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How to Remove an Oil Stain

Updated on February 29, 2020

Oil Stains and You (Or: Putting the Exx-on Valdez)

In the category of rough stains, oil stains rank high. You don't really want them around, but they happen pretty often. So what do you do? Well, it depends on how old the stain is, what kind of surface you're working with, and if you're patient enough to deal with it properly.

First off, if you're not patient at all, and are made of money, just go replace the item. Some oil stains can take days to properly attend to and remove.

Now, for those of us who don't have oodles of cash to blow replacing our clothes, furniture, carpet or driveway when they get stained, you have a few options when it comes to taking care of an oil or grease stain. Bear in mind that the best time to fix a stain of this type is to deal with it right away, so don't dawdle! Let's break this down by material type. Never fear, help is but a household chemical away!

Woven Materials (Clothing, specifically)

  • If the stain is still wet, sprinkle a generous helping of cornstarch, baking soda, baby powder, salt, or some other powder absorbent over the stain and let it sit for several minutes. Brush the powder off, then wash the garment as hot as the fabric will allow. Let the garment air dry, this will allow any remaining oil to evaporate as the cloth cools, rather than being set.
  • A liquid dish detergent with grease fighting will work as well; cover the stain with a light coat of the detergent, letting it stand for a few minutes. Blot with a paper towel, and then wash the garment according to its normal cycle.

Argh, now we have to buy a new rug! (Oil or Grease stains on the carpet)

  • Rubbing Alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol, when soaked into a paper towel, can blot at a small oil stain and will remove oil and grease. Be aware that rubbing the stain will only cause it to spread through more carpet fibers, so do not rub!
  • Larger spills will require professional products, such as dry cleaning solvents and more blotting. When you are blotting a stain out of your carpet, blot from the outside in, another countermeasure to keep it from spreading.

My driveway looks like I'm set to play Connect the Dots! (Concrete stains)

  • For a wet stain, spread kitty litter, sawdust, or even ashes from your fireplace over the stain and leave it to sit over the course of a few days before sweeping it up. Here's the trick: The chemical you'll be using to clean your concrete is oven cleaner! Spray the oven cleaner liberally over your Dalmatian spotted concrete, and then cover it with plastic wrap. Tape the plastic wrap down and leave it to cure overnight. When you remove the plastic wrap, be careful of the fumes.

Voila! There you have several easy do-it-yourself tips for cleaning up grease and oil.

WARNING: Not all oil stains will come clean. There are stains that will never go away, but don't despair. You never know until you've tried.


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