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How To Get Oil Smell Out Of Clothes

Whether an oil stain comes from cooking oil, essential oils, or motor oil, it can be frustrating. The odor can linger on clothes after washing, even if the stain comes out. When I spill oil on my clothing, I’ve found several products that are effective at removing it. So, whether you frequently get oil on your clothes or this is a one-time occurence, here are my suggestions on how to get the oil smell out.

Oil smells can be difficult to remove with regular laundry detergent. The best and easiest way to remove an oil smell from clothes is to use a heavy-duty laundry detergent. But there are several other common household cleaners that you can try as well.

In this article, we’ll offer eleven of the best recommendations for removing stubborn or lingering oil smells. We’ll also include instructions on how to use each one effectively. Continue reading to learn more.

How To Get Oil Smell Out Of Clothes

Will An Oil Smell Come Out Of Clothes?

Gasoline, grease, and oil are some of the toughest odors to get out because they penetrate the fibers and can remain even after treating the stain. But don’t get too discouraged. An oil smell will come out of your clothes if you use the right products.

Generally, the products used are designed to cut oil and grease as well as remove unpleasant odors. Because of this, they are usually effective at removing oil stains and smells as well.

How To Get Oil Smell Out Of Clothes

An oil smell can be removed from clothes by using the right products. All of the cleaners mentioned in this section are products that you likely already have at home. But if not, they can be easily purchased and are generally very inexpensive.

Here are our 11 best suggestions for removing oil smells from clothes (in no particular order).

1. Heavy Duty Laundry Detergent

removing oil smell from clothesThis is one of the easiest ways to remove oil smells from clothes. Not only does it require little work on your part, but it is also very effective.

Most regular laundry detergents, especially cheap ones, aren’t formulated to remove heavy stains and tough odors. That’s why heavy-duty laundry detergent is your best bet.

Heavy duty laundry detergents have a formula that is a little bit different than regular laundry detergent. They have added chemicals that are more effective at breaking down oil and grease. It’s great to have on hand, especially if you or someone in your household works in a career where they do get a lot of oil and grease on your clothes.

To use heavy-duty laundry detergent, all you need to do is add it to a load of laundry in place of your regular detergent. Then, wash the clothing using the hottest water temperature that particular clothing will allow.

Hotter water temperatures will break down stains better, but check the care label on the clothing first to see what water temperature is recommended. Otherwise, you could risk damaging your clothes.

2. Vinegar

remove oil smell from clothesThe acidic properties of vinegar make it a great product for breaking down stains and odors. But instead of using it directly on the stain, it’s best to add it to the rinse cycle when you wash the clothes. Water will help dilute the vinegar, keeping it from breaking down the fabric too much.

Of course, you may end up making your clothes smell like vinegar during the process, but that’s a simple fix. Just re-wash them using regular detergent or using heavy-duty detergent as an extra measure to help ensure that the oil and vinegar smells are gone.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Another method to try involving vinegar is to combine it with baking soda. Baking soda is used to absorb odors in all kinds of places, including refrigerators, closets, and gym bags. It works well to remove odors on clothes that are left behind by oil as well.

To use vinegar and baking soda together to remove the smell of oil, just fill your sink or a wash tub with enough water to cover the clothes. Then add 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of baking soda to the water and stir it to evenly distribute it. Let your clothes soak in the water for a few hours, then wash them in the washing machine. The acidic nature of vinegar combined with the odor-eliminating power of baking soda is sure to do the trick.

3. Dish Soap

grease smell out of clothesDish soap is designed to cut through oily and greasy residue left on plates and dishes, so it makes sense that you could use it to remove oil smells from clothing as well. It is also used to clean animals that have been affected by oil spills, so it should be very effective at removing oil from clothes.

To use this method, just fill a sink or washtub with water and add ¼ cup of dish soap. Place the clothes in the water, making sure that they are submerged. Let the clothing soak for about 30 minutes, stirring the water occasionally. The soap will help to break down any oil stains and remove odors as well.

After soaking the clothes, take them out and put them in the washing machine. At this point, you can wash them with your regular detergent if you feel like the oil smell has been removed. Otherwise, wash them using heavy-duty laundry detergent or add some more dish soap to the wash.

But be careful if you do use dish soap in the washing machine. It produces a lot of suds and could make a mess if you use too much. A little dish soap will go a long way in the washing machine.

4. Borax

BoraxBorax is another cleaning agent with which a little goes a long way. It’s very powerful for removing odors of all types from clothing as well. You can mix it with water and soak your clothes in the mixture, or you can add it directly into the washing machine.

If you mix it with water, you only need about 1 tablespoon for every gallon of water that you use. Add the water and Borax into a bucket or washtub and submerge the clothes in the mixture. Let them soak for about 30 minutes. After soaking, you can pour the entire mixture into the washing machine with the clothes.

Alternatively, you can add about ½ of Borax directly into your washing machine to remove oil and other odors from your clothes when you wash them. However, you should be careful anytime you use Borax because it can irritate your skin and eyes if it gets on them. If ingested, it can also cause vomiting or even death. Be sure to keep it out of reach of children and pets.

5. Coca-Cola

getting motor oil out of clothesWhen you think of effective cleaning supplies, coca-cola isn’t something that usually comes to mind. However, coke is very acidic. That means that it works great for helping to break down stains and odors.

Obviously, you don’t want to pour coke directly onto your clothes because that could create a huge, sticky mess. But what you can do is pour it into the washing machine along with laundry detergent as the machine fills with water.

