Gray Henley with grease spots on the front

HOW TO GET GREASE STAINS OUT OF CLOTHES

The faster you treat a grease stain the easier it is to get out. But don’t worry–there are methods for how to remove old grease stains from clothes, even after they dry. Treating greasy food spills, splatters of cooking grease, ointment smears and even things like bike grease is very similar to treating oil stains.

Gently blotting with a paper towel, then using a pretreatment solution or dish soap can be a great way to get grease stains out of clothes. Paper towels can help draw grease out of the fabric while dish soap can help break up stains rather than letting them set in.

Always check your clothing's care tag before treating specialty fabrics like wool and delicates, which may require dry cleaning.

A person rinsing a shirt inside a washing machine.

WHY IS GREASE HARD TO WASH OFF?

Grease can be hard to wash off because it is a lipid and is insoluble in water. This makes the grease cling to the fibers of the fabric, making it difficult to remove in an average laundry cycle.

WHAT GETS GREASE OUT OF CLOTHES?

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DETERGENT

Detergent can be a great resource for getting stains out of clothes. Use the detergent the same way you would use a typical stain remover. Then, wash the item in the warmest water possible, per the care tag.

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LIQUID DISHWASHING SOAP

If handwashing an item first, you can use dish soap to help break up the grease stain. Make sure to rinse thoroughly before adding to the washing machine.

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Help prevent the spread of a fresh grease stain

Place a piece of cardboard or an old towel in between the stain and the other side of the clothing, to help prevent grease from transferring or spreading to a clean section of fabric while you treat it.

Gray shirt with grease stains and a cup of blue detergent next to it.

HOW TO GET GREASE STAINS OUT OF COTTON AND POLYESTER

As for all grease stains, the sooner you can remove the stain, the easier it may be. Use a pretreatment on the stain and wash the clothing item in the warmest water recommended for the clothing.

Tools

  • Butter knife

Supplies

  • Paper towels

  • Liquid dishwashing soap, mild laundry detergent or stain pretreatment

Step 1: Remove excess grease

Scrape off excess grease with a butter knife, then blot gently with a clean, white paper towel or cloth to remove as much grease as possible. Using paper towels with printed patterns can cause a transfer of color onto your clothing.

Step 2: Rub in soap or detergent

Gently rub liquid dish soap (for handwashing), stain pretreatment or liquid enzyme detergent into the stain and let sit for 10 minutes. If using liquid dish soap for handwashing, be sure to fully remove the soap by rinsing thoroughly before placing the item in the washer. 

Step 3: Rinse with warm water

Rinse or machine wash in the warmest water recommended on the care tag. 

Step 4: Line dry

Line dry. Never machine dry anything that has ever had any type of grease on it, as no washer can completely remove grease and could result in fire. Heat can set stains that aren’t completely removed. If the stain remains, repeat the steps above if necessary.

Blue detergent being applied to a gray shirt.

HOW TO REMOVE GREASE STAINS FROM WOOL, KNITS & OTHER DELICATES

Wool, knits and other delicates can also be pretreated using a mild detergent or dish soap before rinsing or machine washing. It can also be helpful to use a knife to scrape off any excess grease.

Tools

  • Butter knife

Supplies

  • Paper towels

  • Liquid dishwashing detergent, detergent or stain pretreatment

STEP 1: Remove excess grease

Scrape off excess grease with a knife if necessary, then blot gently with a clean, white paper towel or cloth to remove as much as possible.

Step 2: Mix a cleaning solution

Mix a mild detergent in the warmest water recommended on the care tag. Be sure to use equal parts detergent and water. You can also use liquid dish soap (for handwashing), stain pretreatment or liquid enzyme detergent.

Step 3: Rub in the cleaning solution

Gently rub your cleaning solution into the stain and let sit for 10 minutes. If using liquid dish soap for handwashing, be sure to fully remove the soap by rinsing thoroughly before placing the item in the washer.

Step 4: Rinse or machine wash

Rinse or machine wash with the warmest water recommended or dry clean, depending on the care tag instructions.

Step 5: Line dry

Never machine dry anything that has ever had any type of grease on it, as no washer can completely remove grease and could result in fire. Heat can set stains that aren't completely removed.

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Don’t wait until stains happen

Arm yourself with methods to fight tough stains. Learn more stain removal tips so you can act fast when they arise.

Gray shirt soaking in bucket of soapy water and shirt dry after being cleaned.

How to remove old grease stains from shirts & pants

1. Scrape and blot liquid dish soap (for handwashing), stain pretreatment or liquid enzyme detergent into the stain and let sit for 10 minutes. If using liquid dish soap for handwashing, be sure to fully remove the soap by rinsing thoroughly before placing the item in the washer. 

2. Soak in warm or hot water for at least 30 minutes. Dissolve some store-bought stain fighter or detergent in the water if desired. 

3. Wash in the warmest water recommended on the care tag. 

4. Line dry. Never machine dry anything that has ever had any type of grease on it, as no washer can completely remove grease and could result in fire. Heat can set stains that aren’t completely removed. 

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FOR SET-IN GREASE STAINS THAT WON'T BUDGE AFTER WASHING

Try spraying the affected area with a water displacement lubricant like WD-40® to reactivate the stain, let sit for 15-30 minutes and then try the liquid dish soap treatment again.

 

Hand wash only, as water displacement lubricants may be flammable and residue may remain. Clean by soaking in a detergent and water solution. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Mix a new solution of detergent and water and repeat treatment until no odor of grease remains. Rinse in clean water.

 

Line dry only. Never machine dry anything that has ever had any type of grease or flammable product on it because of the risk of fire.

 

WD-40 is a trademark of WD-40 Manufacturing Company.

 

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