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Home Ec: How to Remove Oil-Based Stains

Filed Under: Essential Skills, Know-How

lipstick stainGetty Images

Over the next few weeks, we'll be prepping your laundry room with fantastic advice on how to remove every stain in your wardrobe. This is our first segment of this handy 4-part series: Removing oil-based stains.

Some of the most common oil-based stains are:

  • Margarine or butter
  • Makeup
  • Oil
  • Mayonnaise
  • Deodorant
  • Gasoline
  • Ring around the collar

Although oil stains can be difficult to fully get rid of, the following steps will keep the worst from reappearing just when you think you've seen the last of them!

Lightly Soiled Oil-Based Stains

1. Soak the stained area in the hottest water the clothing will tolerate.
2. Add detergent after five minutes of soaking and begin your wash cycle (again, in the hottest water manageable).
3. After a full rinse cycle, check the stained area. If it has vanished, feel free to dry as necessary. If not, repeat another hot rinse cycle with detergent.

butter, oil-based stainsGetty Images

Heavily Soiled Oil-Based Stains

1. Rub cornstarch or talcum powder into the stained area and let sit for at least twenty minutes.
2. Brush off with a dry washcloth or soft dry brush.
3. If the stain still exists, repeat the treatment several times to fully remove the oil.
4. Launder in hot water as normal and check area before drying. Repeat if necessary.

Eco-Friendly Method

Citrus oil or citrus turpine is made from natural, steam distilled citrus oils, which are natural solvents. They are not non-toxic, but have the lowest toxicity of all solvents -- and smell wonderful!

1. Dab citrus oil on the stained area with a cotton swab.
2. Cover with a paper towel and run a hot steam iron over the stain.
3. The citrus oil will evaporate, along with the stain!

  • Michael

    Actually I miss it when a Woman left liftstick on my face or collar, reminding me of her allure, or on a cigarette, walking in to make coffee in the morning and seeing those signs of her being there always made me enjoy the romance of it all.

  • Di

    Awhhhh how romantic. You must be old school.

  • Bird

    Wow. Not many men these days verbalize (or perhaps realize) how the very small things add to a woman's allure. Great post.

  • HHM

    Actually you must be very old, Lipstick comes with stay on your lips power these days and any women worth having isn't going to be smoking in modern times. Uck !

  • James

    Lipstick can be a problem for a lot of men. Skip these lame suggestions, and use this great product for oil based stains. For lipstick and major oils, use Ammonia. Yes, as a fabricare specialist, and former dry cleaner, I've used ammonia often to remove oil based stains, including the lipstick. Ammonia is safe on your fibers, except with silk, wool, or fabrics that originated from an animal. Ammonia can, and is used on those fibers also, but must be done with caution and then neutralized with vinegar or another acidic product. Fact is, most stains are either stains caused by animals, or plants, with the exception of Oils. Oils and stains from animals are removed by alkali products, like ammonia or peroxide. These include ice cream (Milk from cows), gravy, mushroom soap, etc.... As for stains from plants, like Ketchup, Mustard, tomato paste, and even BBG sauce, you need an acid based stain remover. Vinegar is the most common acid based product in homes, and if heated, can work wonders for those type of stains. A friend of mine was just about to bleach a favorite pair of shorts he had, figuring that that was the only hope he had to remove his BBQ Stain. I suggested a cup of vinegar in a pan of water, heated to a warm temp. and then applied to the stain. He was amazed at how easy it came out, and to this day, trusts all his stain questions to me.

  • tom kelly

    Another wonderfully romantic female gesture I miss seeing: a woman pulling out her compact, peering into the mirror for a little touchup. Even the smart snap when she closes it, and the way she puts it back into her supremely feminine and delightful to observe. I guess I'm "old school" too.

  • Pam

    Awwwwwwwwww. How sweet ! Pardon my cynicism, but why do you have to see those things to "remember the romance"? Why isn't she still there? You're cute...but I am thinking no so much "old school" as "old dog"! Heres hoping you get to spend the next 50 years running with the big dogs and not sittin on the porch!

  • MomHadIt

    The toughest two stains I've always had a hard time with are coffee with milk in it and bubble gum. When you aren't home, it's really embarrassing to have a stain

    Plain coffee will rinse right out with cold water. But the milk added in make it invinsible. Especially on polyester.

    The other is bubble gum. I've tried freezing it (an old remedy to get it off), but it leaves a stain.

  • zhu eworld

    good post.

  • john dumas

    1. How about rubbing Ajax for dishes into the stain and doing laundry as usual.
    2. put towel under stain push non water hand cleaner ( like they use in auto repair shops ) through the stain, it carries the foreign matter with it, then launder.

  • cb

    Actually, there's a better, and easier method. WD40. (Water Displacement #40) It will annihalate any oil-based stain in a single shot, and washes out completely in the laundry. It also eliminates those really gross and embarassing deodorant stains, and just about any other stain you can get on your clothes. I've used it to get rid of motor oil on my favorite jeans, grass stains, spagetti on my white shirt, blackberry juice, you name it, it comes right out. It has never damaged any delicate fabrics, and it has a thousand other uses.

  • Blackmyre

    Ah... WD40. Is there anything it CAN'T do??

  • Cheryl

    Wow, good to know. I never would have guessed.

  • Sue

    I've never heard of using WD40. I can't wait to try it! I'm always getting grease splatters on my shirts while cooking. When I do laundry, I check each shirt for grease spots, squirt some LIGHTER FLUID on the spots, then throw in the wash. The grease spots completely disappear.

  • Art Mangino

    Try dabbing the spot with Lestoil, then wash as usual. Works every time.

  • Dee

    Dawn dish detergent directly on the spots even after washing and drying has worked for me.

  • CJ

    You must know my mother!

  • Nancy

    i always use Dawn as a first defense, but if it doesn't take all the greasy stain away.....a bit of ammonia diluted with water makes it disappear.

    Lestoil is a good product but the smell remains and I don't think anyone would want it on their clothing. Ammonia leaves no odor.

    The OLD remedies are usually the best. We don't need to spend a lot of money reinventing the wheel when we we have Twenty MULE TEAM BORAX, ammonia, and Clorox at our disposal.

    I must say that DAWN is amazing and it is a newer product.

  • Judee

    Why not just buy Spray N Wash or Shout, they both get out the oil or grease stains the first time. No soaking, waiting, or using of hot water. Spray it on the stain, rub a little and throw into the washer.




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