How to remove engine oil from clothing

How to remove engine oil from clothing

If you repair cars for a living or as a hobby, the odd oil or grease stain is an inevitability. These stains aren’t the easiest to remove as oils are hydrophobic, meaning that they don’t break down with water. If this is you, don’t stress; we’re here to help with our handy guide on how to get car and bike oil out of clothes.

How to get motor oil out of clothes

There are several possible methods for removing motor oil from clothing. The first and perhaps most straightforward method would be to buy an engine oil stain remover for clothes that is specifically designed for removing grease stains. However, not everyone has one of these removers waiting in their cupboard and the earlier you do something about the nasty stain, the easier it is to get rid of.

The engine oil used for petrol and diesel cars gets darker and darker the longer it is left and may eventually set permanently. Thankfully, there are a few simple methods that only require regular household cleaning products.

 Cleaning method 1:  Washing up liquid


  • Washing up liquid
  • A soft, clean cloth
  • A soft-bristled toothbrush
  • A piece of cardboard or an old tea towel
  1. Lay the clothing out on a flat surface
  2. Place the cardboard or tea towel behind the stain
  3. Next, carefully blot the stain with a clean, dry cloth to remove any excess oil
  4. Apply the washing up liquid directly onto the stain so that it is covered
  5. Wet the toothbrush slightly with warm water and use it to gently work the washing up liquid into the stain
  6. Let it soak for about 5 minutes
  7. Once you’ve let it soak, rinse the stained area with warm water
  8. Pop it into the washing machine and wash as normal with detergent, following the care label instructions
  9. Leave the clothes to air dry and keep an eye on them to check whether the stain reappears. Avoid tumble drying as this could set the stain
  10. If the marks are still there, repeat the process one more time

Pro tip: Rubbing talcum powder or cornstarch into the fabric can help to loosen stubborn, set-in stains.

Remove engine oil from clothing

 Cleaning method 2:  Laundry detergent


  • A laundry detergent with stain removal properties
  • A soft, clean cloth
  1. Blot away excess oil using a clean cloth
  2. Rinse the stain under warm running water
  3. Use the detergent as a pre-treatment by applying it directly onto the oil stain
  4. Rub it into the stained area using the dosing ball or cap
  5. Leave it for 5-10 minutes
  6. Rinse with warm running water
  7. Place the garment into the washing machine and wash according to the care label instructions
  8. Hang it out to dry and check it every so often to make sure the pre-treatment was effective

Note: This method is not suitable for delicate materials such as wool.

 Cleaning method 3:  Baking soda


  • Cardboard/an old tea towel
  • Baking soda
  • A soft, clean cloth
  • Soap
  • A brush or dull scraping tool
  1. Lay the clothing out on a flat surface
  2. Place the cardboard or tea towel behind the stain
  3. Remove excess oil by blotting the area with a clean cloth
  4. Cover the affected area with baking soda
  5. Let it soak up the grease for up to 24 hours
  6. Once the baking soda has been left to soak and changed colour, you can start to scrape or brush it off
  7. Rinse and wash the item of clothing in hot water
  8. Repeat steps 4 to 6 a few times if necessary
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