How to Remove Set In Oil Stains

Have you ever sat down to fold laundry fresh out of the dryer only to find this?

How to remove set in oil stains - Northern Belle Diaries #cleaning #stains #oilstain #diy #home #laundry

Oils stains: the bane of my existence.

Aggravating, isn’t it?

I’ve been looking for alternative ways to clean around the house (and save money at the same time). While I don’t think I’m brave enough yet to use homemade laundry detergent, I found myself without a stain pre-treater or spot remover today after doing some laundry. I’ve read that baking soda is great at just about 1,000,000 different things.

I love my husband. Yesterday he managed to spill the entire contents of his coffee mug onto the floor, but didn’t drop either his cell phones (yes, two) or his coffee mug. I have also watched him be still with a drink in his hand and in a split second the drink is spilled everywhere. He defies the law of physics.

So in searching ways to remove oil stains, I remember I read somewhere that you can “revive” old oil by adding a little more oil. Makes sense when I think of my cast iron skillets looking a tad dull before I add oil or butter on them. There’s still a slight sheen of oil there even when bone dry after cleaning with soap (which you’re not supposed to do, I know).

Here’s what I did today that will remove even the oldest, most stubborn oil stains from clothes. I’ve only tried this on cotton so far, but I’ll let you know what other fabrics it will work on (because I can always trust on my husband to give me fresh material).

Here’s what you’ll need:

non-cooking oil (I used WD-40)
baking soda
scrap of cardboard (optional)
Dawn liquid soap (or any other liquid dish detergent on hand)
an old toothbrush
your regular laundry routine after stain removal

Note: It has been brought to my attention that WD-40 is not oil, but rather a water dispersant. (Thanks to those observant readers!) However, the makers of WD-40 have listed the product as an oil-stain removal solution.

UPDATE: I have tried this with olive oil instead of WD-40; it did not work. Another time I forgot to use Dawn; it did not work. Oil stains were STILL THERE!

[continue reading below]


  1. Teresa says

    love this idea, what kind of oil stain was it? my husband is guilty of leaving his chapsticks in his pockets. I try my darndest to check them, but often forget. Most times I find it on the bottom of the washer, but it has made its way to the dryer more often then I’d like to admit. on the most recent load, it melted and ruined several shirts… the stains looked exactly like those in your picture, I was wondering if this strategy may work. might have to go dig those shirts outta the make into cleaning scraps pile.

    • says

      I don’t remember what oil stain it was, but most likely it was olive oil or vegetable oil. He’s a magnet for oil stains lol. I did try “renewing” an oil stain on a polyester dress once with olive oil and that did NOT work. I’ve also tried using the baking soda without “renewing” the oil stain and it didn’t work. I also tried “renewing” without using the Dawn at the end and that hasn’t worked either. I’ve bought a SHOUT stain remover for oil stains as back-up. I think the key is to do the renewing, baking soda, and Dawn without skipping steps. I’ve skipped steps on my new Under Armor T-shirt to avoid damaging the moisture wicking quality (and yes, he somehow managed to spatter oil on ME!!)

      • Lorna says

        For many years i have used only the dish detergent to get the oil stains out of our laundry…..just squirt it on full strength….rub it in. An old toothbrush works well. It certainly does not have to be Dawn dish detergent…..I use Sunlight. or Lemon Brite. The other useful tip I have is to wash those items in warm water…..cold water wash works but not as well as warm water…and that is it.

        • Melissa says

          Yes, Lestoil works wonders on all sorts of stains, especially oil. And no need to scrub, just saturate the stain. The longer you let it sit the better. I wait overnight or even a couple days if possible.

  2. says

    Oh I am so glad I saw this post! For some reason so many of my hubby’s and my clothes end up with oil stains…from where?!!?! I have no clue!! I am sooo going to give this a try! Thank you!!!

    • says

      I have done that, too. However, it doesn’t always work for the set-in ones. Thanks for the feedback though! No sense in buying pre-treater for oil stains. Tomato stains are a different story.

      • Mary Ann says

        The trick to tomato-based stain is simple: wash as usual, but don’t dry. Set them in strong sun (OK, you may have to wait for summer) and the sun will do the trick. If it’s really bad, I may have to repeat.

    • Melissa says

      Almost every load clothing ends up with these mystery oil stains after not having stains prior to washing. First I thought it was my old used washer and dryer. After my hubby and I cleaned the heck out of them, we ended up with the same issues. We decided to use our tax refund and get yikes….buy a brand new washer and dryer! We still have the same issue! I’ve stopped using fabric softener, it didn’t make a difference. I stopped allowing my husband to wash his work clothing at home. Yes, I make him take his clothes to the laundry mat! It still has not made a difference. I stopped using store bought stain removers, again no change. I hate washing a new outfit just to pull it out of the dryer with oil stains. My next step is to switch to Tide. I really don’t want to spend the extra money but it’s the last thing I can think of. Any suggestions???

        • Melissa says

          I was using All free and clear, but I just purchased Tide. The first couple of loads still had a few spots but I’m not noticing as many. There are still spots. I end up having to soak about 1/3 of our clothing in oxyclean and even that doesn’t always work. I wouldn’t mind doing the spot treatment every now and again, but it’s insane the amount of clothing I would have to do it to.

