How to remove an oil stain from a canvas bag
February 1, 2013 9:08 AM   Subscribe

I just noticed the stain recently but it feels set-in. It's roughly 3 inches around. What's the best way to go about removing the stain?
posted by mizrachi to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
An oil removing detergent and hot water. Something like Dawn.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:09 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd try some dishsoap, just a basic one without any added hand moisturizers or whatever.
posted by wwax at 9:18 AM on February 1, 2013

I have had luck using "Zout" stain remover in the past with those sorts of stains.
posted by Captain_Science at 9:45 AM on February 1, 2013

Before getting the stain wet in any way, apply a fine powder, like talcum, or cornstarch. Even flour works. This will absorb and draw out the oil. Just liberally coat the stain, let the powder sit on it for a least a few hours, then brush off excess powder. Then wash normally, or to be extra sure, use one of the other recommended methods of washing, like with Dawn. This method works every time for me. (But obviously, the sooner you get the stain treated, the better.)
posted by catatethebird at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2013

I always use an orange enzyme cleaner on oily stains. (You can get this type of product at pet stores. I get mine at a local health food store that sells environmentally-conscious cleaning products). I rub it in, let it sit for a bit and then wash the spot with dish soap. Works almost every time. It's also great for other cleaning I need to do around the house. A little goes a long way and it is powerful.
posted by Lescha at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2013

Another vote for cornstarch followed by classic blue Dawn. A dry cleaner can also sometimes work wonders.
posted by amaire at 10:19 AM on February 1, 2013

Depending on the type of oil, the color of the canvas, and the type of dye, you may need to pull out the big guns.

When I don't want to take the chance of setting the stain or am unsure if the colors will run, I use fine chalk or talcum powder under a little pressure, then I wash it in Napthalene. It isn't for the faint of heart, though. Naphtha is really flammable and has fumes/odor. I cannot stress that enough. You have to have good ventilation and keep everything with a flame or heat out of the way. It is not an apartment living room kind of project.

This is how I've gotten both skin and machine oil out of really delicate satins that can't have water near them and heavier things like wools and denim that have oil spots from motor or leather oil.

Canvas is dense enough that I'm not sure I would go the Dawn+water route. It may work, but I wouldn't trust it to get deep enough in the fibers. It is easier and safer though, so I think it would depend on how much you love the bag and what you are willing to put up with to try to remove the stain.

Here's what I would do:
I lay down a paper towel and cover it with powder, then put the canvas against it, then more powder on the reverse, then another paper towel. Then I put pressure against it and make sure the area is warm.

After 24 hours or so, if there is still a spot when I've dusted it off, I may try it again for 24 hours if it seems like it is fading.

Then, if it fails but before any water touches the fabric, I will go to the hardware store and get some naphtha.
I will pour an ounce or two in a glass or stainless bowl.
Then I will put a cotton rag behind the stain and hold it in place. With this padded backing in place, I'll dip a soft or medium bristle brush (I use a lot of old toothbrushes for this) in the naphtha and start scrubbing it in circular motions. Be careful that it all stays very controlled. You don't want the naphtha to spread and spray everywhere. Once it is scrubbed, I will very forcefully start to wipe-lift the area making the motion from the outside of the stain to the inside of it - not from the inside of the circle out.
This can be repeated as many times as necessary, but I've found three scrub-lift passes to be the most useful.

Let it dry in a well ventilated area. YOU CANNOT PUT IT IN A DRYER TO DRY. You can wipe it down with rags or paper towels, but these must be disposed of immediately outside the house, not in the inside trash. It will take a bit and the fumes are similar to mineral spirits. The fumes don't dissipate immediately, so you will have to let it air out a couple of days.

The naptha does not go down the drain. Do not do that. It needs to be carefully poured back into the can and is reusable for a few more times. Then it goes to the chemical disposal.

This is essentially old-school home dry-cleaning. BUT BE CAREFUL.

If the naptha worked, then you can wash it as you would normally to get rid of the smell. If it didn't, you can repeat it again if you haven't gotten it wet yet.

If you don't care that much, don't try this. I do it all the time and feel really comfortable with chemical safety and conservation. YMMV.
posted by Tchad at 11:32 AM on February 1, 2013

I get grease and oil stains on all manner of clothing/fabric regularly. Blue Dawn applied liberally and worked briefly into stain and allowed to sit for fifteen minutes before laundering works like a charm.
posted by FlamingBore at 12:00 PM on February 1, 2013

When Mrs. Plinth was inspecting molds in a machine shop for part of her job, she routinely came home with machine oil on her clothes. We used a degreaser (can't remember the brand), usually with an overnight soak before washing.
posted by plinth at 12:57 PM on February 1, 2013

Gojo water-less hand soap with a toothbrush, then wash.
posted by 445supermag at 7:04 PM on February 1, 2013

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