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The Household Staple That Works Better Than Detergent To Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes

Hint: It's cheap, it's clear and it removes new and set-in stains

Whether oil splattered on your new top while you were sautéing a batch of onions (we forget to don an apron all the time too) or you accidentally dribbled some on your favorite t-shirt while eating them (happens to the best of us) — the greasy residue is sure to leave a stain. The burning question: will it come out or are your favorite clothes goners? Luckily, say experts, you don’t have to worry about splurging at the dry cleaner or throwing away your clothes.

Here, Laurie Fulford, executive laundry pro at Poplin, an on-demand laundry service, reveals just how to get oil stains out of clothes as easily and stress-free as possible.

How to get fresh oils stains out clothes?

dish soap and lemons
White bear studio/Shutterstock

All experts agree: When oil gets onto fabric, it can be tough to wash it out. And the key to ensuring it comes out with ease is in how you pre-treat the stain.

“The first tip for getting oil stains out of clothing is to treat the stain as soon as you possibly can,” shares Fulford. “This will increase your chances of getting the stain completely out.”

Thankfully, there’s a common household item that can help prevent the oil from leaving a permanent spot in the fabric: Dish soap — and it works better than detergent when it comes to removing oil.

The reason why dishwashing soap works to get oil stains out of clothes? Because it’s made specifically to clean greasy dishes — so compounds in the soap will break down the grease ensuring it gets rinsed away in the wash. (Click through for more brilliant uses for dish soap).

One caveat: “Dish soap is great at fighting oil,” Fulford says, “but since colored dish soap has the potential to make the stain worse, I would recommend avoiding it.”

Colored dish soap that shouldn't be used on oil stains
Colored dish soap? Don’t risk it!Chanishka Colombage/Shutterstock

Fulford’s easy how-to: Find the clearest color dish soap you can and use it to cover the stain. Let that sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Then rinse and wash in the washing machine as usual. One clear dish soaps that fits the bill: Palmolive Ultra Dish Liquid White Pure and Clear (Buy from Amazon, $3.98).

Don’t have clear dish soap? Try baking soda

baking soda

If you don’t have any clear colored dish soap on hand or want to go the all-natural ingredient route, baking soda is another great item that can get the job done almost as well. That’s because baking soda’s alkaline nature works like soap to break apart oil particles, its abrasive properties help scour the fabric to remove the stain and its absorbent powers help soak up the liquid.

To do: “Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with a tablespoon of water, grab an old toothbrush and scrub the mixture on the oil stain,” explains Fulford. “Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse and wash in the washing machine as usual.”

(Click through for more brilliant uses for baking soda)

See more on how to remove oil stains using baking soda in the video below:

How to remove set-in oil stains from clothes

About to throw a load into the laundry and notice a shirt you wore earlier in the week has an oil stain on it? The clear dish soap method can help here too, according to the pros at Maytag.

Their advice: Scrape the stain and blot it with dish soap or another stain pretreatment. Let sit for a few minutes, then soak the garment in warm to hot water for 30 minutes. Finish by throwing it in the washer on the warmest wash setting possible for that type of fabric.

Stain still there? Maytag recommends spritzing a bit of WD-40 onto the stain to reactivate the oil. Once you’ve let it sit for 15-30 minutes, you can pre-treat the stain as mentioned above. This time hand wash the item and hang it to dry. (Click through for more brilliant uses for WD-40.)

For more tricks to lift common stains:

Got Gum Stuck on Your Clothes? Here’s Why You Should Grab the Peanut Butter!

Laundry Pros Reveal the Best Ways to Get Slime Out of Clothes — Even If It’s Caked On!

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