      • Allyson says

        I have the same issue. Doesn’t matter what detergent I use. And I’ve had the issue both with a front load HE washer and a normal everyday washer – doesn’t matter… don’t know where it’s coming from. I’m going to try this to treat the clothes that I have and see how it works, but for now I’m being super strict about separating my loads. I think once in a while a kitchen towel ends up in a load of clothes and that could be the problem. I’m also going to try to spray with vinegar and wipe down the drum after doing my kitchen load to make sure no deposits remain on the machine. Good luck.

      • Marc says

        I’ve had this issue before, and my gf still has it and I think I figured out our problem. Her and I load the washer different, and maybe that’s what slightly stains some clothes.

        She’ll put in all the clothes while the washer is filling up with water and put the detergent in. Well, I usually let the washer full up, put the detergent, and let it agitate for a minute so it can distribute the detergent evenly. After I do that, then I put my clothes in.

        • Melissa P says

          I prefer to do it the way you do it but my new HE machine won’t let you do it that way (or if it does I haven’t figured it out yet).

        • Judy Phillippi says

          I think stains come from pouring the liquid on the clothes so I always start the washer add my laundry products then the cloths, seems to work.

      • Sherry says

        I noticed that Fabrick softener that doesn’t get rinsed enough will cause mystery stains as well.

        • says

          That’s really interesting. I’ve never found stains on my clothes that weren’t there before the wash. I guess the same applies if too much liquid fabric softener is added to the washer.

      • debsage says

        I have the same problem only on our white clothes. Any ideas? I’ve tried bleach, dawn, tide, peroxide and baking soda

        • Ann says

          I remember as a child growing up that my mother used to soak whites in limewater (saturated solution of calcium hydroxide) and hang them in the sun. You can still ask for limewater at any pharmacy or order it online, or use these links: YouTube or Making Limewater
          To brighten whites she used to add “Mrs Stewart’s Bluing” to the wash load, which is still available to purchase online (Ibuy from Annie’sGood Old Days Store). Good luck

      • Lori says

        I had a similar problem, mysterious grayish brown stains on our laundry coming from the washer. After replacing the washer and dryer for new ones, still the same stains would show up. I figured out it was the dye from my kid’s clothing. Most of their clothes all came from the same store (a girl’s only clothing store found around the country). Anyway, the only thing under the sun that got the stains out was to soak the items in Oxyclean and water for a few days.

        • Erin says

          Did you do this with the whites or colors? I have been wanting to try OxyClean but not sure if it will work? Never thought of setting them in the sun though! I will have to try that when summer gets here :)

      • Denise says

        I had that problem a long time ago and I started running water with the detergent in the laundrybtub for a minute than add the clothes. Never had the problem again.

        • says

          I have had this same problem forever!!!! So annoying! I can not figure out where the stain is coming from??? We too purchased new washer/dryer but that didn’t help. I use Tide. Maybe I should use something else?

      • Melissa says

        Do you have hard water? We do and even though we have a water softener we still get these stains. I really believe that there is something in the hard water that is leaving the grease looking stains. I’ve tried everything but I believe that’s the reason. I’m not sure how to stop it from happening though. I know with whites you can add the powder Iron Out but it strips the color from a lot of fabrics. ..

      • Karen says

        It’s really not that expensive to use Tide. I always have a coupon & you don’t have to use as much as the directions say. Especially if you don’t have very dirty clothes. I don’t use near as much Tide as I would with other brands.

      • Grace says

        I use 1 part Dawn liquid and 2 parts hydrogen peroxide. Mix up a small amount, and rub it in the stain(s). Leave it on for 30 mins. Soak for 30 mins with some of the mixture and wash. it works 99.5% of the time.

  3. Victoria Diaz Sifuentes says

    Thank you for taking the time with pics and info to show that this really works! I have a stack of oil stained tops that I have been looking for a remedy for. Thank you!!!

    • says

      It works! I’ve tried cheating by skipping a step and it WON’T work! Haha. Thanks for reading. Please share your findings on Pinterest or other friends!

      • Amanda says

        Thanks for the excellent post!
        In your update, you mention you can’t use olive oil for this process. By that, do you mean that WD-40 is the only thing you have found to work as the pre-treatment? Or could I “reinvigorate” an olive oil stain with vegetable oil or more olive oil? I have a scarf that was essentially dipped in olive oil. I tried treating it with chalk and then a stain remover before washing, and the stains got lighter but are still definitely there. So, now that I’ve washed and dried the scarf, it sounds like I need to add more oil to be able to treat it again… right? What kind?

        • Lisette says

          Great question Amanda! I found olive oil was much MUCH too rich. It made my stain worse. I tried vegetable oil, but it was so runny that it spread far too quickly and, again, made the problem much worse. I found some WD-40 underneath our sink and thought, why not? Especially since it had a little spray-stick to concentrate the oil in one place.

          This WD-40 was the only one of the three that didn’t make it worse. Another commenter above mentioned eucalyptus oil, although I haven’t tried that one.

  4. Debbie Klinger Lawrence says

    Can’t wait to try this! My husband has several shirts that need this treatment. Thanks for the detailed info!

  5. Angela says

    WOW, I have thrown away so many clothes because of these nasty stains. I have a shirt I am going to try it on tomorrow. Thank you for sharing this, it is amazing!

  6. Debi says

    I’m the same as Emily. I almost never notice oil stains until I go to put a shirt on after washing and drying and have always been able to just presoak with whatever dish soap I have and the stain is gone after the next wash.

