Removing Grease or Oil Stains from Clothing

My kids have always been a little accident prone when it comes to getting food from their plates all the way to their mouths.

Those little drips and drops of greasy gravy or oily salad dressing at dinner time are becoming a bit of a family joke. I've tried to convince them, but unfortunately they will not wear bibs!

But food stains and ruined clothing aren't really a joke, and I've got an eagle eye out to make sure that any clothing that gets splattered is put aside before it goes into the laundry basket.

But bless my children's little hearts- They've taught me more than a few things about removing grease stains.

Even the toughest grease stains can be lifted from your pants or shirt if you know what to use to break the bond it has with your clothes.

The Fresher the Better:

You should treat all stains before washing or drying and before it has a chance to spread. All stains are easier to remove the sooner you get to work on them.

Stained fabric that goes through the washer with the wrong water temperature or drying the stained clothing in the clothes dryer can "set" stains making it that much harder to remove.

Stains from food can be difficult because the stain might have several parts to it and each part might need a different treatment. For example a gravy stain is part grease and part meat or milk solids that love to bind to fabric. A greasy hamburger can be a mixture of grease, ketchup and mustard- Mustard is made with turmeric which is also used as a natural yellow fabric dye, and that's a very tough stain to remove.

Remove Excess Solids:

Remove as much of the staining material as possible before you start pretreating it.

Start by dabbing up any extra grease from the garment. Use a clean paper towel and dab from both sides to get off as much of the sticky liquid as possible. This is especially important when dealing with food stains that seem to seep through fabric more quickly than heavier greases do.

You can rinse the stain in cold clear water to dissolve excess material. Avoid using warm or hot water at this point in the process to avoid spreading the grease any further on the fabric.

Remove Excess Oils:

One easy trick to soak up extra grease and oil from even the most delicate fabrics is to sprinkle it with a dusting of talcum powder. Let sit for a few hours to pull out as much of the oil as it can.

Shake gently to brush all remaining powder away before proceeding further. You can repeat this step several times if the clothing is heavily stained.


Contrary to what the commercials tell you, you don't need any fancy pants stain sticks or grease removers to get rid of grease and oil.

The best thing to remove grease is a detergent dishwashing liquid such as dawn dishsoap. Regular shampoo, or liquid laundry soap poured right on the spot will work just as well as a pretreatment.

Simply pour or rub the detergent right into the stain. It's super easy, and it works – often better than using commercial grease stain removal products.

After you have saturated your stain with a grease fighting liquid, let it sit for about 1/2 an hour. Don't let the detergent dry out on the fabric which can cause further problems. Put some plastic wrap on top of it if you will be away for a while.

Launder as Usual:

Wash the clothing as normal. After taking garment out of the washer, and before you put it into the dryer, check to make sure that no stain remains.

If you are unsure, let the clothing air dry to check. Otherwise, you may set the leftover stain permanently into the fabric if dried in the dryer.

If grease remains, pretreat the garment with detergent again. Sometimes stain removal takes several tries so don’t get discouraged if the grease stain doesn’t come off after the first try.

If the grease is gone, but a colored stain remains, this means that you have one of the more complex stain types I mentioned earlier, such as mustard or meat that has remained and has dyed the fabric.

Now that the grease is gone, the next step depends on the exact material that remains. Some things that work on discoloration are hydrogen peroxide or powdered oxygen bleach like oxy-clean.

If the grease is gone, congratulations, you are finished! You can dry the clothing without fear of setting the stain.