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How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes

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As professional pressure washers, we’re no strangers to all kinds of stains, dirt, and grime. From rust to efflorescence, to mold and mildew, we’re experts at cleaning off unwanted nonsense from whatever surface you need us to freshen up. However, sometimes some unexpected filth ends up on us, not the least of which includes oil. Whether you got oil on your nice shirt from working underneath your car in a desperate attempt to get it to stop leaking, or from cooking bacon and eggs when running late from work, an oil stain on your clothes can ruin your day.

With this tutorial, we’ll guide you through the best way to remove all kinds of oil stains.

Preventing Oil Stains

This might not be the most helpful advice after the fact but the best way to keep oil, paint, and wood stain from ruining your clothes is to not let them happen in the first place. Prevention is often the best way to deal with stains; if they never happen, you never have to deal with them. For instance, if you’re cooking with oil, wear an apron. If stuck under a leaky vehicle, wear a set of clothes you don’t mind getting stained. 

It should also be noted wearing things like gloves and having some shop towels handy can help greatly in this situation if you happen to get a nice handful of oil or grease, especially if your first tendency is to rub your hands on your jeans. 

Removing Oil Stains

One of the big reasons oil stains have such a nasty reputation is that at first, it doesn’t look very bad. You might not even notice it at first since the stain starts very light. If it’s just a little glob of oil, your first reaction might be to wipe it off with your finger or a towel. But you need to resist that urge.

Simply rubbing the oil will push it even deeper into the fabric’s fibers, making it increasingly difficult to remove the stain. This is worsened by the fact that oil stains have a tendency to darken as they age.

But all hope isn’t lost. Act quickly and apply the following steps:

  • Blot, Don’t Rub: When removing excess oil from the surface of the fabric, blot with an absorbent material like a thick paper towel. DO NOT RUB THE STAIN as you will just make the problem worse. Be patient and let the towel absorb the oil as best as it can.
  • Apply a Degreaser: Dawn dish soap or a chemical degreaser work the best for this since they’re made to break down oil. Be sure to read the instructions as different degreasers should be used in different situations. Still, something like dish soap can be easily applied and rubbed in with a toothbrush or by folding the stained fabric on itself. This will allow the degreaser to soak in and pull the oil out of the fibers effectively.
  • Use Baking Soda: If you have got a considerable amount of oil on your clothes or got something like heavy automotive or naval grease on yourself, baking soda will help to clot the oil particles and works well for heavy soil stains, especially on cotton fabric.
  • Rinse with Hot Water: After letting the soap and baking soda sit for about two hours, rinse with very hot water, preferably as hot as your tap will put out. Oil is semi-solid at room temperature, so heating it will turn it liquid again and make it easier to remove. After rinsing drain the water and refill with fresh hot water and let soak again for another hour or so.
  • Machine Wash and Air Dry: After soaking the clothes, toss them into the washing machine on the heaviest setting and as hot as it will wash, then let it air dry. This allows the clothing to dry more uniformly than a dryer would while avoiding setting any remaining oil into the fabric using dry heat.

Don’t Let Sleeping Stains Lie

Time is the biggest enemy when it comes to oil stains. If you let it sit all day the oil has time to seep into the fibers, making it all the more difficult to remove. To avoid this, the trick is to keep the oil stain in its liquid state as much as you can to have the best chance of lifting it.

In a last-ditch attempt, if time just wasn’t on your side when the mishap happened, you can try and revive the oil with WD-40 to revive the oil’s liquid state and get another chance at removing it. However, if done improperly, this method can have the exact opposite effect, so use caution when doing so.

Keeping Clean

While the best way to get oil stains out of clothes is to prevent it from happening in the first place, you now have some knowledge to treat stains when the unthinkable happens. But what if you need help removing oil from more stubborn places like your driveway, shop floor, or garage? Give us a call and we’d be happy to help.

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