  7. margotgn says

    I have used this stain remover for the past 23 years. It was given to me by a woman who owned a children’s clothing resale shop and takes out almost everything. I used it on baby food, sports grime, blood, dirt, even these oily stains. I couldnt tell you if it has worked on the oily stains every time but it’s fast, easy and worth a try before going to all this work (especially if it is just a t-shirt). Pretreat the stain when you see it, toss the item in the dirty clothes hamper and let it sit until laundry day if you want. It is 1 part regular ammonia, 1 part regular Dawn dishwashing liquid, and 2 parts hydrogen peroxide. I mix it up in a large squirt bottle.

    • Lisette says

      Thanks for this! I am always looking for different ways to remove stains. I might give this a try if I don’t have baking soda on hand. I use my method for delicate clothing, but a t-shirt was the first thing I grabbed for this post.

      • Kathryn says

        I don’t know if you’ve gotten brave enough to try your own detergent yet, but I have switched myself, my sister (the world’s largest skeptic), my mom, and my niece to the recipe I found! It works far better than anything I’ve ever tried from the store. My clothes, towels, & sheets all smell, look, and feel better than they ever have before! I use the powder one. You need a 5 gallon bucket with a lid to mix/store it in. 1 box baking soda, 1 box washing soda, 1 box borax, 1 tub oxy clean, & 2 bars of Fels Naptha (or other brand) laundry soap, note that I got everything from WalMart in the laundry aisle. I used a hand grater to grate the bars of soap because I liked the fine, powdery texture that gave me, but you can use any method to grate/chop/crush the 2 bars to mix with all the remaining ingredients in the large bucket. Mix it all together really well, and save the Oxy Clean container to store smaller amounts of the detergent. I also use the OxyClean scoop as my scooper to measure/dispense the detergent. If you want to you can add the Downey or Purex crystals, but I prefer the natural, clean smell without adding perfumes. I don’t even use dryer sheets for the towels anymore, and they seriously are cleaner than they have ever been! I LOVE this detergent!!! Good luck! If you do try it, I hope you like it as much as we all do!

        • says

          Kathryn– this sounds extremely tempting! I think I will try it! I do so many loads of laundry here and this sounds like something that could save money. Are the costs of these ingredients less than the cost of one huge box of powder Tide detergent?

        • Adina says

          Lisette – I recently made the same homemade detergent and I’m loving it! A pair of jeans that have always been stiff even though I’ve had them for years are now the softest they’ve ever been. Only things I did differently than Kathryn are that I used 3 bars of Fels-Naptha instead of 2 (grated with a cheese grater and then put in the blender so it would be the same consistency as the rest of the ingredients) and I put vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser of the washing machine (and no, my clothes do not smell like vinegar!) I got the detergent recipe here.

          To answer your question: Yes, it is MUCH cheaper. All these ingredients cost less than $20, make 2 gallons of detergent, and you only need 1-2tbsp per load of laundry. The woman who posted the recipe said her batch lasted 9 months. (You can save more money by buying the generic oxygen cleaner instead of OxyClean brand.)

          Now my problem:
          I used your oil removal method today on my friend’s shirt. She tried dish soap the day after the splatter happened, but it didn’t work. I wanted to surprise her by fixing her shirt while she’s away and I totally made it worse. :( There are big dark spots from the WD-40 and the shirt, along with the towels I washed with the shirt, totally smell like WD-40. Any advice on how to fix this? I thought about buying a big can of WD-40 and spraying the whole shirt to at least make it all stained consistently, haha, but then I’d still have the smell issue. Please help if you can! Thank you!

        • says

          Adina, thanks for the tips! I used the other recipe (before I saw your comment) with only 2 bars of Fels-Naptha and I wish I had done a third. But it is HARD WORK grating that soap! Any tips?

          About your friend’s shirt…how much WD-40 did you use? And, what fabric? This works like a charm on cotton. Other man-made materials (like polyester) require repeat applications. I use only a TINY BIT as it will continue to spread through the fabric. It’s also very important to spray it as close as possible to the fabric to minimize too much spreading. But don’t worry, I only know this from making the same mistake you did :) Try reviving it (with WD-40) again, but this time try spraying it closer to the fabric and only a smidge! You could even spray it onto a dish and dab it in with your finger if you want to be extra careful. Let me know if you have any more questions!

      • Mindy S. says

        What exactly are the steps to take? What goes on the stain first, second, etc.? Thanks!

  8. Aubrey says

    I always use plain white chalk it works. I even had a grease stain on the back of my khaki chair (my fault greasy take out box+ full hands; had no idea it was leaking) the chalk worked after several times but I also added dish soap to help. Since I cant throw the chair into the washer.

  9. Sarah says

    Does this work with Under Armour? I have a polo shirt of my husband’s that I just keep pretreating and washing without drying since I can’t get a salad dressing stain out. I don’t want to damage the shirt’s special qualities or just the shirt in general since the spot is front & center. Thanks!

    • Lisette says

      YES! This was the sole reason I tried to find an alternative oil-removal process. I’ve used the SHOUT oil-removing spray on some Under Armor shirts (we have tons here) and I found that the material didn’t respond well to the abrasive treatment. It’s never failed. Just make sure that after you use the baking soda you also follow up with a dab of Dawn. I’ve tried using only Dawn on the Under Armor shirts and found that the stains didn’t go away.

