The best method for removing oil and grease stains from clothing

by | April 21, 2021 | Features, Life

oil stains

I bet the last thing you ever expected to get from a blog about denim and workwear would be an article on how to remove oil stains from your clothing. But if you recall, the whole point of this blog is about building a longer-lasting, more sustainable wardrobe. This includes learning how to take care of the clothing we buy. To be honest, with a community that is so obsessive about how one should or should not wash their jeans, tips on laundry and keep one’s clothes looking nice shouldn’t be much of a stretch. 

Why am I starting with removing oil stains? Simply put, it’s the first stain I ever learned how to remove, and having a beard leads to quite a few beard oil mishaps. And anyone who has ever gotten bacon grease or spiced maple beard oil on their favorite shirt can testify, it is not an easy thing to fix without some basic garment care education.

More often than not, people will treat stains of this nature with Shout or a similar stain remover from their laundry shelf, thinking they’ve got the problem under control. This is where everything tends to go wrong.

The stain gets pretreated and goes in the wash. The assumption is the garment will come out squeaky clean and sans oil stain. However, most likely, the stain will be a discolored ghost of a mark left on the shirt, undefeated and mocking you. I’m not going to lie. It is a little defeating. 

The good news is there is a straightforward fix for this problem, and it’s a product that almost everyone has at home in the cupboard or in the fridge—good ole’ Baking soda. 

Baking soda is the key to getting that pesky oil stain out of your favorite t-shirt. No, I’m not going to suggest one simply adds half a cup of baking soda to the laundry, though it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Free garment care tip number two, hiding inside tip number one: baking soda is a great cleanser and a natural softener that won’t jack up your clothes the same way that toxic teddy bear on a bottle of Snuggle does. 

But back to baking soda and oil stains in your clothes.

Why does oil cling to clothing and refuse to come out? 

 Oils and grease are lipid-based compounds. Dig back to sixth-grade science class. Lipids are insoluble in water, which is why simply washing your clothes isn’t going to do the trick. This leaves two options for removing the stain. Lipids either need to be dissolved with a solvent, which can damage your clothes or, the stain needs to be drawn out of the clothing fibers by introducing something dryer than the cloth itself.  

This is where introducing baking soda into the equation comes into play. By sprinkling baking soda onto the stain, oils are drawn out of the fiber and away from the fabric, allowing you to literally brush the stain away. Ideally, use this method before running clothing through the wash to yield the best results; however, washed garments can benefit, too.

Materials needed to remove oil stains from clothing with baking soda:

  1. Baking soda (derp)
  2. A brush, like a toothbrush or a nail brush
  3. Cardboard, old towel, or newspaper
  4. Firm, smooth edge (like a credit card, butter knife, or plastic putty knife.

Method to remove oil stains from clothing with baking soda:

  1. Lay clothing down flat.
  2. Place the cardboard, old towel, or newspaper underneath the stain. If you don’t do this, it’s possible to transfer some of the oil to the back of the garment, creating two stains to deal with.
  3. Sprinkle the baking soda on both sides of the stain. 
  4. Use the brush to scrub the baking soda into the fibers.
  5. If the stain is fresh, the baking soda will start changing color. Scrape the first round of baking soda away and apply more. Do this with and firm flat edge (credit card, butter knife, plastic putty knife)
  6. Repeat the process until the baking soda no longer clumps or until the stained area turns white from baking soda residue. 
  7. Wash the clothing as usual.
  8. Check and see if the stain came out. Depending on the oil or grease, the process might need to be repeated. 
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Stay Raw. Stay Safe.

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About the Author

Tristan Chamberlin

Tristan Chamberlin

My name is Tristan, Senior Author and Resident Expert at The arcuate. I'm a walking wiki of worthless knowledge and father of two who watches trash Anime, drinks bourbon, and has opinions about life the universe and who best Waifu’s are. Oh and I like denim...