goo and remove it from the fabric for good. This method is safe for most fabrics since there is no soap or water used in the cleaning process.

You Will Need:

  • Spoon
  • Paper towels
  • Corn starch
  • Vacuum

Steps to Remove the Petroleum Jelly:

  1. Begin by using the spoon to scrape away as much of the jelly as possible. Work from the outside towards the center to avoid spreading the stain. Using a lifting, upward motion will keep from pushing it further into the fibers.
  2. Next, use a white paper towel to blot the stain. As you apply pressure with the paper towel, you will begin to see it transferring from the fabric to the paper towel.
  3. Continue blotting until no more petroleum jelly transfers.
  4. The final step is to apply corn starch to the remaining jelly in the fabric. Brush it gently on the fabric to work it into the fibers.
  5. Allow the corn starch to set on the stain for a minimum of one hour. The corn starch will absorb the moisture from the oil and dry out the petroleum jelly.
  6. Remove the corn starch by vacuuming it away.
  7. If any stain remains, cover with corn starch and allow it to soak up any remaining oil.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If the fabric is washable, a grease cutting dish detergent (ex: Dawn) can be used to remove the greasy residue.
  • If the fabric can tolerate hot water, that will also aid in removing the oil.
  • Sometimes petroleum jelly will leave a stain on suede, even after the oils are removed. This stain is permanent and cannot be removed.
  • If the stain cannot be removed, take it to a professional cleaner to have the stain removed.


  1. Diana says:

    I have chocolate sheets, and there are stains from KY Jelly and massage oil. I have washed them numerous times. I cannot get the stains out; please help. I need an answer as soon as possible.

  2. Melanie says:

    Since you have washed the sheets multiple times, the stains may have set. Due to that, you will likely not be able to use a powder to soak up the oil. Instead, spray the stains with WD-40 to freshen them, let the WD-40 soak for about 10 minutes, then rub dish liquid into the stain and wash the sheets in the hottest water available. If you don’t have WD-40, you can try just using dish liquid. Scrub it in well with a nail brush or by rubbing the fabric against itself.
    If that does not remove the stains, you can try the method in this article: How to Remove Rancid Massage Oil from White Towels.
    Source: – How to Remove Oil Stains from Cotton
    Source: – How to Remove Oil Stains from Polyester

  3. Thomas says:

    I have a brown couch and it has petroleum jelly stains on it. Three are small and one is bigger. The big one is maybe 2 inches tall. The material is not suede, leather, or plastic leather. I don’t know how to describe the material. Can I use the corn starch method to remove the stains?

  4. Melanie says:

    The corn starch method can be used on any type of upholstery. If the corn starch method alone does not work, here is an article with more information: How to Remove Grease Stains from Upholstery. However, the information in that article is for a couch that can tolerate soap and water. Check the tag on your couch to determine if it is water-safe, or if you’re not sure, test the soap and water on a small, hidden area on the couch first.

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