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How to Remove Old Oil Stains From Clothes: Home Remedies

Oil stains, no matter what type, can be stubborn to remove when they’re fresh. But they’re even tougher to remove when the stains are old. Oil stains are set into fibers differently from other stains, and water alone is ineffective at washing them out. So how do you remove old oil stains from clothes?

For old oil stains, liquid cleaners such as dish soap, WD-40, vinegar, and commercial laundry products work best to remove them. Powdery substances such as baking soda and white chalk can also work well depending on how old the stain is.

No matter the type of oil stain and how long it’s been there, you’ll need some pre-treatment to get it out. In this article, I’ll explain how to use the above products (plus some others) to remove old oil stains from clothes.

How to Remove Old Oil Stains From Clothes

Does Oil Permanently Stain Clothes?

There’s no doubt that oil stains are one of the worst types of stains you can get on your clothes. You can tell it’s an oil stain because the stain will look greasy and have a saturated look compared to the color on the rest of the clothes.

If the oil stains are treated quickly, usually they aren’t permanent. However, if they aren’t treated right away and allowed to dry, the stain becomes even harder to remove. But whether or not the stain will be permanent depends on the type of oil stain and how long it has been on the clothes.

Tougher oil stains such as those caused by motor oil or other heavily oily or greasy products are more likely to be permanent. But stains caused by cooking oil or other oily food-based stains may not be permanent. It all depends on how soon you treat the stain and what you use to treat it. And unfortunately, if the oil stain goes through the dryer several times, it may be almost impossible to remove.

How to Remove Old Oil Stains from Clothes: 9 Ways

How to get oil out of clothes

Getting old oil stains out successfully involves using the right products. The best way to get old oil stains out of clothes is to use liquid cleaners. These cleaners can penetrate deeper into the fabric and remove stains that have been there a while more effectively. However, the actual effectiveness of each product will depend on the stain and how long it has been there.

There are some types of powdery, solid cleaners that can work as well, depending on the type of oil stain. However, these work by absorbing some of the oil. These products work best if the stain is as fresh as possible, even if it is an older stain. They likely won’t work as well for oil stains that have been put through the dryer several times.

Below are the most effective cleaners you can try and how to use each one. Remember that what product works for you may not work for someone else. You may have to try several to find one that is effective.

1. Dish Soap

MRS. MEYER'S CLEAN DAY Liquid Dish Soap, Biodegradable Formula, Radish, 16 fl. ozDish soap is very effective at removing oily stains, especially those left behind by food products. In some cases, it can remove oil stains that have been there a while. It’s formulated with surfactants and other chemicals designed to lift away oil and grease from dishes and it can work the same way for clothes too.

To use it, you’ll want to apply the dish soap directly to the stain. Use enough to cover the entire stain, but not so much that it’s hard to rinse all of it out/ Once the dish soap has been applied, rub the fabric against itself so that the soap can penetrate the fibers more thoroughly.

Let the dish soap soak on the stain for an hour or two, depending on the size of the stain and how long it has been there. Then, wash the clothing in the washing machine using warm water or the warmest water that the clothing can handle.

2. Stain Remover

OxiClean MaxForce Laundry Stain Remover Spray, 12 Fl. oz.For really stubborn oil stains, or if you want a stronger product from the get-go, you can always try a commercial stain Remover. These products are often made with stronger chemicals to break down tougher stains.

For best results, you’ll want to find one specifically made for removing oily stains. However, each stain remover will be applied differently. You’ll need to apply the stain remover according to the instructions on the packaging. The instructions may say to rub the stain remover into the stain, while some removers may just have to sit on the stain.

After applying the stain remover:

  1. Let it sit on the stain for the specified amount of time.
  2. Wash the clothing in the washing machine using warm water.
  3. Repeat the process until you’ve removed as much of the stain as possible.

3. WD-40

WD 40WD-40 may be quite an unsuspecting cleaner that can be used to remove oil stains since it is a bit oily itself. However, this is why it is effective. WD-40 contains solvents and lubricants that help to break down and lift the oily stain away from the fabric, particularly stains that are old

Just spray the stain with enough WD-40 to cover it. Spray the stain on the front of the clothing, then turn the clothing inside out and spray the stain from the back. Let the WD-40 sit on the stain for about 5 minutes. You don’t want to let it sit for longer than that or you’ll risk the WD-40 leaving behind a stain as well.

