How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes Naturally

By Marilee Nelson |

How to Get Oil Stains Out of Clothes Naturally

Oil and grease stains are the nemesis of anyone who cooks, uses salad dressing, loves avocados, works on cars or small machinery, or has children.

Of all the stains, oil and grease stains can be the most difficult to contend twith. Especially for those of us who don’t use chemical-based stain removers.

So, what’s an avocado-coconut-oil-loving non-toxic-conscious person to do?

Fortunately, harsh chemicals are not required to get oil stains out of clothing. 

This is evident given our ancestors were able to keep their precious garments clean, despite the daily chores of butter churning, fat rendering, cooking from scratch, etc.

In this article you’ll learn 5+ natural ways to get oil stains out of clothing fast and effectively.

Why is Oil Hard to Get Out of Clothing? 

Oil is notoriously hard to get out of clothing for several reasons:

  1. Oil and grease solidify in clothing fibers once cooled.
  2. Oil repels water (especially cold water), making it difficult to remove.
  3. The longer an oil stain sits on your clothing, the deeper it goes into the fabric. This is true of all stains, but oil and grease are especially good at seeping deeply into fabrics over time.
  4. Oil and grease are especially fond of synthetic clothing…which is another reason to wear natural fibers as much as possible.
  5. Once an oil stain has dried, especially if it’s been heat-dried in the dryer, it gets “baked” into the clothing. Making it even tougher to remove.

5+ Methods for Getting Oil Stains Out of Clothes, Naturally 

Yes, oil stains can be challenging to remove naturally.

However, you can absolutely succeed if:

  • You act quickly,
  • You avoid using cold water,
  • And you know which products and everyday household items can help you get those pesky stains out, fast.

Here’s a list of our top 5 + favorite methods for getting oil stains out of clothes naturally.

1. Branch Basics 

Naturally, Branch Basics is at the top of our list for removing oil stains.

All you need is Branch Basics Concentrate and maybe Oxygen Boost for extra stain-fighting power. Here’s how:

  1. Remove excess oil by blotting (not rubbing).
  2. Spray or saturate the stain with Concentrate (Branch Basics Bathroom dilution may be sufficient for minor oil stains, but generally, Concentrate works best).
  3. Allow to sit for at least 5 minutes or more. Gently agitate with a toothbrush or natural scrub brush, then wipe or press in and blot with a microfiber, damp cloth, or rag. 
  4. Rinse using the warmest water possible.

If this doesn’t work, repeat the process and soak overnight in warm to hot water with 1 scoop Oxygen Boost.

Launder as normal with Branch Basics Laundry or your favorite non-toxic, fragrance-free laundry detergent.

Get expert tips on how to find the best non-toxic laundry detergent (and why it matters) in: How to Toss Your Toxic Laundry Detergent. Or, check out our YouTube tutorial:

*Note: Use Oxygen Boost only in soaking water and not directly on the stain unless you have previously tested the fabric for compatibilty.  Oxygen Boost may lighten certain fabrics when applied directly.

2. Baking Soda 

Baking soda can work wonders on oil stains because of its absorbent and mildly abrasive nature.

Baking soda can be used on its own or combined with Branch Basics or a natural dish soap to remove oil stains safely.

Method #1: Baking Soda + Hot Water

  1. Blot up the oil stain as much as possible using a cloth or rag.
  2. Run the stain under hot water to help remove as much oil as possible.
  3. Next, sprinkle a good amount of baking soda on what’s left of the oil stain and rub it in with a toothbrush or natural scrub brush.
  4. Let dwell at least 30 minutes to an hour.
  5. Rise with hot water again, and repeat as needed.

*Note: stubborn stains may need to dwell for several hours or overnight. 

Since baking soda can have a natural lightening effect, always do a patch test before leaving it on for several hours.

Method #2: Baking Soda + Natural Dish Soap

This one-two punch can knock out oils and grease stains fast! 

However, do not be tempted to use a synthetic, fragranced, brightly colored dish soap.

Dish soaps and detergents contain some of the most potentially harmful and caustic chemicals on the market and should be avoided (especially in homes with children or babies).

Fortunately, there are many non-toxic dish soaps and DIY versions with serious degreasing power.

When buying dish soap, look for products that are free from:

  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine
  • Dipropylene Glycol
  • DMDM Hydantoin (Quaternium-15)
  • Fragrance
  • Dioxins from PEGs, Polyethylene Glycol, and chemicals ending with “eth”
  • Polysorbates
  • Preservatives and antimicrobials such as Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Benzisothiazolinone   
  • Synthetic Dyes
  • Synthetic surfactants such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate & Sodium Laureth Sulfate

Some of our favorites are Branch Basics Concentrate or Bathroom (we love using Branch Basics for dish soap Dr. Bronner’s Fragrance Free Baby liquid castile soap, Fragrance Free AspenClean,and Fragrance Free Attitude, ,.  

