How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes

So you’ve spilled some oil down your shirt, and although it might not stand out like a splash of red wine or a dot of ketchup, it can be one of the most difficult stains to remove.

Instead of a brightly colored stain, oil leaves a greasy patch behind that’s slightly darker than the surrounding fabric. When it comes to greasy stains, the danger is that the longer you leave that oil spot unattended, the darker it will become over time, and if left too long, it can also set permanently. Whether you’re frying in the kitchen or get splashed on the sidewalk, oil stains can strike at anytime, and you’re left with the same problem - how to get oil out of clothes.

How to Remove Oil Stains from Clothes: The Basics

Step 1

Act quickly

When you’re getting oil stains out of clothes, it’s important to make sure you don’t allow the stain to dry or set into the fabric. You need to act fast and remove oil stains as soon as they happen.

A person removing excess stain from a denim jacket with a cotton swab
Step 2

Remove excess

Blot the stain to remove excess grease. Grab a tissue or a paper towel and press the stain gently on both sides to soak up the excess oil.

A person removing excess stain from a denim jacket with a paper towel
Step 3

Check the label

Make sure you check the fabric care label before washing your clothes. What temperature can the garment be washed on? Is it hand-wash only? The label on your clothes should tell you how to wash your clothes safely.

Fabric care label
Step 4


To remove grease or cooking oil stains, you can pretreat the stain with a spot of dish soap, like Dawn. This will help loosen the stain before the wash, making it easier to remove the oil from clothes.

A person pouring Tide liquid detergent onto the stain
Step 5


To remove other oil stains, such as motor oil stains, oil-based paints or other tough oil stains, prepare a soaking solution with Tide to pretreat the garment before washing.

A person pouring Tide liquid detergent into a bowl of water
Step 6


Wash the garment in an enzyme-based liquid detergent, such as Tide Ultra Stain Release Liquid which has been specially designed to lift off even the toughest stains, like oils, from clothing.

A person pouring Tide liquid detergent into the detergent dispenser
Step 7


Make sure the oil stain has completely gone before placing the item in the dryer. The heat of your tumble dryer can set the stain in to the fibers of the fabric.

A person placing a denim jacket into the drum of a washing machine

What makes oil stains difficult to remove?

It’s happened to all of us. We’re looking great, wearing our favorite button-down work shirt, and a glob of grease from a hamburger or oily salad dressing drips onto it, creating a stain. An oil stain on clothes can be particularly troublesome to remove since most don’t dissolve in water at all. Stubborn grease or oil stains can be extremely frustrating, and as with most types of stains, they’re best treated when they’re still fresh.

What you’ll need to clean oil stains

The good news is that many common household cleaners like dish soap or your favorite Tide Detergent are specially formulated to break down and remove oil, lifting it away from fabrics. Before treating any oil stain, always consult the care label on your garment and consider the type of oil that’s stained it. Motor oil, for example, may contain different types of contaminants that make them more stubborn and may require professional treatment. Before treating your stain, gather some of these common household items to get ready:

  • Clean white cloth or paper towel

  • Clear dish soap

  • Tub of warm water

  • Soft-bristled toothbrush

  • Baking soda

  • WD-40 and cotton swabs if the stain has set in

  • Tide Plus Bleach Alternative Liquid Laundry Detergent

What Else You Should Know on How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes

Since grease or oil stains can be more stubborn and aren’t water-soluble, you’ll need to take stock of the various options for treating them. Always consult the care label first and consider the type of fabric that’s stained as well as the type of oil or grease you’ll be dealing with. Below are some common questions and tips for treating an oil stain on clothing.

Can you use home remedies to remove oil stains from clothing?

Yes, there are many common household items that work great when dealing with oil stains on clothing. Tide Liquid Laundry Detergent, clear dish soaps, white vinegar, and warm water can all work well at breaking down and lifting even the most stubborn oil stains. Always be sure to consult your garment’s care label first and test any treatment with a cotton swab or soft cloth on an inconspicuous area of the fabric to ensure it’s will not damage or discolor the fabric.

Is hot or cold water better for removing stains?

The answer to this is complicated, and you should always follow the instructions on the garment’s care label to avoid damaging the fabric. In most instances, cold water works well to remove water-based paints, blood, and even food or drink stains. Warm or hot water works best on protein-based stains, but as with any rules, there are exceptions. Most food stains are best treated by soaking in cold water. However eggs, mustard, or ketchup should not be treated with cold water. Treat urine stains with cold water and sweat or vomit stains in warm water.

How to remove old oil stains from clothes

For dried, set-in oil stains, first try a clear liquid dish soap, blotting it into the stain before letting it sit for about ten minutes. Rinse with water then soak in warm or hot water for another half hour. Next, machine wash with your favorite Tide Detergent using the warmest water allowed by the garment’s care label. Once the cycle completes, repeat the process if necessary before allowing the garment to air dry.

How do you get motor oil out of shirt?

Motor oil can be particularly troublesome due to additional contaminants that up the difficulty of removal. Always consult your garment’s care label before treatment to avoid damage to the fabric. Start by placing a clean, old towel or piece of scrap cardboard under the stain, then apply Tide Hygienic Clean 10x Heavy Duty to the stain, rubbing gently with a clean cloth to saturate it. Let it sit for five to ten minutes, then rinse and repeat if necessary. Machine wash and dry according to the label.

How do you get oil stains out of jeans?

To remove oil stains from jeans, check their label for care instructions first, then pretreat the stained area with a clear dish soap like Dawn, adding directly to the garment. This should help loosen the stain before washing. Rinse the area, then machine wash using an enzyme-based liquid detergent like Tide Ultra Stain Release Liquid as you normally would. If the stain persists, repeat the process until you’re satisfied, then allow the jeans to air dry.

Common Oil Stains

You can get that oil spot from pretty much anywhere around the house or even when you’re out and about. In the kitchen, cooking oil and grease are the main guilty parties, but you can also find that patchy oil stain from motor oil, oily road water, and even oil paint. Not only does it look bad, but it can also be tricky to remove. But luckily, with a few tips from Tide, you can find out how to remove cooking oil stains, grease stains and also oily road water stains, among other grease and oil spots from your clothes with the above steps.

If you can act fast, oil stain removal is easy, especially when you get a little help from Tide.

Frequently Asked Questions

A:Just because an oil or grease stain has set into your clothes doesn’t mean you should throw the garment away. Before you do, consult the garment’s care label, then try blotting clear liquid dish soap into the stain, allowing it to sit for ten minutes. Next, soak in the warmest water your garment’s care label allows for at least half an hour. Lastly, machine wash as you normally would using Tide Ultra Stain Release Liquid Detergent on the hottest wash cycle allowed by your garment’s care label.

A:Whether you’re out and about or just in a hurry, an oil stain can really screw up your day. If you have a portable stain remover like a Tide to Go pen, apply it to the stained area as soon as possible for best results. You can also try flushing the stain with cold water and blot with a clean white cloth or napkin to lift the stain. Just be careful not to rub too vigorously, or you may wind up spreading the stain instead of removing it.

A:To remove cooking oil stains from your clothes, you should always consult the clothing care label first to avoid further damage. Next, pretreat the oil stains with clear dish soap or Tide Ultra Stain Release, gently massaging it into the stain and allowing it to sit for five to ten minutes. Machine wash as you normally would, repeating the process if the stain persists. Finally, allow the garment to air dry.