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How to Get Motor Oil Out of Clothes

Whether you have to change a tire or change the oil in your car, you will almost certainly end up with smears of black motor oil on your hands and clothes. Somehow it seems impossible to complete a car repair without dealing with these stubborn oil stains! Fortunately, you can learn how to get motor oil out of clothes using simple household products you probably already own.

The best way to get motor oil out of clothes is to treat the stain immediately by blotting and presoaking. For older stains, Dawn dish soap or hair shampoo can lift the oil out. Other useful household products that can treat motor oil stains include baking soda, cornstarch, aloe vera, and WD-40.

In this article, you will find out what makes motor oil stains so difficult. You will discover ten easy ways to get rid of these stains. Finally, you will find tips for how to handle old stains or stains in jeans.

How to Get Motor Oil Out of Clothes

Does Motor Oil Come Out Of Clothes?

Motor oil can come out of clothes, especially if you treat the stains promptly and use a strong degreaser. But oil stains really set into clothing, and motor oil often has an especially black, stubborn residue!

Motor oil comes from a kind of processed crude oil with a thick, viscous quality. It mainly consists of a petroleum hydrocarbon base. Most modern motor oils combine about 80% of this base with other elements like viscosity improvement products to help the oil flow smoothly and keep dirt particles suspended.

Of course, as motor oil does its job and lubricates a car engine, or a lawnmower, tractor, or motorcycle, it picks up all kinds of gross things and eventually begins to turn darker. This is why mechanics recommend getting your car oil changed frequently! What this means for your laundry is that you have to deal with both the oil residue and any dark or even black crud the oil has picked up while doing its job.

So, can you wash clothes with motor oil on them? Yes and no. Placing anything flammable in your washing machine, and especially in your dryer, could present a potential fire hazard.

But if you treat the stains before placing the clothes in the washer, you can safely wash your motor-oil-stained clothing! Just pick one of the methods described in this article and you can make those oily clothes safe in no time.

Finally, can you really get car oil out of clothes? You can, but these stubborn stains will require some patience and sometimes some serious scrubbing. You may want to consider how badly you want to fix your stained clothing before you embark on this mission!

For instance, if you have a set of grungy clothes that you wear when you work in your garage, you may want to leave the stains and just keep those as your work clothes. On the other hand, if you had to change a tire while wearing your best work khakis, you want to put in the effort to get those khakis clean again!

How to Get Motor Oil Out of Clothes at Home: 10 Methods

How to get car oil out of clothes

You can get motor oil out of clothes using degreasers like dish soap, absorbent powders like baking soda, or commercial removers like OxiClean’s Max Force.

1. Blotting

One of the best methods to prevent a motor oil stain from setting in and getting difficult to budge is to immediately blot the damp area as soon as you notice it. Blotting means dabbing at the damp area with an absorbent paper towel or clean rag. You will see the dark oil on the surface of the rag as you do this, so you will know the method is working!

On its own, blotting will not remove all of the oil residues. But it will remove the worst of the mess before it can dry, allowing you to add another treatment method much more easily later!

This is also a great technique if you’re in the middle of a project, like changing the oil in your car. You probably do not want to go inside, change your clothes, and scrub at the stain at that very instant–you want to finish your project first! But you can take thirty seconds to grab a handful of paper towels and blot away the worst of the stain, saving yourself lots of time later on!

2. Soaking

Using a pre-soak for an oil-stained garment is also a great low-effort way to get rid of at least most of a motor oil stain before you begin the washing process. Indeed, throwing your clothes in the washing machine will not remove the stain. But if you let the clothing soak first, the laundry detergent has extra time to work on the stain, and you will see much better results!

  1. First, blot the stain if it still feels damp. If the oil has already dried, go on to step two.
  2. Dab a dot of detergent right onto the stain and rub it in with your fingers.
  3. Next, fill a bucket with one to two gallons of hot water.
  4. Measure in ¼ cup of laundry detergent, and swish your hand in the water to create suds.
  5. Place the stained garment into the water, making sure it lies all the way under the water.
  6. Let the clothing soak for at least an hour before washing as usual in your washing machine.
  7. Do not place the garment in the dryer! Instead, hang it up to air dry. If the dark spot did not come out, you can have a second chance at treating it later on!

3. Dawn Dish Soap

MRS. MEYER'S CLEAN DAY Liquid Dish Soap, Biodegradable Formula, Radish, 16 fl. ozDawn dish soap offers the most popular method for treating motor oil stains using a household product. Every soap works as a degreasing agent, but dish soap has an especially strong ability to break apart and carry away tiny oil particles.

You can certainly use generic dish soap, but experts suggest that Dawn offers a uniquely strong ability to cut grease because it contains something called surfactants. This part of the soap contains chemicals that lower surface tension in a liquid and allow the soap molecules to get at the grease more easily!

