There are dozens of benefits to riding your bike, from exercise to protecting the environment. However, the moment that oily bike chain touches your pants leg, those benefits might fly out the window. Luckily, bike grease stains don’t have to put your clothes out of commission.
You can get bike grease out of clothes by absorbing the oil with a liquid or powder degreaser and then washing off the residue. You can absorb wet stains easily with a dry powder such as cornstarch, and scrub out dried stains with liquids like dish soap.
Even delicate fabrics are safe from bike grease. Most of the stain removers for bike grease are household products that won’t damage or discolor fabrics. Keep reading to find out exactly how to get bike grease out of clothes.
Can You Get Bike Grease Out of Clothes?
You can get bike grease out of clothes in most cases. It’s easiest to treat bike grease stains when they’re fresh, but old stains aren’t impossible to remove either. The key is to loosen the grease so that you can wash it off the fabric.
How you loosen the grease depends on how old the stain is and how sturdy the fabric is. Using a chemical stain remover won’t damage old denim or a white cotton t-shirt, but it might cause problems on a silk blouse.
There are multiple kinds of bike grease, too. Many of them have the same basic ingredients, lubricating oil and a soap component. Bike grease is supposed to be water-resistant, which is why you can’t wash away grease stains by running your clothes through the wash.
Working with the ingredients in bike grease—instead of against them—will give you the best stain removal results. Since bike grease is water-resistant, you’ll need to treat the stains with a substance that can absorb the grease. Then you can wash that substance off your clothes and it will take the stain with it.
How to Get Bike Grease Out of Clothes: 10 Methods
There are tons of methods for getting grease out of your clothes. Consider how old the stain is and how delicate the fabric is when you choose your method. You can even use multiple methods if the first one you try doesn’t take the stain out.
These ten methods are a great starting place for taking bike grease off your clothes. Be sure to check the fabric content of your clothes and your bike grease ingredients before you start to make sure you’re using the most effective method for your situation.
1. Dish SoapA great all-purpose bike grease remover is liquid dish soap. Most dish soap is formulated specifically to absorb grease, like cooking oil and fats. It works similarly on bike grease.
Put a small amount of liquid dish soap onto the stain. Rub it gently in small circles over the stain. You can use your fingers, or if the stain is stubborn, use an old toothbrush. The soap will bubble a bit, but you should see the grease start to lift off.
Rinse the stain. It should be much lighter, if not gone altogether. You can repeat this process for stubborn grease stains. Once most of the stain is gone, wash your clothes the way you normally would.
2. CornstarchAnother way to absorb the lubricant oil in a bike grease stain is with cornstarch. It soaks up grease efficiently and without needing a lot of scrubbing. This is also a great method for dried and set grease stains.
Cover the stain in a layer of cornstarch and let it sit. It can take a while for this to work, so it’s best done overnight. If you can wait 12 hours, let it sit that long. Then, shake or brush the cornstarch off and launder the clothes as you normally would.
Cornstarch won’t damage your fabrics or make the dyes run, so it’s a good choice for delicate items. Just be patient, and let the cornstarch do the heavy lifting.
3. Baby PowderBaby powder works similarly to cornstarch. In fact, some baby powders contain cornstarch. Another absorbent ingredient in baby powder is talc, which is a mineral mixture that absorbs oil well.
Just like with cornstarch, you can sprinkle baby powder on a bike grease stain to lift it from your clothes. Make sure the stain is covered in an even layer of powder and let it sit for about 12 hours or overnight.
Then, brush or shake off the powder and wash your clothes. You can repeat this process as many times as you want. Baby powder is gentle on clothes, so repeated stain treatments won’t wear out your garments.
4. Baking SodaIf you don’t have baby powder or cornstarch handy, try baking soda. Baking soda works best on wet stains, so try this method if you notice the stain when it’s fresh.
Baking soda is a chemical leavener. It can loosen stains via chemical reaction and then absorb the oil. Not only will baking soda help loosen the bike grease, but it also helps absorb the odor of the grease.