  10. Haley says

    The WD-40 doesn’t hurt the color integrity of the shirt? I have a brand new shirt worn twice, beautiful teal color came out of the dryer with 2 oil stains front and center…. YIKES not sure how lol. But I want to try this but don’t want to end up bleaching out the color. Thank you.

    • Lisette says

      The reason I used WD-40 was to use oil to revive the oil in the stain. Olive oil is way too rich and will make the problem worse (been there, done that). You may try a dropper with vegetable oil if that makes you more comfortable.

  11. Helen says

    Try eucalyptus oil, onto the stain and a little rub, wash immediately it should take out those oily stains and smells so nice too

    • Haley says

      Just use the Eucalyptus oil by itself or with this process? I did the veggie oil last night and might have put too much put it made the spots HUGE and worse. Now I am freaking out. Thank you Helen I’m getting some of that ASAP.

      • Lisette says

        Vegetable oil will make things worse. As will olive oil. That’s why I used the WD-40. It’s more viscose (means it spreads less). The tube spray-attachment made it easy to be precise.

        I haven’t used eucalyptus oil, but please let us know how that turns out!

      • Helen says

        Hi Haley,
        Yes, just the Eucalyptus oil on it’s own. I have had pretty good results with it on some old stains. Just be careful on anything really delicate as I don’t know about silks etc. but for cotton or polyester fabrics it works well. Hope it does the job for you. My mum use to swear by brown paper over the stain and iron it, it takes a little bit of the oil out but maybe you could then use the Eucalyptus oil on it, see how that goes.

  12. Kim says

    I had a tube of Lip Therapy, by Vaseline, in my pocket and forgot to take it out before washing my pants. I have these stains on two pair of pants that I love. One is khaki and one is gray. They are a cotton/poly blend. Do you think the WD-40 is better than just any oil? I was going to use a cooking oil, but if you think the WD-40 is better, I will get some.

    • Lisette says

      Hi! I used the WD-40 on both cotton and Under Armor shirts and they work well.

      When I used cooking oil (olive oil, to be specific) it was BAD. The WD-40 has that little straw (?) that concentrates the oil where you need it to go. I would stay away from cooking oils. But if you already did, let me know how it turned out!

  13. Matthew says

    Do you think this would work on a heavier cotton khaki pant fabric? I notice that you tried it on thinner shirt fabrics, and I want to know whether it’s worth it to try it on the khakis. But in any case, thanks for the process-it’s a little counter-intuitive, but I can see it works!

    • Lisette says

      Hi Matthew!

      I’m not sure how thick of a khaki we’re talking about. Regardless, the oil will seep right through fabric no matter how thick it is. Also, is it dry clean only? Some of my husband’s khakis are dry clean only and I leave them to the professionals.

      If it’s a washable fabric, I would try using just the WD-40, let it sit for a few minutes, then throw it in the wash.

  14. Juan says

    Wow Lisette…I’m glad I found your post! And the funny thing is I have the same exact T-shirt, except dark blue…and I splattered some olive oil on it while opening a can of tuna! I washed and then noticed the oil had set in!!!! Well, I chalked it up to experience and ordered another polo t-shirt as replacement!!!

    BUT….now, hopefully with your steps…I can revive the stained shirt!

    I think genetically us guys are oil and stain magnets….grass stains, dirt, grease, oil, blood, coffee, wine, beer, salsa, BBQ sauce…etc…you name it!

    My favorite is that nice white cotton polo shirt…with the unexplained bleached yellow sprinkles on it??? And I usually do not wash my shirts with my under whites.

    Anyhow, I digress……Thanks so much….I’m going to get cracking on gathering all the necessary items!

  15. says

    1. What is the ‘renewing’ process? How does this help, wouldn’t it stain further?

    2. I have sun screen lotion on a sweatshirt (happened in my shipping box when I was moving to a new apartment) and the sweatshirt has already gone through a round of washing and drying, so the stain has further set in. Should I follow the same procedure or anything different.

    Thanks for the help!

    • Lisette says

      Renewing is just reactivating the oil stain so that you can use detergents to lift the old oil and new oil together. I’m sure I could find a chemically-sound definition for you but for now, that’s as I understand it.

      As long as you use the baking soda thoroughly and follow up with Dawn dish detergent and launder immediately, the new oil should not remain on the clothes.

  16. Kate says

    Wow, thanks for the Lisette. I have just used your method on a pair of light coloured grey jeans and I’m hoping that it works. Worth a try anyhow, as otherwise I would have had to throw them out. Thanks for posting

  17. Kate says

    Wow, thanks for that Lisette. I have just used your method on a pair of light coloured grey jeans and I’m hoping that it works. Worth a try anyhow, as otherwise I would have had to throw them out. Thanks for posting

  18. Melissa says

    I can’t find the steps for this process. Could you please repost them? My husband has gun oil on his favorite jeans.
    We tried the Dawn but it didn’t work.

  19. Sally says

    Did Anything work for your polyester dress? I’m struggling with that same issue but don’t want to admit defeat yet.

    • Lisette says

      I used the WD-40 and baking soda, followed by a dab of Dawn dish washing soap and gentle hand scrubbing.

      The oil stain eventually came out, but I had to repeat the process several times. I almost gave up, but it can be done!