To use Dawn dish soap on a motor oil stain:

  1. Put something behind the oil stain to catch any seeping grease. A folded paper towel or a piece of clean cardboard will work.
  2. Squirt just a little Dawn onto the dark spot. You should not need more than half a teaspoon.
  3. Use your fingers or a clean sponge to rub the soap into the stain. You will see a thin, greasy lather appear.
  4. Let this sit for half an hour.
  5. Rinse the stained area by running cool tap water straight through it. This will allow the grease-carrying soap to run away down the drain.
  6. At this point, check to see if the stain remains obvious.
  7. You can allow the garment to dry or go ahead and place it in your washing machine to launder as usual.

4. Shampoo

SheaMoisture Curl and Shine Coconut Shampoo Coconut and Hibiscus for Curly Hair Paraben Free Shampoo 13 ozBelieve it or not, most shampoos can put up a strong fight against oil stains in clothing!

Have you ever gone a couple of days without washing your hair and then run your hand through your super greasy roots? Gross, right? But actually, shampoo has powerful degreasing abilities specifically to deal with that build-up of natural oils!

Plus, it can safely handle delicate fabrics as well.

  1. First, set up your stained garment on a flat surface. Put a pad of paper towels or a clean rag behind the stain. Otherwise, the oil could bleed through to other parts of the clothing!
  2. Next, squeeze about a teaspoon of shampoo onto the stain. You can measure this if you want, but it doesn’t matter how much you use, as the shampoo will not hurt the fabric.
  3. Use your fingers or a soft cloth to rub the shampoo deeply into the fibers of the fabric.
  4. Let this sit for half an hour.
  5. Rinse out the shampoo under running water, or put the clothing in your washing machine on a cool water setting.
  6. Do not put the garment in the dryer! Instead, let it air dry and check to see if the stain has disappeared.

5. Acetone

No products found.Most types of nail polish remover contain a chemical called acetone, which can easily dissolve oils. Some cosmetic products like facial cleansers use a small amount of acetone to help clean oils off your skin!

If you got oil on work coveralls or tough clothing like jeans, you can probably safely apply a strong concentration of acetone like the amount you would find in nail polish remover. That said, more delicate kinds of fabric could discolor or stain if you use acetone.

To avoid this:

  1. Do a quick spot test by turning your garment inside and finding the inner portion of a seam.
  2. Drip a small amount of No products found. onto this seam.
  3. Wait 15 minutes to make sure it still looks ok!
  4. Set up your garment so that it stretches over a container like a bucket or a bowl.
  5. Pour acetone onto the stain, with the bowl ready to catch the drips beneath!
  6. Let this sit for fifteen minutes.
  7. Rinse out the acetone under cool running water.
  8. Launder the garment as usual in your washing machine, but don’t put it in the dryer.
  9. After the clothing finishes air drying, check if the stain remains!

6. Cornstarch

365 by Whole Foods Market, Corn Starch, 16 OunceMost motor oil treatment methods use a degreasing agent, but you can also successfully treat most oil stains using an absorbent powder! You can use cornstarch, talcum powder, or even baby powder for this simple technique.
  1. Spread the stained garment on a flat surface like a table or tile floor. Put something absorbent behind the stain, like a clean towel or rag.
  2. If you have a small stain, you will need a small amount of cornstarch, such as one tablespoon. For larger stains, you may want to measure out as much as ¼ cup of cornstarch onto the stain.
  3. Smooth out the cornstarch, so it covers the stain in a thick, even layer.
  4. Let this sit for half an hour to give the powder time to absorb the oil.
  5. Use an old toothbrush to brush away the clumpy cornstarch.
  6. Launder the garment as usual, but don’t put it in the dryer!
  7. If you still see a dark oily spot after air-drying the clothing, you can repeat this process several times.

7. Baking Soda

Baking sodaBaking soda offers two different ways to remove a motor oil stain from clothing. You can use baking soda as an absorbent powder as well, using it in place of cornstarch in the previous method. Or, for faster results, you can mix it with vinegar for a speedier removal!

  1. As always, set up your garment to have a protective barrier behind it. For this method, something thick like a rag will work better than a piece of cardboard.
  2. Dump a handful of baking soda onto the stain.
  3. Let it sit for 15 minutes, and then brush it away.
  4. Apply another handful of baking soda.
  5. This time, measure a tablespoon of white vinegar and sprinkle it over the baking soda. It should fizz up!
  6. Use an old toothbrush to scrub this into the spot.
  7. Let it sit for another fifteen minutes.
  8. Rinse away the baking soda using hot running water.

8. Aloe Vera

George's Aloe Vera Liquid Supplement, 128 ozSurprisingly few people know this, but aloe vera has a natural ability to dissolve grease without damaging fabric! You probably have a tube of aloe vera gel stashed in your medicine cabinet from the last time you went to the beach and forgot to wear sunscreen!

Aloe will not stain your clothes most of the time, but some commercial types of aloe lotion could contain dyes that will discolor clothing. Make sure you spot-test on a hidden section of the garment before trying this method, just in case!

  1. Rinse your stained garment in cold water. Wring it out so it feels damp but not sopping wet.
  2. Smear aloe generously over the stain.
  3. Let this sit for fifteen minutes.
  4. Rinse away the aloe, and then wash your clothing in a cold water cycle in the washing machine.
  5. Let the clothing air dry.

