Oil stain removal from a cotton T shirt
September 11, 2020 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to remove an oil stain from a cotton T shirt if I've already tried spraying it with stain remover and washing? Is there some kind of next-level stain remover or other trick?
posted by medusa to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've never tried to do this after washing, but in the past I've had luck using a grease-lifting soap, like a liquid dish soap, on the stain.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:02 AM on September 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

You want the blue Dawn liquid dish soap. Rub it in, let it sit, wash as normal.
posted by anderjen at 10:05 AM on September 11, 2020 [9 favorites]

"Next-level stain removers?"

You need a solvent to dissolve the oil. When soap isn't effective, move up to rubbing alcohol, and maybe even gasoline. Wash thoroughly afterwards.
posted by Rash at 10:09 AM on September 11, 2020

I've removed an oil stain from a silk shirt just yesterday. I used good old ox gall soap, and rubbed it in with my hands. I'd try the same with your shirt. Since it is cotton, you can machine-wash it afterwards. I could not do that with my silk shirt (I just rinsed it by hand) but the stain was gone all the same.
Ox gall soap. That's the stuff.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:10 AM on September 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I use Lestoil/PineSol (per Jolie Kerr and also a gross bachelor I knew), and do it repeatedly, just put it back in the laundry and treat again next time if the stain didn't come out. This has removed oil stains that got "set" in the dryer.
posted by momus_window at 10:15 AM on September 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ammonia is also a good de-greaser. The usual disclaimers about never using it with bleach apply.
posted by corey flood at 10:16 AM on September 11, 2020

Blue Dawn, man. It's miraculous.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:23 AM on September 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

I have revived shirts with set-in stains by soaking them overnight in a big bucket of Oxy-Clean in water; usually one full scoop (using the scoop that comes with the Oxy-Clean) per gallon of water, in as warm a temperature as is safe for the garment. Dissolve the Oxy-Clean in the water, dunk in the garment, let it sit overnight (Oxy-Clean recommends 1-6 hours, but I go even longer). Most of the stain is usually off by then, and I run it through the wash to finish it off.

Adding the caveat that I have personally only done this with sweat stains, but the Oxy-Clean recommendation for using it or oil stains is exactly the same, and I can attest it has worked every time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on September 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

First I rub Dawn into it before washing, and that normally works. Occasionally, the stain's still there after washing, and so I rub baking soda into the stain and let it sit for a day or so, then put more Dawn on, then wash it.

If you've already put the shirt in the dryer, you may need to do something more drastic. I have not needed to do this (yet), but this how-to about removing set-in oil stains suggests "re-activating" the stain (that article is where I got the baking soda thing from).
posted by catabananza at 10:30 AM on September 11, 2020

I pretreat a fresh oil stain with white chalk, then use dish soap like Dawn hours later or the next day, then throw it in the wash per usual.
posted by unstrungharp at 10:33 AM on September 11, 2020

I have also had good luck running grease stains through the laundry repeatedly (maybe five times or so) until they're gone.
posted by carolr at 10:48 AM on September 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

I squeeze a small amount of blue Dawn onto the stain, until the stain is covered. I don't rub it in, I just let it sit. Then after maybe an hour I wash in cold water, rubbing the stain. Nthing that blue Dawn is a miracle worker!
posted by rogerroger at 11:15 AM on September 11, 2020

I keep a tiny squeeze bottle of Dawn in my laundry room for this. Put the Dawn on the front and back of the stain before washing, and ideally don't dry it until you're sure it's gone.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:19 AM on September 11, 2020

Another blue Dawn fanatic here.
posted by nosila at 12:18 PM on September 11, 2020

Nthing Dawn. I got a chest full of broad spectrum dog ear ointment to one of my favorite shirts not too long ago. Not just oily, but horrible vaseline texture, warm and spreadably viscous from being ear temp. Awful.

I worked at it with Dawn & a toothbrush, followed by hot hot hot water, plus more Dawn, plus more hot water, repeat over several days. It all eventually broke down and rinsed out. Dawn is the best for oily stuff!
posted by phunniemee at 12:28 PM on September 11, 2020

Another vote for blue Dawn.
posted by answergrape at 1:29 PM on September 11, 2020

Something that's worked for me to get grease stains out of already-washed clothes: I put a small pile of a very fine powder on top of the stain. I've successfully used baking soda, flour, and talcum powder -- I don't think the type of powder matters much, because it's about its physical properties. Then I just leave the clothing, with the powder on it, sitting for 2 or 3 days. At the end of that time, the powder has absorbed a significant amount of the grease. You can repeat this process, and/or leave the powder on for more time, to get more of the grease out.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:00 PM on September 11, 2020

For cotton, I boil the kettle. Put a dab of the Dawn on the stain, pour hot water over, and then use a nail brush on it.

Be careful not to use too much, or do a full load of "stain clothing" as the washer doesn't really like all that Dawn. Not that I have any experience with it at all. I've started to do the dab, kettle, let it sit for a few hours, then rinse until not soapy before I throw in the wash.
posted by Ftsqg at 2:28 PM on September 11, 2020

Yup, Dawn. Fwiw, my results with green Dawn have been perfectly satisfactory.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:02 PM on September 11, 2020

Dawn dish soap has degreasers in it. I hate it; it's too harsh on my hands and overkill for most dish washing. But I keep a bottle in the laundry for grease spots. Best if you use it before anything else, and before the item went into a dryer, but squirt some on, let it sit several days. Good chance it'll help.

I get the foaming bottle, re-purpose for dishwashing liquid (with water) in the kitchen. My foaming bottle just died after 5 years of re-use.

Also, ammonia (which must never be allowed to mix with bleach, really) is worth a try. Can be mixed with regular Dawn, which is blue, because Reasons.
posted by theora55 at 4:51 PM on September 11, 2020

posted by capricorn at 6:00 PM on September 11, 2020

FYI I use the hippy liquid dishsoaps (they are not advertised as having degreasers, like 7th generation or mrs. miller or whatever) and these get cooking oils out just fine from clothes in spot-treating as described above. No need to buy new dishsoap if you don't have Dawn on hand and you have a cooking oil stain. I've never had so needed to remove vaseline stains or motor oil or industrial machine grease, so YMMV.
posted by holyrood at 6:35 PM on September 11, 2020

Dawn dishsoap, scrubbing ammonia + borax, or an enzyme based stain spray that contains lipase (I like Puracy) Have all worked for me. I tend to reach for the Puracy spray because it's easiest. Avoid putting anything in the dryer until you're certain you've removed the stain.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:07 PM on September 11, 2020

I've taken stained cotton items for dry cleaning a couple of times when desperate, and they usually can get the stains out.
posted by citygirl at 7:42 AM on September 12, 2020

Spray 'N Wash Pre-Treat Laundry Stain Stick

It gets every oil stain out for me. Every last one!
posted by kirst27 at 6:22 PM on September 12, 2020

I use Goop to pretreat greasy stains on cotton shirts. I'm a sloppy eater. Goop is labeled for cleaning oil and paint from your hands--and it's good for that--but works as a pretreatment, too.
posted by tmdonahue at 8:00 AM on September 13, 2020

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