How Do I Prevent Grease or Oil From Staining?

Mmm…how’s that burger or cheesy quesadilla? What about those golden French fries? You take a big bite – and a big glob of grease plops down onto the front of your shirt. Now you get to wear your lunch for the rest of the day, and your shirt may be headed for the rag pile. Grease and oil stains are notoriously difficult to remove. But before you throw in the towel (or throw out the clothes), learn how to remove these tough spatters and spots.

Greasy, Oily Messes

Burgers and fries aren’t the only culprits; to be fair; salad dressing can give you quite a good stain, too. You can encounter grease and oil when you’re working on your car, preparing food, doing dishes, using oil-based paints, fixing your child’s bike chain, or putting on makeup. In any case, once a stain is there, it is like a bad house guest: it just does not want to get out.

As with any stain, it is important to treat splats and drips as quickly as possible. If it is allowed to “set,” the grease and oil bonds with the material. It is incredibly difficult to remove them without damaging the fabric.

What can you do to avoid this?

  • If the stain is fresh, gently blot up the excess (blot, do not rub!) immediately.
  • Water and oil do not mix, so don’t rinse the material. You can sprinkle some baking soda or baby powder on the stain to absorb as much of the grease or oil as possible.
  • Carefully brush off the powder and apply a gentle cleaner to the fabric. Choose a safe, non-toxic enzymatic cleaner. These contain enzymes which go to work to degrade and break down the stain.
  • Let the cleaner sit for about 10 minutes. If the stain is old, you can saturate the area and let it sit for about 1 hour.
  • Wash the piece of clothing as usual. Detergent is a good surfactant, meaning it allows water to mix with the oil or grease and power it away.
  • WAIT! Before you put the garment in the dryer, inspect it to see if the stain is still there. If it is, do not dry it. Apply more of the cleaner and wash again. Drying only sets the stain.
  • If the stain is on carpet, upholstery, or furniture, blot the excess up and apply the cleaner to the area. Saturate with your safe, non-toxic enzymatic cleaner and let it sit for 10 minutes, or 1 hour for tough stains. Use a clean towel to soak up excess.

Grease and oil stains have a reputation for being stubborn and tough. You need a cleaner that is just as stubborn and tough. Treat the stains spots immediately for best results. And maybe stay away from those fries.