Since WD-40 is oily itself, you’ll need to follow up with dish soap or a commercial stain remover to help break down the stain even further. Follow the instructions above for whichever one you decide to use. Then, wash the clothing with the warmest water temperature the clothing can handle.

4. Laundry Detergent

Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Clean Meadow, 75 Loads Liquid Laundry Detergent, 118.1 Fl ozYou can also use laundry detergent similarly to dish soap to remove tough oil stains. It’s more effective to apply laundry detergent directly onto the stain instead of just letting it do the work in the washing machine because the detergent is diluted in the washing machine.

Instead, just pour a small amount of laundry detergent into a bowl. It’s best to use degreasing laundry detergent, which is designed to break down oily stains. Apply a little bit to the stain using an old toothbrush. Scrub the detergent into the stain using the toothbrush or rub the fabric together so that the detergent penetrates deep into the fibers to remove the stain.

Let the detergent sit on the stain for an hour or two to break down the stain. Then, wash the clothing using the warmest water that the clothing can handle. Repeat the process after washing if necessary.

5. Fast Orange

Fast Orange 22340 Grease X Mechanics Laundry Detergent For Oil, Grease, Automotive Stains And Odors, Eliminates Fuel, Oil, Grease And Exhaust Stains 40 fl. OzFast Orange laundry detergent is generally designed to remove motor oil stains, which can be one of the toughest types of oil stains. But, it can be used on any other type of oily stain. This makes it a great all-purpose cleaner to have on hand, particularly if it is common to get oil stains on your clothes.

You can apply Fast Orange Laundry Detergent to the stain the same way that you would with the laundry detergent above. Rub the detergent into the stain by rubbing the fabric together or using a soft-bristled brush. Let the detergent sit on the stain for a couple of hours. Then, wash the clothing using warm water and more Fast Orange laundry detergent.

Note that Fast Orange also makes a hand soap. You can use this hand soap similarly to dish soap to remove oily stains from the fabric before using the laundry detergent. It can also be an effective pre-treatment for removing old oil stains from clothes.

6. White Chalk

Crayola Chalk 12ctWhite chalk may not work for all old oil stains, but it can work well for old cooking oil stains or other oily food-based stains. These stains tend not to be as tough to remove, even if they are old. But, the fresher the stain is, the easier it will be to remove.

All you’ll need is a stick of white chalk. You want to use white so that you aren’t left with another stain by using colored chalk. Rub the white chalk all over the stain until the stain is covered with powdery chalk residue.

Let the chalk sit on the stain for a few minutes to absorb some of the oil. Then, wash the clothing with warm water and laundry detergent. A degreasing detergent works best. The chalk may remove some of the oil stains, but you may have to follow up with another product to remove more of the stain after washing.

7. Baking Soda

Baking sodaAnother powdery substance that is effective at removing old oil stains is baking soda. Baking soda also absorbs some of the oil left behind by the stain. However, how effective it will again depend on how long the stain has been there and the type of stain.

Combine baking soda and water to form a paste. You’ll need about ½ cup of baking soda. Mix in a few drops of water until a paste has formed. Use a toothbrush to rub the paste into the oily stain. Then, let the baking soda sit on the stain for about an hour.

After an hour:

  1. Rub away any clumps of baking soda that have formed.
  2. Repeat the entire process if necessary.
  3. Wash the clothing with warm water if it looks like the stain has been removed.
  4. If not, move to the next method below before washing the clothing.

8. Vinegar

VinegarAfter treating the stain with baking soda, you can also follow up by spraying the stain with water and vinegar. This method can be effective for removing any part of the oil stain that wasn’t absorbed by the baking soda.

Mix together equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. For example, if you use one cup of white vinegar, you’ll add one cup of water as well. Then, spray both the front and back of the stain with the vinegar and water mixture until it is soaked.

Let the vinegar and water sit on the stain for up to an hour, depending on the size and type of stain. Vinegar is highly acidic and can break down oil more powerfully than just using water alone. After an hour, you can repeat the process or wash the clothing with warm water.

