There is no doubt that greasy foods – French fries, cheese, pasta tossed with olive oil, even fish like salmon or sardines – are delicious to eat. And we all know food spills and drips happen, despite our best efforts to prevent them (tacos are notorious for this). Grease – from cooking oil or food – can be a challenge to remove from clothes. Our step-by-step guide gives you all the tools you need to learn how to get grease out of clothes.

What Makes Grease Stains Difficult to Remove?

You’ve heard the phrase “oil and water do not mix,” right? Though most stains do dissolve in water, oils or lipids – olive oil, omega-3 oils in fish and avocado, butter and many other “greasy” foods – are insoluble. They need a little help to dissolve in water. To treat oil stains, try working with a solvent in combination with warm or hot water.

Tools and Cleaning Materials/products Needed

While hot water can set other types of stains, particularly if the stain is protein-based, hot water helps dissolve oil and grease stains. Cold water may cause an oil stain (like bacon grease or butter) to harden. With the help of the right solvents and tools as well as quick action, grease stains don’t stand a chance.

Other tools:

  • Dish soap or liquid laundry detergent
  • Paper towels
  • A small brush – a toothbrush works well here
  • Apron and gloves as personal protective gear

How to Get Grease Out of Clothes: Step by Step 

Act Fast, If Possible

Taking a few steps immediately after the grease hits the clothes is a key strategy here – once grease sets, it can be harder to get out.

  1. Blot the stain with towels or a napkin to remove most of the oil.
  2. Sprinkle the stain with salt, artificial sweetener or talcum powder. A fine, absorbent powder like baking soda or corn meal will help lift soaked-in grease. After a few minutes, brush off the powder.
  3. If the stain happens at home, massage a little liquid soap or color-safe stain remover into the fabric. Shampoo works, too, but liquid soap of any kind is a good call.

In the Laundry Room

1. First check the garment label

Once you are in a place where you can look after for your stained garment, check the care label. While the care label will not tell you how to get grease out of clothes, it will provide a framework for your stain removal efforts. Your garment may be “dry clean only,” in which case proceed directly to a dry cleaner for stain removal. Silk, velvet, satin, leather and suede fabrics will likely all have this guideline.

2. Tips and tricks

  • At first, blot, don’t rub. Rubbing can work the stain further into the fabric. Make sure any temporary fixes – the talc or artificial sweetener – have been blotted off.  Use a paper towel.
  • Coat the stain with dish or laundry soap. Make sure the soap goes all the way to the edge of the stained area.
  • If the stain is set, now is the time for rubbing. You can use your fingers or a toothbrush to gently massage the soap into the fabric in small circles.
  • Wait.  Dissolving oil can take time. Sometimes you can see the dissolution happening.
  • Rinse and launder.
  • Air dry. After the garment has been rinsed and laundered, take a look. If the stain appears to be gone, allow it to air dry. After it is dry, the stain may reappear, and another round of treatment may be needed.
  • Avoid the dryer until the stain is completely gone. Dryers set stains. Once you are certain the stain is removed, the dryer can once again be used.

How to Get Grease Stains Out of Fabrics

While the same general rules apply for all fabrics, there are some special cases. Garments with a care label that calls for dry cleaning should be brought to the dry cleaner.

Denim

Heavy fabrics like denim can be rinsed in hot water first to allow the grease stain to dissolve.

Jeans should be turned inside out and the stain treated on both sides of the fabric before washing.

Wool

Most wool can go into the washing machine, too. (Follow the care label.) For top-loading machines, mix the laundry soap into the warm water before adding the garment.  Allow the garment to soak for 10 minutes before washing. Always dry flat or line dry.

Cotton

Saturate the area with soap, massage gently and wait. Wash using the warmest water recommended for the garment, then launder. Always line dry or dry flat to see if the stain remains. Repeat if necessary.

Linen

Saturate the area with soap, massage gently and wait. Wash using the warmest water recommended for the garment, then launder. Always line dry or dry flat to see if the stain remains. Repeat if necessary.

Synthetics (nylon, polyester) and newer fabrics (tencel, lycra, spandex) 

Synthetics typically call for washing in cool water but you can follow the same steps as above for most manmade fabrics. An additional treatment specifically for oily or greasy stains may be needed to cancel out the typically cool water temperatures recommended to safely wash synthetics.

Typical mistakes to avoid making the stain worse

  • Not treating the stain as quickly as possible. Even if it is hours later, take a moment to blot and pre-treat the stain.
  • Not following the manufacturer’s instructions. No one wants shrunken or misshapen garments. The first step is to always check the care label provided by the manufacturer before proceeding with stain removal treatments.
  • Putting stained clothes in the dryer before the stain is completely removed. Grease stains are tricksters and hide while wet. Always dry flat or line dry and then check to ensure the stain is gone before putting the stained garment in the dryer.
  • Rushing. Your garment is valuable. Treat it with care and it will last a long time.

Goodbye Grease!

Taking care of your clothes helps keep them looking new. Follow these steps and say goodbye to grease.