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How to remove oil stains from clothes without ruining them

Oil stain on white shirt
Oil stain on white shirt (Image credit: Shutterstock)

There’s nothing worse than digging into our dinner and getting an oil or grease stain on our fresh outfit. So it’s vital to act quickly by knowing how to remove oil stains from clothes without ruining them for good.

Whether it’s the accidental oil drips from eating meals or forgetting to put an apron on while cooking up a storm, oil stains on clothes can seem like the stuff of nightmares. Especially when we’re enjoying parties with family and friends this season. 

While our first instincts would be to frantically scrub the oil stain out with wet tissues, chances are, this would make the stain worse. Similar to knowing how to remove red wine stains, removing oil stains from clothes can seem rather challenging.  

However, it’s not as tricky as it seems and can quickly be done with a few simple items that you probably have in your kitchen cupboard. So if you have stubborn oil or grease stains, follow these top tips on how to remove oil stains from clothes, and save your outfits from ruin.

How to remove oil stains from clothes using dish soap

What you'll need

Paper towels

Baking soda

White vinegar

Dish soap

Warm water

Old toothbrush or bristle brush

1. First, lay the item of clothing down on a flat surface, placing a piece of cardboard or old towel under the stain. This will prevent it touching other areas of the garment. 

2. Next, lightly blot out as much of the oil stain with a paper towel to help make the cleaning process easier. Be careful not to rub the stain as this will spread it further into the fabric of the cloth. 

White shirt with oil stains on sleeve

White shirt with oil stains on sleeve (Image credit: Shutterstock)

3. Next up, apply a few drops of dish soap onto the stain. Rub the dish soap into the fabric with an old toothbrush or rub the fabric together with your hands to agitate it. This will help to loosen the oil or grease in the clothing. Unless you mix it with a detergent, water is the worst culprit when it comes to removing oil stains from clothes, as grease doesn’t mix well with it.

4. Continue until the stain is all gone. Then, run it in the washing machine in warm water and let it air dry. Remember to always check the washing care label to find out the highest temperature of your garment.

Removing stain with toothbrush

Removing stain with toothbrush (Image credit: Shutterstock)

How to remove oil stains from clothes using baking soda and vinegar

1. First, sprinkle baking soda onto the stain and let it sit for around 30 minutes. If you have an old or stubborn stain, it’s recommended to leave it overnight. Avoid piling on the baking soda but ensure the stain is covered completely. This will allow the baking soda to absorb the oil. 

2. Brush off excess powder, and mix one part white vinegar to one part of water in a spray bottle before spraying directly onto the stain. Once this starts to foam and sink into the fabric, scrub the area with soap and water using an old toothbrush or bristle brush. Try to use gentle pressure while cleaning more delicate fabrics to protect them from any potential damage. 

Spraying oil stain

Spraying oil stain (Image credit: Shutterstock)

3. When the stain seems to be gone, carefully blot the material with a dry cloth and allow to completely dry.

4. You can also machine wash the garment as you normally would, using the hottest water the fabric label advises. Bear in mind, some cotton clothing is prone to shrinking in hot water, so use your best judgment depending on the type of clothing that's stained.

Putting shirt into the washing machine

Putting shirt into the washing machine (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you're interested in what makes baking soda and vinegar so good at cleaning, it's the chemical reaction that the two have when combined. However, if all those methods fail to remove stubborn stains, you can also try OxiClean Max Force 4 In Power Laundry Stain Remover Spray ($13, Amazon) before washing the item on the highest temperature the care label allows.

Baking soda and vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar (Image credit: Shutterstock)
Cynthia Lawrence

Cynthia Lawrence specialises in Homes ecommerce, covering all things homes and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 


Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.


With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!