Spread a layer of baking soda onto the stain and let it sit. Unlike baby powder or cornstarch, you won’t need to leave it overnight. Usually, 1 to 2 hours is enough to lift the stain. Then, brush off the powder and wash as normal.
If the stain is already dry by the time you treat it, you can still use baking soda. Just wet the stain with a little white vinegar first. Then, spread the powder and let it sit, as you would with a fresh stain.
5. ChalkAnother absorbent powder is chalk. Similar to baking soda, chalk works best on fresh wet stains and will be less effective on dried stains. You should also make sure to only use plain white chalk. Colored chalk can contain waxes that counteract the absorption of the chalk and could stain your clothes.
As soon as you notice the stain, gently rub the chalk across it. The stain should be all the way covered. It will absorb most of the oil stain in about 5 minutes. Brush off any excess chalk gently. You don’t want to rub the stain back into the fabric.
Wash the stained clothes as soon as you can after the chalk has absorbed. The sooner you wash them, the better the results will be. If this doesn’t remove the stain completely, try another method, as chalk doesn’t work for set-in stains.
6. ShampooShampoo is a great alternative to liquid dish soap for stain removal. It is usually milder than dish soap on grease, but it works the same way. Just like it removes the grease that builds up in your hair, it can loosen and remove the bike grease on your clothes.
Try to avoid shampoos with lots of added colors and fragrances. These chemicals could be harsh on your clothing. Too many colors can also discolor the fabric as you go. Clear shampoos are your best bet.
Rub a small amount over the surface of the stain. You can scrub gently with a toothbrush or use your fingers for a softer scrub. Rinse out the shampoo, and then wash the clothes the way you usually would.
7. White VinegarUnlike some of the other methods on this list, vinegar doesn’t absorb the grease stain. Instead, it disintegrates it. White vinegar is made of acetic acid, which can break down various chemicals and compounds, including bike grease.
There are many types of vinegar to choose from. However, white vinegar is the best option, as it is clear. It won’t discolor or stain your clothes while you work to get the original stain out! It does have a powerful smell, but that will come out of the clothes once you wash them.
To use vinegar to get rid of grease stains, you’ll need to be ready to wash the clothes immediately. Dab a few drops onto the stain, about 2 to 3 drops per square inch of grease. Take a clean, damp cloth and rub the vinegar into the stain. Then put the clothes into the wash immediately.
8. Powder/Soap Mixtures
You may not always be in a position to treat a bike grease stain right away. However, you don’t have to give up on your clothes just because the stain dried! There’s a trick to getting the dried, old stains out.
Re-wetting a stain can make it easier to remove. Water isn’t the best choice, though. White vinegar, shampoo, or dish soap are good choices as they also work to remove the stain. Combining the liquid with a powder can give you better results for older stains.
Use less liquid than you would if you were using liquid alone. Wet the stain, and then cover it in powder to soak. Leave the powder on the stain until it has absorbed all, or nearly all, of the liquid. Then you can brush off the powder and wash the garment as usual.
Be mindful when you choose your combination. White vinegar and baking soda work well, but they may fizz and expand, so start with a little at a time until the stain is covered. Use soap and shampoo sparingly so that the powder you mix them with is more of a paste than a sludge. You want it to be more solid than liquid, so the powder absorbs the stain, not just the soap.
9. Bar SoapAnother handy trick is to scrub a grease stain with solid bar soap. The best kind will have little to no fragrance or color added. This method will work on old or fresh stains.
Rub the bar of soap over the stained area until the whole surface feels waxy. Then, wet a clean sponge with warm water. Use the sponge to scrub at the stain until the soap is lathered and foamy. Rinse off the suds with water, as hot as the clothing will tolerate.
You can repeat these steps until the stain is all the way gone. Depending on how severe the stain is and how old, it could take several cycles. When you’ve got the stain up, wash the clothes the way you normally would.
10. Chemical Stain RemoversThey may not be as handy in your home, but there are chemical stain removers that are specifically for grease stains. Products like heavy-duty degreasers and stain remover pens can cut through the grease and salvage the clothes.