9. WD-40

WD 40Even though it acts as a lubricant, WD-40 can remove tough motor oil stains in some cases. The trick here is this product will also stain some types of fabric. So you should probably save this technique to try if some of the other methods don’t work for you.

WD-40 can work quite well on oily stains on polyester clothing!

  1. Find the stain and spread out that section of the garment. Put a clean rag behind the stain.
  2. Spray WD-40 generously over the stain, making it damp to the touch.
  3. Let this sit for fifteen minutes.
  4. Squirt a drop of dish soap onto the stain next. Use an old toothbrush to scrub this in.
  5. Rinse out the soap and WD-40 over the sink.
  6. Wash the clothing in cold water in your washing machine. Instead of putting it in the dryer, let it air dry and then inspect it to see if the stain remains.

10. Commercial Products

OxiClean Max Force Foam Laundry Pre-Treater, 9 ozCommercial stain removal products like OxiClean Max Force, Goof Off, and Goo Gone also have a great reputation for removing motor oil stains from clothing.

You should follow the instructions on the cleaning product packaging, but in most cases, you simply apply a little of the stain remover and then let the garment sit for a certain period of time. Then you wash the clothing in your washing machine, and both the stain remover and the oil will wash away!

The downside to using a commercial product is that it usually costs more and may contain harmful chemicals. On the other hand, these products often work more quickly and efficiently than household products.

How to Get Engine Oil Stains Out of Clothes Quickly

You can get engine oil out of clothes quickly by using the dish soap method followed by a hot-water cycle in your washing machine. You can even add a dab of laundry detergent directly to the stain right before washing for added efficiency!

Many commercial removers also work quickly. That said, most methods, from using cornstarch to using OxiClean, do require a certain amount of wait time. You generally need to apply your absorber or degreaser and let it sit for at least fifteen minutes to do its work.

How To Remove Set In Motor Oil Stains From Clothes

The baking soda and dish soap method both work well on set-in motor oil stains in clothes, though you may need to repeat the scrubbing process a couple of times before the whole stain vanishes.

One of the tricks for getting out a set-in stain is to start on dry fabric. Do not get the clothing wet before applying the soap or baking soda. Oil and water won’t mix, so adding water creates a barrier between your cleaning product and the oil stain.

You will also need to use hot water. Grease turns into a solid unless you melt it under heat, such as hot water from the tap. SO when you get to the rinsing and washing stage, use hot water!

How To Get Car Oil Out Of Clothes After Washing And Drying

One of the worst things about car oil stains is that you may not notice them until after your clothing has gone through the washer and dryer, making them much more difficult to get out! If you know that you have been working around cars or other appliances that use oil, you should check your clothing before putting it in the wash for this reason. It isn’t safe to put clothing with oil on it into your hot dryer!

If a splash of oil does sneak past you, you can use a combination of several cleaning agents to treat even these difficult motor oil stains:

  1. Set up your dry garment with the stain in front of you. Put a wad of paper towels behind the stained area.
  2. Measure a half teaspoon of dish soap onto the stain.
  3. Use an old toothbrush to rub this in well.
  4. Next, add a tablespoon of baking soda. Scrub that in well using the toothbrush.
  5. Let the soap and baking soda paste sit for an hour.
  6. Rinse out the paste using hot water.
  7. Fill a bucket with hot water and soak the garment again for another hour.
  8. Run it through the washing machine, but let it hang up to air dry.

How to Get Motor Oil and Grease Stains Out Of:

Now that you know all the best techniques for getting motor oil out of clothes, you may want some helpful tips on how to handle grease stains in cotton or blue jeans!

Cotton Clothes

Cotton clothes like t-shirts can handle most cleaning agents and stain removers. Cotton easily absorbs water, making it pretty easy to get clean in most cases!

For white cotton clothes like undershirts and socks, try soaking the garment in hot water and bleach after using a stain-removal treatment.

For colorful cotton clothes, try rubbing a color-safe laundry detergent into the stain and letting it sit for fifteen minutes before washing the clothing in your washing machine.

Blue Jeans

You can use dish soap, baking soda, cornstarch, shampoo, or WD-40 to get motor oil out of your blue jeans. For best results, you should wash the jeans in your washing machine using a hot water cycle after this treatment.

Jeans may shrink a little in hot water, so keep that in mind if you try this technique!

The cotton fibers in denim may not always hold dye well, so you may want to avoid using a commercial stain remover or any kind of bleach as you work on getting oil out of your jeans.


You can get motor oil out of clothes by using a degreaser or an absorbent powder. Treating wet oil stains right away with blotting works well to minimize staining. Using a pre-soak before washing a garment with oil stains also offers a low-effort stain removal method.

Degreasers like dish soap, shampoo, and acetone can dissolve and break apart oil, lifting tiny oil particles away from the fabric. Absorbent powders like baking soda and cornstarch can soak up the oil, removing it from the garment. Commercial products like OxiForce Max Clean or Goo Gone also offer a quick and effective method for getting oil stains out of clothes.