  20. Frank says

    Hi I read or heard somewhere to use baby powder after using WD 40 to soak up the oil both on the inside of the garment and on the outside on top of the oil and WD 40 let sit for a few hours then shake off use dish soap and wash in normal wash ;-) btw Lisette your very beautiful

    • Charlotte says

      Lisette, thank you for directing me to the directions. I followed your directions this morning on a very nice top of mine. As salad dressing is served separately in restaurants now, I splashed salad dressing on this top. I figured what did I have to lose, a little WD-40, a little baking soda, a little Dawn liquid… Well I used a lot of WD-40—did not realize it would also splash, which precipitated using a lot of baking soda, which further precipitated using a lot of Dawn. However, the results were beyond amazing. There is no sign of the previous stains or the stains I just created and I can now wear my top for something other than yard work. I then asked my husband if he had anything with stains on it. I shared this on Facebook as I want all my friends to benefit from your knowledge. Thanks again. I will be bookmarking your site to my laptop.

      • Lisette says

        You are so very welcome! I’m so glad you can use your blouse again!

        The WD-40 revives the old stain. If you spray too much WD-40 and don’t pre-treat THAT new oil, you will end up with an even bigger oil stain (I’ve learned from experience).

  21. Debbie Perkins says

    Tomato stains. Ah, love ‘em, all that splattered ketchup…I found out that if you wet the shirt and spread liquid dish washer detergent liquid,on it, it will come out. Let it set for a little while, never did time it, then wash it. Don’t leave it over night. the stain will be gone, but so will the fabric. (ate right through that sucker) It might make the spot surrounding it a little bright white, but, heck, it was headed to the work clothes pie anyway. Oh, did I mention, ONLY do this on white shirts!! It will take the color out of anything else. Now, for all those grease spots…you’d think that I would learn and use an apron. Ah, another project, an apron for the double D’s.

  22. Ssth says

    Thank you very very much. Although I didn’t use Dawn detergent, I used my regular dish cleaning liquid. I was so scared when I saw even bigger blob. Also, I wasn’t much careful when I sprayed the WD-40 and there was mini spots everywhere in my khakis. But I instantly used baking soda on it. It worked good with my khaki that I love so much.

  23. says

    Just bought a BRAND new hoodie for the hubby, it was accidentally tossed onto the stove (stove was OFF!) however, there was an old skillet full of vegatable oil in it. (was left over from cooking previously). The hoodie ABSORBED the oil and now we have a HUGE stain front AND back of the hoodie… do you think this will work on it?!?!
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    • Lisette says

      Wow that sounds heartbreaking!

      Since the oil is fresh, you don’t need to revive it with any additional oil. I would just use as much baking soda as possible.

      Try blotting as much oil as you can with a paper towel first. Use as many as you need. Then apply the baking soda and brush it in with the toothbrush.

      Before you throw it into the wash, apply liquid dishwashing soap onto it as a good measure. Apply generously but throw it in the wash tonight.

  24. Eden says

    I was so excited about this as I had just washed and accidentally dried a chapstick with my some of my favorite clothing. I used WD40, then baking soda, then another round of baking soda, then some dawn on top of that, scribbing in between all. I just took it all out of the dryer, AND EVERYTHING IS WORSE. I am so disappointed. There are big blobs all over my clothing now, and instead of small almost-excusable stains, they’re just in your face. Waste of time and hope.

    • says

      Eden, this works well on natural fibers like cotton. I had to repeat this process several times on a polyester dress. The first time I tried it, the same thing that happened to you happened to me. I believe I repeated this process 3 times for that dress and it came out looking brand new!

  25. Zach says

    I’m going to try this, I have several shirts that I love wearing that I’m on the verge of throwing away because they have stains I can’t remove. Thanks for the tips!

  26. Dominique says

    This looks like it might work for my sweat shirt that i got vegetable oil on. So i don’t have any Dawn dish soap, is that the only dish soap that will work?

  27. Diane Miller says

    This insane method worked! Thanks so much for this amazing suggestion. I thought I had a new rag to add to the collection, and wasn’t keen on turning a brand new Jos. Bank shirt over to the rag pile.
    Your new fan,
    Diane (a southern belle)
    Roswell, GA

  28. Michelle says

    I get these stains all the time, I don’t know where they come from. Is there a way to prevent them?

  29. Holly says

    For those of you worried about ruining Under Armor, my hub uses — or, he has ME use, since he’s not allowed to use my appliances — NIKWAX Tech Wash. It’s a “wash-in cleaner for waterproof textiles” and will “revitalize the breatheability and water repellency” of that type of item. It’s great for UA and for hiking clothes, I think we even used it on a tent.

    Lisette, I love the way you write about your hub. My hub is a grease magnet, as is our son, they could eat raw carrots and saltines for dinner with a glass of water and they’d STILL be greasy. I’m going to try this trick and pray for success!

  30. Angela says

    I usually use 409. Works great ! No scrubbing ! Use it by itself, spray on grease stains and wash and they come right out ! Done with several shirts ! :-)

  31. Chris says

    This is a very good post, and useful information. Next time I think a shirt is ruined I’m going to try this method for sure. Thanks!

    One thing I should point out though, WD-40 isn’t really “oil” –it’s a combination of lubricant and mineral spirits. This is why it is not appropriate for certain typical oil jobs like car door hinges and things that need lubrication to stay put in cold weather. WD-40 is used to free things up, but proper oil is often required or the part will need re-treating. This is also, however why WD-40 is so great at other household tasks like removing crayon marks. Also, WD-40 is the absolute best label-goo remover around!

