If you’ve done any kind of DIY automotive project you’ve also probably also had to deal with a bit of aggravating DIY aftermath: oil and grease stains. If you’ve had the unfortunate response of throwing oiled clothes immediately into the washer and dryer, you probably know by now that not only does this not work, but it can make stains worse and/or permanent. Luckily for you, the next time you get greasy you can get oil out of clothes with a bit of effort and swift action. Here’s how.
Time is not on your side here. The longer oil sits on fabric, the more embedded it becomes and the closer you get to the point of no return. Address it quickly. If possible, immediately remove any excess or puddled up oil with a plastic spoon, being careful not to spread it around even more. Place a piece of cardboard between the stained fabric and the rest of the clothing, so it doesn’t start to absorb on the other side. Then take a paper towel and lightly blot up what moisture you can. This pre-treatment procedure will save you major work down the road.
Work at It
The next stage involves coercing the oil out of the fabric, and it can take a little patience. The first line of defense is a continuation of the blotting you did earlier but on a particulate scale. You want to get a dry, fine powder on top of the stain that will coax the oil to the surface. Baby powder or cornstarch work best, but flour can also be used in a pinch. Completely cover the stain in the powder, let it sit for five to ten minutes, then grab a toothbrush and start to work it in, again being careful not to spread the original stain. If the powder starts to ball up, that means it’s working. You might need to repeat this step a few times, getting rid of the balled up powder and adding more until it seems like no more will be absorbed.
Next, you’ll want to attack the makeup of the oil itself, using a degreaser to break up what’s left of the stubborn stain. WD-40 can work wonders here, but test it on a hidden part of the fabric first to make sure no discoloration occurs. Once you’ve done that, spray it directly onto the clothes in case of a big stain, or spray it onto a q-tip and use that to get it into smaller ones. Work it into both sides of the fabric with your hands and let sit for about five minutes.
Wash the Stain
Place a squeeze of liquid dish soap and a few drops of hot water over the stain, and rub the toothbrush in circular motions, working up a nice foam. Allow this to sit for another five to ten minutes, then (as long as the washing instructions on the care label allow it) drop the whole item into a washing machine on hot. Always double check any treatment restrictions on the label first. When the wash cycle finishes, don’t use the dryer. Air dry the item to prevent any remaining stain from setting. By this point, you should be stain-free, but you don’t want to take any chances. If a spot remains, you can retry the whole process, but at this point you’ve likely done the most you can.
Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to get oil out of clothes, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.