During the wash, the acid in the coke will help to break down odors and get washed away during the rinse cycle.

That way, it doesn’t leave any new stains or residue on your clean clothes.

6. Bleach

BleachBleach is one of the stronger chemicals on this list. But, its strength means that it works great for removing tough stains and odors, especially on white clothing. Like most products on this list, you can soak your clothing in bleach beforehand or use it in the washing machine.

For soaking clothes in bleach, Clorox recommends using ¼ cup of bleach in a gallon of warm water. Soak your oil-stained white clothes in this mixture for no longer than 10 minutes.

Alternatively, you can add bleach to the washing machine when you wash the clothes. Add ¾ cup of bleach to the bleach dispenser in your washing machine. Then, add your regular laundry detergent or heavy-duty detergent. Wash the clothing on the hottest setting that the clothing will allow.

You should note that bleach will likely take the dye out of colored clothing. This method should only be used if the clothing that you want to remove an oil smell from is white. Otherwise, you should try another method from this list. It is also recommended that you wear gloves or wash your hands after using bleach because it can irritate your skin if it gets on it.

7. Ammonia

AmmoniaLike bleach, ammonia is another strong chemical. But it is very effective at removing tough odors like oil. Using it in your laundry will remove stains and leave your clothes smelling amazing.

Some types of ammonia have added scents, such as lemon, so they smell better than basic ammonia does.

To use ammonia to remove stains, all you need to do is add 1 cup into the wash cycle, then wash your clothes as usual.

But you should only add ammonia to the wash if you aren’t using bleach. Mixing ammonia and bleach can create toxic fumes.

8. Pine-Sol

Pine-SolPine-Sol is an all-purpose cleaner, so it can even be used for removing odors and stains from clothing. It could also leave your clothes smelling like pine instead of oil.

To use Pine-Sol to remove oil smells, all you have to do is pour a little directly onto the stain. Then, you can use a soft-bristled brush, such as a toothbrush, to scrub the Pine-Sol into the stain. After scrubbing, let the Pine-Sol sit on the stain for about 20 minutes. Finally, wash the clothing in the washing machine. The Pine-Sol should remove the stain and the oil smell as well.

Another way to use Pine-Sol to remove oil smells is to use it directly in the washing machine. You don’t need to add a lot; only about ¼ of a cup. Just add it to the wash cycle and wash your clothes as normal.

In place of Pine-Sol, you can also use Lestoil. Lestoil is another all-purpose cleaner and is labeled as ‘heavy-duty.’ This means that it should work well to remove oil. Just use it the same way as you would Pine-Sol, by either scrubbing the stain with it or pouring a small amount directly into the washing machine.

9. Listerine

ListerineListerine contains both mint and alcohol. Since it is used to freshen your breath, these ingredients can also help remove tough clothing odors.

To use Listerine to remove oil smells, add 1 cup to your load of laundry.

The alcohol will help dissolve the stain and odor, while the mint will leave your clothes smelling fresh.

10. Fast Orange Laundry Detergent

Fast Orange Laundry DetergentMechanics uses Fast Orange Laundry Detergent to remove odors left behind by automotive work. This would include oil and grease, among other things.

It is a great choice for people who frequently come home with oil-stained clothes. It can also keep your clothes from getting stained in the future. Just use it in place of your regular laundry detergent when you wash clothes.

11. Pre-Wash Stain Remover

Pre-Wash Stain RemoverThere are many different types of pre-wash stain removers that are very effective at helping to remove oil stains and odors before you wash the clothing in the washing machine. Some pre-wash stain treatments are better at removing oil and grease than others. But there are other things you can use that aren’t necessary for that purpose but work well for pre-treating clothing.

One example is GOJO hand cleaner. GOJO is used by mechanics and other professionals that often work with oil and grease. They use it to remove oil and grease from their hands, but you can use it on oil-stained clothing as well as a pre-wash. Just rub a little onto the stain and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

GOJO will break down the stain and any odors associated with it. Then, throw the clothes in the washing machine and use regular or heavy duty laundry detergent to finish cleaning them.

Why Do My Clothes Smell Like Oil After Washing?

If your clothes smell like oil after washing them, it’s probably caused by one of the following reasons:

  • A washing machine malfunction
  • Oil buildup in the washing machine
  • Oil-stained clothes rubbing against other clothes

Washing Machine Malfunction

One common cause for an oily smell after washing clothes could be a malfunction of one of the washing machine’s parts. If you smell oil after washing clothes, check underneath the washing machine for an oil leak. If there is one, it’s best to call in a professional to find the source of the problem and repair it.

Oil Buildup

Another cause of oily-smelling clothes after washing could be a buildup of oil in the washing machine. If you’re someone who washes oily clothes a lot, this is a very plausible cause, but you can easily solve it by cleaning your washing machine.

The best way to do this is by running an empty load using hot water and adding either 1 cup of Listerine or some Fast Orange Laundry detergent. Either one will help to break down the oil buildup as well as clean your washing machine.

Oil-Stained Clothes

If you wash your oil-stained clothes with clothes that aren’t oil-stained, sometimes the oily smell can rub off onto your other clothes. This is due to the agitation of the washing machine. Using one of the suggestions above should solve the problem.


I hope you found these suggestions helpful for removing oil smells from clothes. Some of the easiest ways are to use a heavy duty laundry detergent or one that is formulated for removing oil and grease, but there are plenty of household chemicals that are effective as well. If you enjoyed this, be sure to share it with others. Thanks for reading!