  32. meg says

    Do you have any recommendations for set in pul stains in sweaters?? I don’t want to use a toothbrush for fear of destroying the the sweater.

  33. Angela says

    Totally understand about having worries about using a product for ovens and stovetops, but I definitely would NOT recommend something that was going to ruin clothes. I use it and it works great !!

  34. EmyG says

    I spill on myself all the time. Here’s what I use:


    -dampen the stain with water, add a drop of dawn, rub with toothbrush, let it sit. Ta Da!

    It works every time. Even old, set oil stains. On really bad stains, I just use a tad more dawn. A few times, I had to repeat the process once, but it worked :) Since I discovered this (the result of some pre=pinterest era google searching), I have saved so many shirts from the garbage!!! Good luck ladies :)

  35. cheryl says

    I use Dawn as a pre-treatment the day before. It always works, but as I learned the hard way, the coloring of blue Dawn has also gifted me with blue stains on certain materials. There is also a Dawn for pots and pans that works very well and also a hand cleaner like GoJo works excellently also. The trick with the hand cleaner is to use one that doesn’t have a stink, and some do!

  36. Hayley says

    I’m soo glad I found this but have a question. I have a pair of tan bearclaw boots (like ugg boots) and I spilled veg oil all over one of them and I’ve been so upset bc I didn’t know how to get it out. Can I use this method? Bc I can’t throw them in the wash so what do I do about the dawn dish part?

    • says


      What is the material? If it’s sheepskin like Uggs the Dawn might be too strong and dry out the material even if washed by hand. Some dry cleaners have special techniques to better treat that kind of fabric.

      If you want to try working it out on your own first, start by using the baking soda on its own. Gently work it in with a gentle toothbrush and work from there.

      Let me know how that goes!

  37. Becky says

    I think you’re making too much work for yourself….I just put Dawn on the oil stain, re-wash it and, voila! The oil is gone! It works every time for me. : )

  38. Liana says

    I’ve been using Dawn as my “stain remover” for as long as I can remember. I use it on just about any stain and it always gets the stain out. I have a little bottle sitting in the laundry room.

  39. Heather says

    Followed these instructions to a tee (pun intended). Shirts look worse than before. Instead of small oil spots, I have huge whitish blob spots now.

    • says

      How much WD-40 did you use?

      When I tried this on a polyester dress, I had to repeat the process a few times, but it did work. Feel free to e-mail me a picture of the shirt and I’ll see if I can help!

  40. Stephania Papi says

    For those Ugg type boots try the baking soda to absorb the oil and then use a suede or leather cleaner, whichever is appropriate. You may have to “treat” the entire boot if they are suede as the nap of the suede will likely be affected by the cleaning.

  41. Kari says

    I have found using a fels-naptha bar and letting it sit before washing also takes out set in oil stains!

  42. Rebekah says

    I saw that you mentioned that you weren’t brave enough to try homemade laundry detergent. You should totally make your own laundry detergent! My mom taught me and I’m only 21! I have saved a lot of money by using homemade laundry detergent and once you’ve made up a batch you’re good to go for a while.

  43. Anne says

    So at the risk of sounding terrible stupid, let me get this straight. A little shot of WD40, rub in baking soda, with a dab of dawn. Scrub with a toothbrush then launder. Am I correct?

  44. Eileen says

    I have no idea how you did this. Could you just let me know what you used and how you did it. I really am in need of this, but I’m not getting it from the pictures. Thanks so much!

  45. Jennifer says

    I tried this today on a few shirts I thought were totally ruined. Several months ago I spilled melted butter on a shirt and couldn’t get the stain out. I put it aside with a few other shirts that had gotten spots on them from my washing machine, in hopes that I could find something to get them out (these were also all fairly new shirts when they got stained). I tried a few other things that didn’t work. When I saw this, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try something else. After all, what did I have to lose? The shirts were already ruined if nothing else. So, I tried it on my massive butter stain first and much to my surprise, it worked! I missed a small spot of it at first so I had to do it again. I also was able to take the spots out of 3 other shirts! I am so glad I came across this!! Thanks for posting this and saving 4 of my shirts!!!

    • says

      Yay! It makes me so happy to hear from readers when they try it! I’m so glad it worked for you! Sometimes (deep sign on the fabric) I’ve had to repeat the process. Feel free to pass it along to friends via Pinterest and/or Facebook! Thanks in advance!

  46. Skinsations Soap says

    vegetable oil is not the best to use for something like this. A lard based soap is supposedly the best thing for removing grease stains. (and Dawn dish soap!) I make a laundry soap with lard based bar soap, baking soda, borax and washing soda and it works well for most stains. Will try the WD-40 idea on some of my tougher/older stains though!

  47. Suzanne says

    I add hydrogen peroxide and I havent met a stain it’s hasn’t removed.
    One part baking soda
    One part blue dawn
    Two parts hydrogen peroxide

  48. Jenn says

    Oh, I was so hopeful! I followed this very diligently, using WD-40 first on the spots and at least 4 times of baking soda scrubbing, maybe more, on both a jean skirt and a cotton cami. Scrubbed the Dawn in with the toothbrush and let it sit while the washer loaded up with water. I line dried them in the basement and at first it seemed like at least some of the stain had come off. Now that they’re completely dry, the stain is HUGE from the WD-40 and not at all gone.