9. Bleach

BleachIf you’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked and the oil stains are on white clothing, you can always try bleach as a last resort. You only want to use chlorine bleach on white clothing because it can take the color out of colored clothing and remove the stain. You’ll also need to check the care tag for the clothing and make sure that bleach is safe to use before actually using it.

If bleach is safe to use, make sure that you follow the instructions on the packaging very carefully. Bleach is a dangerous chemical that can cause harm to you if it isn’t used properly. Make sure that you properly dilute it with water. After bleaching the clothing, follow up by washing it in warm water.

Note that if the oil stain is on colored clothing, you can try using oxygen bleach instead of chlorine bleach. Oxygen bleach won’t take the color out of clothing, but it can be effective at removing an old oil stain if nothing else works. However, you’ll still want to make sure that you follow the instructions carefully. After using it, wash the clothing in warm water to remove the stain.

Will Old Oil Stains Come Out of Clothes?

Old oil stains may come out of clothes. However, it depends on exactly how old the stain is and what type of oil stain it is. The longer a stain has been on the clothing, the harder it will be to get out. This is especially true if the oil-stained clothing has been put through the dryer several times. The heat from the dryer causes the stain to set, making it more permanent.

There are methods you can try to remove the stain, including those mentioned above. You will need to pre-treat the stain to get it out. But sometimes, the stain will be permanent no matter what you try. In the future, it’s important to treat oil stains while they are fresh and before they are dry.

How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes After Drying

Old oil stains are some of the most stubborn stains to remove. Unfortunately, the stains become even harder to remove if they have been through the dryer, especially more than once. That being said, it is possible for the stain to come out, but the heat from the dryer can also cause the stains to set permanently, so it’s not a guarantee that the old oil stain will come out.

You’ll have to apply pre-treatments to the stains. But, whether they come out depends on the type of stain and how long it has been there. You may also have to use several pre-treatment methods to get the oil stain out.

For oil stains that have been put through the dryer several times, you’ll be more likely to remove the stain if you use a stronger commercial product. You’ll want to stick with a commercial stain remover specifically designed for oily stains and degreasing laundry detergent. These products are specially formulated to remove oil stains and are stronger than household products.

If nothing else works, you can always try using bleach appropriate for whatever type of clothing you have. If bleach doesn’t work, then the stain will likely be permanent.

How to Get Rid of Set In Oil Stains on Clothes After Washing

Old oil stains aren’t likely to come out in the wash, especially if the stained clothing has been put through the dryer. Water and oil don’t mix, so the stains often don’t come out just by washing, and laundry detergent is diluted in the wash, which is why it isn’t as effective alone.

You may be able to get the stain out by pre-treating it. You’ll need something stronger than just water and laundry detergent alone. You also need whatever product you use to come into direct contact with the stain to break it down more.

With that being said, any of the above methods should be somewhat effective for removing set-in oil stains after the clothing has been washed. However, you may still have to use more than one to remove the stain completely. If the clothing has been dried already, you’ll need a stronger product such as commercial stain remover, degreasing laundry detergent, or bleach.

Best Oil Stain Remover for Clothes

The best oil stain remover for clothes will be a commercial stain remover that is specifically designed to break down oil stains. Several products on the market come in spray, liquid, and even powder forms.

One of the best all-purpose oil stain removers for clothes is OxiClean, but Fast Orange products work well for oil stains, especially those that are set-in. If you need an on-the-go option for fresh oil, Spray ‘n Wash Laundry Pre-Treater Stain Stick works well. It looks similar to deodorant, but you just rub it directly onto a fresh oil stain and let it absorb the stain, then wash the clothing later.

Remember that it is always best and most effective to treat oil stains as soon as they happen if you want the best chance at getting them out. But if you can’t treat it right away and have to wait until it’s dry or set in, then stronger commercial products will give you the best results at getting the stains out.


Oil stains are the most stubborn stains to remove, but even more so if the stains are old and dried. There are several things you can do to remove these stains, but liquid cleaners and commercial cleaners generally work best. If the stain has been put through the dryer, you will likely need a commercial stain remover to get it out. If you found this article helpful, share it with others.