Help me save my shirts from being sliced up and made into rag rugs!
February 10, 2008 6:05 AM   Subscribe

How have you successfully removed old grease stains from shirts using common household items, rather than specialty products I'd have to go out and purchase?

I've got a ton of solid colored t-shirt type shirts that I no longer wear because I dripped food on my chest and the spots didn't come out in the wash. I don't want to trash/recycle them, but I'm very self-conscious of the darker spots the grease left behind.

The kicker is that they've all been through the wash and dryer at least a few times. Some I've caught before doing laundry and pretreated with dishsoap (think Dawn, not Cascade) or commercial laundry pre-treaters, but that didn't work.

Description of shirts: cotton and/or cotton knit in a variety of colors, including both pastels and darks/brights.

I'm looking for a way to try to once and for all get rid of these stains, using something I'm likely to already have at home and that won't ruin my clothes or washer.

Have any of you done this successfully? How? I have a few shirts I'm willing to experiment with (i.e. potentially ruin), if anyone comes up with a particularly creative solution.

I don't want to go out and buy a specialty product, but I will if that's the only solution. Thanks!
posted by Stewriffic to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Soak them in really hot water with some dishwasher detergent. Or one of those "grease fighter" liquid dish soaps. Then wash them with a mix of half the detergent you'd usually use and a tablespoon of dish detergent. The logic is that the enzymes in the dish detergent plus the hot water will pull the grease out. If that doesn't work, there's always Clean Sheets detergent. It's designed for massage therapists, who frequently stain their sheets with oil.
posted by blueskiesinside at 8:04 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know what you have hanging around the house, but WD40 or ammonia can help remove old grease stains.

Ammonia: Dilute a cap full of ammonia with about 1/2 cup water. Apply small amount to old stain (make sure you're in a well-ventilated room). Then wash as usual in hot water.

WD40: spray a little bit on the stain. Then spot wash with a dish washing detergent, such as Dawn. Launder as usual in hot water.

In either case, let the shirts air-dry to see if the stain has been removed (don't use the dryer again). You may need to retreat several times.
posted by Flakypastry at 8:14 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you really want to get organic stains out of a material easily, just bring them to a dry cleaners. I know it isn't the "at home" solution you're looking for, but it'll be really easy
posted by lockle at 8:19 AM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: What temperature do you wash at? Try washing them in a very hot cycle.
posted by fire&wings at 8:21 AM on February 10, 2008

OK, this is a really old-fashioned method of getting MOST of a greasy spot out of a shirt (or other clothing). But I think it works best if you do this before you wash the shirt/clothing, because once you've washed the greasy shirt and run it through the dryer, the heat has pretty well set the stain.

Shake some baby powder, talcum powder or cornstarch (NOT corn meal!) onto the grease spot. Let sit for at least 30 minutes, then brush off (I use an old toothbrush). If you still see a hint of the grease spot, reapply talcum powder, let sit another 30 minutes, brush off again.

At this point, you should have removed most of the grease and you can then use something like Shout or a strong dish detergent and wash the shirt/clothing.

For T-shirts with permanent grease spots that you're embarrassed to wear, I suggest ripping them up for rags or just wearing to do chores around the house. Or for bar-hopping. Nobody in a bar cares what you look like after a few brews.
posted by Smalltown Girl at 8:24 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

goo-gone -- stinks, but works like a charm.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:58 AM on February 10, 2008

I use Dawn dish detergent on those kinds of stains. I keep a bottle by the washer, and when I come across one, I just pour a little on (half a teaspoon?) and rub it in with my thumb, or with an old toothbrush. Sometimes it takes two trips through the washer/dryer. Washing in warm water helps.

When I've gotten food on my shirt, sometimes I'll put some hand soap or shampoo on the spot before I throw the shirt in the hamper.
posted by cabingirl at 9:31 AM on February 10, 2008

Oh, and I forgot to add that I get better results with Tide (liquid) as a detergent than I ever did with the cheaper brands like Purex. I know it costs more but it works better for me, and in the long run I'm doing fewer loads because I don't have to rewash things.
posted by cabingirl at 9:35 AM on February 10, 2008

Soak stain in Lestoil for half a day, then wash on hot. Also good for getting out pen marks.
posted by jessamyn at 11:26 AM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: If you try these methods above -- Lestoil or WD-40 looks promising to me -- air dry the shirt to check your results. A second heat-drying cycle can't do any good, even though it's convenient.

I've tried a lot of things for the problem you're describing because my husband's shirt often places itself in the path of his food. (Shout, Dawn, Simple Green, ammonia, bar soap, naphtha, liquid Tide, Gonzo, Tech, rubbing alcohol.) I've found that rubbing the detergent or other remedy into the spot seems to help. The method that works best for me requires a specialty product: Rub Zout into the stain with a toothbrush. Let it air dry, and then rinse out the Zout. Wash in hot.
posted by wryly at 12:32 PM on February 10, 2008

I like Shout spray foam, but if you drip a little lighter fluid on it first, it will work better, especially on old, run-thru-the-dryer stains. You don't let it dry first, just put it through the washer, but not the dryer, in case you didn't get it yet.
Once it's been through the dryer, it's usually too late for baby powder or baking soda, but it wouldn't hurt anything to try.
My organizational schema is that everything gets turned wrong-side out when I put it in the hamper (to protect any embroidery or silk screening if it has any) and to get the inside cleaner anyway, that's the side next to your skin. If it has a spot, I leave it right side out so I know to look for it and pre-treat it before it sets it. After I baste it with whatever, then I turn it wrong-side out too and throw it in the washer.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 12:57 PM on February 10, 2008

Usually hand cleaner (Gojo, Lava, Goop, etc) scrubbed in with a brush seems to work pretty well for me.
posted by alikins at 12:58 PM on February 10, 2008

Best answer: Zout should be a standard household product if you're a careless cook/eater like me. It took out a big grease splatter stain that was about 6 months, and several washings, old.

(Protip: Put some Zout in a teeny plastic dropper bottle and use it on the go.)
posted by Brian James at 1:05 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

A lot of washing up liquid rubbed into stain with a bit of hot water - leave to soak in for a few minutes and then wash as usual. Also consider washing at higher temperature as this often shifts stains a lot better - at the end of the day you can't wear the shirts now - so you have nothing to lose by increasing the temperature.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:29 PM on February 10, 2008

Response by poster: Hm. Looks like I'll try some of the specialty products, because the normal suggestions of rubbing soap/shampoo/Dawn/Tide/shout into the stain haven't ever worked.

I'm thinking that Zout/Lestoil/WD-40/GooGone plus a hot water wash and no dryer will be the best formula. Ah, well, I don't have any of them on hand, so I'll see what's easiest to get next time I go to the store and start there.
posted by Stewriffic at 1:57 PM on February 10, 2008

Response by poster: Survey says.......

Hot water, Zout, laundry detergent and a 1/2 cup of ammonia worked MAGIC!!!!

Thank you!
posted by Stewriffic at 1:14 PM on February 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

« Older Green algae on concrete floor - removal tips?   |   What the HECK am I going to do? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.