    I will try again as they shirt was brand new (only 1 wear) and the skirt is a favourite of mine.

  49. MJ says

    Drop one piece of popcorn or a drop of coffee with milk and there is your stain that won’t show until you wash it. Thanks for the help. I’ve a job to do on a favorite sweatshirt.

  50. Holly says

    Well, I don’t know what kind of magic you all are working in your laundry areas but this method didn’t do anything except give me a big old WD-40 stain on top of the stain I was trying to treat. Thank goodness I didn’t try it on a good piece of clothing. This is the fourth or fifth “amazing” trick I’ve tried that’s failed me :( I just bought a bottle of heavy-duty garage degreaser stuff and we’ll see what happens. If it fails, I’ll just have to beat my son until he stops using his shirt as a napkin!

    • says

      Holly I’m so sorry to hear that. What was the fabric? Cotton? Synthetic? I use an extremely small amount of WD-40 on the clothes.

      It takes a few times on synthetics (like polyester).

      • Holly says

        Lisette, it was a 100% cotton tshirt. I’ve also tried Dawn and boiling water on my son’s grease spotted jeans with about a 50% success rate. That tshirt has become my practice shirt, thank goodness I only paid $4 for it!

        • says

          Have you tried repeating the process? I’ve had to repeat this on my husband’s BLACK 100% Cotton tees. It’s really strange but the black ones are the most stubborn ones

  51. Judy says

    This is a wonderful website — thanks!

    I have a trillion pairs of waffle-knit pants with grease stains (often mysterious grease stains) on them, so I was glad to see someone’s comment that they can come from popcorn (which I often eat) (with melted coconut oil on it.) (try it, it’s delicious and extremely healthy.)

    P. S. What the dickens are Under Armors?

  52. Jill says

    I think it’s worth purchasing Shout Advanced stain remover (it comes in a blue spray bottle). It claims to remove set in stains, and it does!! You DO have to follow the directions, however. Be sure to rub the stain after applying… just applying isn’t as effective. Also, can be applied and left for some days before washing. My son in law had set-in oil stains all over a shirt – I had to rewash more than once after using the Shout, but it did all come out.

  53. Diane says

    How do you get a “very small amount” of WD-40 onto the clothing? Spray puts out a fairly large amount over a large area and the little tube shoots out a stream. I’ll be working on brand new, unworn dark logo t-shirt. Stain is large (3-5 inch circle) with a few droplet size spots around outer edges. Apparently oil leaked from something else in shopping bag. Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Diane. I only press the button at the top half-way to control how much comes out. If that’s not possible, perhaps try spraying on a non-porous surface and dabbing the oil with your toothbrush onto the shirt!

  54. Whitney says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Two brand new Vineyard Vines 1/4 -zip sweatshirts came out with those cursed mystery stains. I tried Dawn to no avail. I read tour post and gave it a try. IT WORKED! I must admit I was nearly nauseous spraying WD40 but figured I didn’t have much to loose. Thank you again!

    • says

      You are so very welcome! I’ve tried Dawn alone and have also not had success. Many readers say Dawn works on it’s own, but I’m sure you can attest that it isn’t always the case. Yay!

  55. Dot says

    Just put PineSol on the oils stain on cotton or polyester let sit for a few minutes and wash as usual. Works every time ..

  56. DebH says

    Tried this today on my hubby’s winter coat and a shirt. Worked wonders, I am a believer. It was a pricey coat and a new shirt from Christmas. Thank you, thank you. My husband is very happy and I look like Wonder Woman.

  57. Vandana Joshi says

    Hi Lisette,

    I got nice remarks for your method. I have some questions. Mustard oil in pickle is spilled in my light brown new trouser. I put some gram flour on the stains and rubbed it with toothbrush. Once all oil is soaked up I washed it normally at home only. Now after the trouser dried it is still showing stains on it and also color is affected and showing scratches with is looking bad. I didnt understand the way u gave for renewing. Do u mean to add oil again on that stains:-(….If so I have soyabean oil, groundnut oil and coconut oil which one should I use? Please explain again…..Thanks a ton in advance.

  58. Christine Purbaugh says

    I guess I am missing something. This post doesn’t really say what to use to get the stain out and the steps on how to use it. I guess I will just guess and try it?

    • says

      I haven’t tried another brand, but I think Joy might work? Just don’t leave the soap sitting on there too long or the color dyes of the soap could dye the fabric.

  59. Leah R says

    If u want to get out any oil stain on any clothing use varsol. I keep it in a small soya sauce container and put just a drop of it on the stain. Once applied you must wash right away. Use it sparingly as it has an odor. I have used it on numerous types of fabric and have never had a problem. The stain is always gone and the fabric is fine.

  60. Cathryn says

    Hello wonderful lady
    I live in Dundee. Scotland
    Can you tell me what would be the equivalent to Dawn in Britain. I have no idea what Dawn is and it would appear this is an important ingredient.

    Kind Regards


  61. Kimmie says

    I have used Goo Gone for many years to get out grease stains from my teenagers clothes, and it works like magic. Both are grease monkeys and work on cars, so their clothes always have grease stains on them. Also, I’m terrible about getting grease stains on my clothes while cooking. Goo Gone gets it all out. Just spray the stain lightly and rub it in and let it set for a while, then wash in the hottest water possible. You might have to repeat it if the stain is set in. But it has never failed me. Thanks for all the great tips everyone!

