Baking soda and dish soap

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  • Do not be too long. Treating an oil stain quickly is the best way to ensure successful removal.
  • Baking soda helps absorb excess oil. Sprinkle it over and blot to dislodge the soaked fat.
  • Skip the dryer until you have successfully removed all of the stain. The heat will settle in the stain.
  • Visit Insider’s Home and Kitchen Reference Library for more stories.

You might think that getting rid of stubborn oil stains is an impossible task. But a few tips can help you avoid permanently staining grease-stained clothes and fabrics. Read on to learn how to properly handle oil and grease stains with expert advice from Leanne Stapf, COO of The Cleaning Authority.

What to know before cleaning

A pair of hands holding a shirt's care label for reading

Before you do anything, check the care label to see if any methods are prohibited.

artursfoto / Getty Images


Oil-based stains go beyond cooking oil. “Mayonnaise, deodorant, motor oil, and cooking oil are all examples of oil-based stains,” says Stapf, so you can treat them all the same.

Depending on the size and severity of the stain, you may need to repeat the removal process. Here are a few takeaways:

  • act quickly. Once you notice an oil stain on your clothes, ideally you want to act right away. An encrusted oil stain is much more difficult to remove than a new one. Plus, grease stains darken as they harden, making them even more noticeable (and unsightly) over time.
  • Check the garment’s care label. Typically, you should use lukewarm water to treat oil-based stains, but if you are dealing with a special fabric, check the specific instructions.
  • Do not rub the stain. When removing any excess oil, the key is to blot, not to scrub, says Stapf. “If you rub the stain before you mop it up, it could push it deeper into the fabric and make the stain more difficult to remove.”
  • Pre-treat the stain. Don’t just throw the stained garment in the washing machine. It’s always best to pretreat an oil-based stain with liquid dish soap or baking soda, which helps loosen the stain first.
  • Remove stain before machine drying: If the stain is still present, the high heat of the dryer will cause the oil to harden. Make sure the stain is completely gone before putting the garment in the dryer.

How to remove oil stains with baking soda

A glass jar of baking soda next to a bottle of laundry detergent on a pile of clothes

The baking soda absorbs the oil and pulls it out of the fabric.

ThamKC / Getty Images


Baking soda is an effective option for removing grease stains because it easily absorbs excess oil.

1. Dab the stain. Using a paper towel or absorbent cloth, blot the stain to remove as much of the oil as possible. Do not rub. “If you rub the stain before you mop it up, it could push it deeper into the fabric and make the stain more difficult to remove,” says Stapf.

2. Sprinkle baking soda on the stain. Squeeze the baking soda onto the stain with a paper towel or clean rag. The baking soda will absorb the oil and pull it out of the fabric. After applying the baking soda to the stain, do not wipe it off.

3. Let the baking soda stain sit. Do this for 30 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the stain. This step helps lift the fat.

4. Then use a toothbrush to rub the baking soda on the stain.. You can add more baking soda if you think there isn’t enough left over after the blotting process. When you’re done, scrape off the remaining baking soda.

5. Repeat. Repeat this coating and rubbing process until the oil is completely absorbed. You will know that the oil is completely absorbed when the baking soda stops browning. Rub thoroughly but be careful not to damage the fabric.

6. Add dish soap before putting clothes in the washing machine. “With the baking soda remaining on the stain, add a small amount of dish soap and mix with your finger,” Stapf adds.

7. Put in the washer. Select the appropriate cycle according to the label instructions. Stapf recommends throwing away clothes directly in the wash as the cleaning agents add stain repellency. She also suggests using hot water, unless otherwise specified on the care label. That’s because the hot water helps loosen the stain, she adds.

8. Repeat if necessary. “If the stain persists, go back to the baking soda process,” she adds. Avoid adding greasy fabrics to the dryer. The heat will set the stain and prevent you from removing it completely. While the hot water sanitizes and helps activate the detergent, Stapf says, the heat from the dryer sets more stains.

How to remove oil stains with dish soap

Stapf recommends the dish soap combined with baking soda method, but explains that it is also possible to tackle small oil stains by using dish soap alone. “Baking soda and dish soap are good at cutting and removing grease,” says Stapf. She adds that using them together gives you more cleaning power.

For smaller stains, add a squirt of dish soap to the stain, let the dish soap sit so it can absorb and cut the grease, then throw the garment in the washing machine.

Get rid of encrusted stains

You can tell a grease stain has set in because it’s dry to the touch and darker than before, says Stapf. Oil-encrusted stains are much more difficult to remove than fresh stains. But you can’t always deal with a stain as soon as it lands on your clothes.

It may not be possible to completely get rid of a grease-encrusted stain, especially if you’ve put the item in the dryer.

However, you can try the same baking soda and dish soap method to deal with dried oil stains, says Stapf. Cover the stain with dish soap and baking soda and scrub the mixture with a toothbrush. Then leave it overnight.

“You can also mix in your favorite stain remover for an extra kick,” she adds.

After treating the stain, run the garment through the hot water cycle. Repeat the process as needed.

Insider’s takeaway

Some people love to cook, but no one likes grease on their clothes. Treating oil stains quickly with baking soda is the best way to banish them. For stubborn stains, you’ll need a little more elbow grease and patience, but you can use the same process and supplies.

Be sure to avoid putting oil-stained fabrics in the dryer, as this can make stains worse and make it even more difficult to remove.

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