Oil being poured into vehicle

How to remove engine oil stains from clothes

Car broken down on the road? Tried to fix it yourself? Whether you succeeded or not, you’re probably now wondering how to remove the oil stains from clothes. Luckily, those sticky, brownish-black marks don’t have to be permanent. These tips should get your clothes back to normal, just like your car (hopefully) is.

How to remove an oil stain from clothes

Engine oil stains look dramatic, but they’re not too hard to get rid of. So your first step is to relax: there’s no need for a specialist oil stain remover, and you can get started right away, even if you’re still stranded on the road. Just read the care label first.

Here’s how to remove oil stains from clothes:

  1. Gently dab the stain with a paper towel to soak up extra oil.

    If you have a couple of tissues in the car, you can do this on the roadside before you head on home.

  2. Pre-treat the stain with Surf excel liquid detergent.

    If you don’t have any to hand, a tiny bit of liquid hand soap or washing up liquid will do. Mix the detergent with cool water and dab it onto the stain, rubbing it in with the scrubber cap or an old (unwanted) toothbrush. Sit back and let it work for about five minutes.

    Important: If you need to remove oil stains from clothes that might respond badly to water-based stain removers (e.g. silk) try this quick trick instead. Sprinkle a little cornflour, baking soda, or talcum powder onto the stain and leave it on overnight to soak up the oil. Then simply brush the powder off in the morning.

  3. Wash the item in the washing machine or by hand, following the care label instructions.

    Use Surf excel in the wash for added stain removal power.

  4. Let the garment air-dry, checking for stains every 5-10 minutes.

    If you see any engine oil left on the fabric, repeat the process above. Avoid tumble-drying or ironing the garment until you’re absolutely, 100% certain the stain is gone, as heat can set engine oil stains permanently.

So, that’s how to remove oil stains when they’re fresh – now to take care of any crusty, dried-on stains.

How to remove old oil stains from clothes

If you find a dried-up engine oil stain on a delicate garment, it’s best to take it to a professional. With durable fabrics, like cotton, you can tackle the stain yourself – just read the care label before you begin. 

Here’s how to remove old oil stains from clothes:

  1. Place thick cardboard under the engine oil stain. This protects the rest of the garment from the stain.
  2. Spray a small amount of penetrating car lubricant onto the area. Just enough to cover the stain, no more. This will help to loosen it up. 
  3. Cover the stain with baking soda. Scrub the powder in with an old toothbrush, then wipe the oil-soaked powder off. Repeat until there’s no more oil to soak up and the baking soda stays powdery. 
  4. Wash as normal and dry naturally, checking for stains as before.

That’s all there is to it! Now you know how to remove oil stains from clothes, fresh or dry, so there’s no need to panic next time the car breaks down – at least when it comes to the laundry afterwards …

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