  62. says

    I was married to a roofer for 23 years, WD 40 would take out the smaller tar spots, but it got too much to deal with, I had to clean the washer with WD, then he accidently put a load of clothes in the dryer, OMG, 2 cans of WD later I finally had it clean enough, did 3 loads of rags in hot very soapy water to clean the washer nd dryer, what a nightmare. I find shout works very well on oily stains, I just saturate the mark and leave it for a day, then spray it again. I find butter is the worst.

  63. Sheri says

    After I have all the necessary items, then what? Would love to try it on my son’s cotton christening outfit… 7 years later. Have nothing to loose. Thanks! Sheri

  64. bethany says

    I have always been able to remove these annoying spots with a hearty squirt of Shout pretreatener and about a teaspoon of baking soda (soda bicarbonate) on each spot. I then rub the soda in till it makess a paste with the Shout and sprinkle a bit more soda on for good measure. Then I let it sit over night. After 12 hours wash as usual and the stain is gone.

  65. Sarah says

    Has anyone tried this on polyester? The most common fabric I have this issue with is polyester. I will try this one the few cotton pieces that I have, but some of my favorite tops have this oil issue on them and they aren’t cotton.

    • says

      Hi Susan! Yes, I’ve tried this with polyester. But I’ve also had to repeat the process 3-4 times on polyester. I use only a TINY BIT as it will continue to spread through the fabric. It’s also very important to spray it as close as possible to the fabric to minimize too much spreading.

  66. Maya-1987 says

    Just put baby powder and let it set over night, next day just place wash it with soap and the stains will come right off. Works every time

  67. Larissa says


        • says

          My apologies Larissa! I misunderstood your question. It should work for baby oil especially if the shirt is made out of cotton. If it’s not, try one of the methods recommended by the newer post “More Ways to Remove Oil Stains”

  68. says

    I got home one night to realise that the plastic bag full of Indian takeway that I was carrying on the ride home was leaking and my entire left upper pant leg was drenched in oil! Being a newb I just chucked the pants in the laundry hamper for the next wash.

    After doing the laundry I noticed the pants were still hideously stained and therefore ruined. I thought I’d check online to see if the pants could be salvaged and I found your site.

    I was very skeptical about trying the WD40 but the pants were cheap so I thought I’d give it a go. I inserted a plastic bag in the pant leg and covered the oil stain with the WD40. I sprinkled a hefty amount of baking soda on the oil and set to scrubbing hard with a toothbrush for about 5 minutes. I added some more baking soda for good measure and repeated the scrub. I added ordinary dish soap (in fact it was the cheapest brand) and scrubbed once more until a paste was formed, and I scrubbed that in too. I left the pants for about half an hour. I then left them to soak for a few hours in hot water and stain-removal powder. I then gave the pants a quick warm wash in the machine and took them out to dry.

    Miraculously, the stain had completely disappeared! Not only that, but the pants were a vibrant red and this procedure didn’t affect the colour at all. I am so impressed with this method! In fact I’m doing it again now on one of my husband’s pants which received some serious sausage splatter from the last time we had a barbecue.

    Thank you so much!

    • says

      Nicole, I’m so glad it worked for you! Some haven’t had luck with this method but it works wonders on cotton! Thanks so much for letting me know it worked for you! Feel free to share it with friends on Facebook or Pinterest!

  69. Oona says

    When I was a younger married lady I kept finding oil spots on our clothes after they had been washed. Little oil blobs just like in the picture. I could not figure it out! I thought it might be leaking from the machine but nothing I tried worked.

    It turned out that the culprit had been my flannel dust cloths. I had been washing them in with the clothes. They weren’t very dirty right? BUT they had Pledge on them. D’Oh!

    I never washed them with my clothes again and have not had the problem since. Except one time when a chapstick went through the washer and dryer – nightmare!

  70. says

    Lisette, I have read all the good thoughts about removing oil stains. I am going to try them, I have olive oil stains on 2 of my favorite shirts. I thought it was a lost cause, I am doing the treatment at this moment, will let you know if it works. Thanks everyone for all the great ideas…….:)
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  71. willhn says

    WD 40 is oil, it is fish oil and has over 1000 uses have a look at the WD40 website you will be amazed what it can do. Someone had put spray paint on my neighbors car and the WD40 removed it without harming the cars original paintwork

  72. Barney says

    Joe is right; give that homemade laundry soap a try. I’m on my second batch and wouldn’t go back to “store bought” if you gave it to me.
    A thought about WD-40; it’s flammable, so I wouldn’t suggest putting things treated with it in the dryer.
    I have been using GOOP waterless hand cleaner to get out grease stains. It works even after clothes have gone through the washer
    and dryer. For extra tough grease stains, rub
    in a little Dawn Or some of that super laundry
    sauce you’re going to make!

  73. Gammie Rocks says

    I have been using Goop for years. Does well for most set in stains, and you can leave it on for as long as a week. I’ll try Lisette’s method too on a couple of things that the Goop didin’t work on. Thanks for the recipe!

  74. Vandana Joshi says

    I forgot to metion that fabric of my trouser is 100%cotton and I didnt get what is WD-40?

  75. says

    WD-40 is a water dispersant and lubricant here in the States. I’ve used corn oil and olive oil and the stains have gotten worse, so i experimented with this lubricant and it’s helped me get the stains out.

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