However, these products are usually harsher than a home remedy, so they could damage your clothes. Delicate or colorful items are especially prone to damage from chemical cleaners and solvents.
Heavier clothes like denim or canvas can take more serious stain removers. They are less likely to fade in the spot where the degreaser and the stain were.
These products are best for removing the last bits of a stain. After you’ve absorbed and washed out the oil from the bike grease, there may still be a shadow or grey-ish stain. If you can’t get that spot out of your clothes with a gentler method, it may be time to try a degreaser.
Can You Get Old Grease Stains Out of Clothes?
Old grease stains might feel like an impossible task to tackle. However, patience and persistence will get the old bike grease off your clothing just as easily as a fresh stain.
The primary reason older stains are hard to get out of clothes is that they’re baked into the fabric. Putting a piece of clothing in the dryer with a stain on it is a surefire way to bond the stain more thoroughly to the fibers in the fabric.
When you’re washing stained clothes, make sure to check them after a round in the washing machine before you put them in the dryer. If the wet clothes are still stained, you can try another stain removal method more easily than if the clothes are dry.
Once the clothes are dry, you still have options. You can re-wet the grease using one of the liquid methods described above. Taking a little laundry detergent and rubbing it into the stain can also help fade it.
The best stain removal methods for old grease are the ones that will moisten the grease. You can use baby powder or cornstarch, but you should dampen the stain first with soap or shampoo. It’s easier for the powders to absorb a liquid than another solid.
What To Do If the Grease Won’t Come Out
The more stubborn a bike grease stain is, the more aggressively you’ll need to treat it. While a little chalk or a few hours under some cornstarch can be enough for a new stain, old stains need some elbow grease.
If the fabric is strong enough to tolerate scrubbing, you can make a paste with a liquid and a powder to scrub into the stain. Dish soap and baking soda or cornstarch work well for this. Rub the paste vigorously into the stain and let it sit overnight. Once you’ve scrubbed the stain, you can even add another layer of powder on top.
Check the stain after it sits. For stains that are still there, you can repeat the paste process for another cycle. If the stain is faded or gone, you can throw the clothes in the wash.
Don’t mix different methods when you’re working on a stubborn stain, especially if you’re using a chemical stain remover. You don’t want to create a chemical reaction that can damage your clothes or worse, your body.
On the rare occasion that a grease stain simply won’t come out, you may have to retire the clothes or hide the stain another way. Smaller stains can be covered up easily with patches or embroidery. However, if the stain is too large or conspicuous, you may have to bid farewell to the stained clothes.
How to Avoid Bike Grease Stains
The best way to get bike grease stains out of your clothes is to avoid staining them in the first place! This can be easier said than done, especially if you use your bike to commute or ride it regularly in non-exercise clothes.
The first way to avoid a bike grease stain is to keep your bike chain clean. Wipe it down so that the outside isn’t covered in grease. That way, you’re less likely to come into contact with the grease.
You can also buy a chain guard to provide a barrier between the greasy chain and your clothes. As a bonus, these guards can also keep your clothing from getting caught in the chain, which can be dangerous.
It’s also important to keep your clothes up out of the way of the wheels and chain of your bike. If you’re wearing long pants to bike, consider strapping down the legs. You can either roll up your pant leg and secure it with a rubber band or some kind of tie, or strap it to your leg, so it doesn’t flap around.
Avoid biking in long skirts, as they can easily tangle with your bike chain and are much harder to secure than pants. Whenever possible, wear close-fitting, short pants to bike in, even if that means changing when you reach your destination.
Seeing a big, black stain of bike grease on your clothing can seem like the end of the line for that favorite pair of pants. However, you can make those pants as good as new with a little absorbing powder and careful washing.
Bike grease is no match for grease-fighters like dish soap, cornstarch, and baby powder. Even your lightest color clothes can bounce back from a tangle with your bike chain.
What’s the toughest stain you’ve ever successfully washed out of your clothes? Tell us about it in the comments!