You can also  take advantage of our easy vetting system. Use EWG Skin Deep to make sure all ingredients in a product are safe.  We recommend that all ingredients in products used in the home be rated a 1 or 2.      Note: In my practice, I tell very sensitive people trying to recover from chronic illness to avoid the following ingredients that are EWG rated 1 or 2 that can be irritating or inflammatory  - citric acid, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, and phenoxyethanol.

Here’s how to use dish soap and baking soda to remove oil and grease stains:

  1. Blot up as much of the oil stain as possible using a cloth or rag.
  2. Run the stain under hot water to help remove as much oil as possible.
  3. Combine baking soda with dish soap to make a paste. Spend a few minutes rubbing the paste directly onto the oil stain.
  4. Let dwell for at least 30 minutes or up to a couple of hours.
  5. Rinse with hot water. Repeat if necessary.
  6. Once the stain is removed, air dry your garment or launder as usual.

Discover more uses for non-toxic baking soda in: 12 Uses for Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) Around The House.

3. Chalk 

In our experience, children tend to attract greasy fingerprints and oil stains to their clothing.

Fortunately, most kids also love playing with sidewalk chalk, which makes a handy non-toxic oil stain remover.

Before going on, we want to acknowledge that some people react or are sensitive to the dust generated from chalk. 

If this describes you, then skip this method.

However, if you ever need to remove an oil stain from a princess dress or favorite sports jersey fast, here’s how to use chalk:

  1. Blot up as much of the oil stain as you can using a cloth or rag.
  2. Run the stain under hot water to help remove as much oil as possible.
  3. Take a piece of white chalk (colored chalk could stain), color it directly, and liberally the stain.
  4. Let dwell for 15 to 30 minutes.
  5. Rinse with hot water and repeat if necessary.
  6. If successful, line dry the garment or launder as usual.

4. Vinegar 

Distilled white vinegar is a health-conscious, toxin-conscious DIYer's best friend, if you understand how to safely use it!*  

That’s because it’s non-toxic, inexpensive, naturally antimicrobial, a natural degreaser, and can be used almost anywhere conventional cleaning products are typically used. 

From countertops and glass to dishes and laundry, there’s not much distilled white vinegar can’t do…

…including getting oil stains out of clothing.

How to use vinegar to get oil stains out of clothing:

  1. Blot up as much oil stain as possible using a cloth or rag.
  2. Run the stain under hot water to help remove as much oil as possible.
  3. Mix 1 part vinegar with 3-4 parts water.
  4. Spray directly on the grease stain.
  5. Let dwell for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
  6. Rinse with hot water, and repeat if needed.
  7. If successful, line dry the garment or launder as usual.

*Vinegar contains acetic acid which is a lung irritant when sprayed. .Do not inhale the fumes when sprayed. Provide good ventilation during cleaning and keep those with asthma, COPD, and other lung conditions out of the space when spraying vinegar as a cleaner. Vinegar is typically not a problem if used in a washing machine or in applications where it is not aerosolized.

Learn more about the non-toxic power of vinegar in: 12 Ways to Use Vinegar In Your Home.

5. Baby Powder

We recommend using baby powder with one caveat: make sure it’s talc-free, all-natural, fragrance-free baby powder.

As you probably know, talc-based baby powders (asbestos-containing and asbestos-free varieties) have been linked to lung disease and various cancers.

Plus, they usually contain synthetic fragrance which is rife with endocrine-disruptors like phthalates.

Natural baby powders are usually made with a mixture of starches and herbs and work the same way as baking soda by absorbing and drawing out the stain.

You can even make your own baby powder mixture by combining arrowroot or non-GMO corn starch with powdered herbs. 

Our friend and mother of 6, Katie Wells at WellnessMama, has a great DIY baby powder recipe here.

Using baby powder for oil stains is excellent because it’s super easy.

  1. Apply the powder directly to the stain and let it sit as long as possible.
  2. Rinse with hot water. 
  3. Repeat if necessary.
  4. If successful, air dry or launder as usual.

Natural baby powder can also be applied after scrubbing stubborn stains with hot water and natural dish soap.

We’ve even had success removing dried-on stains with baby powder. You have to leave it for at least 24 hours, but it can work.

Other Oil Stain Removal Tips

As previously mentioned, speed, hot water, and the right products are your best weapons against oil stains.

Other helpful tips include:

  • Try to blot, vs. rub, the stain before rinsing with hot water. Blotting prevents more oil from getting deep into fibers, and a dry shirt will be easier to spot-clean before the stain-removal process.
  • Use a rag, cutting board, or piece of cardboard to keep the oil stain from migrating to other areas of the garment.
  • Have patience. Unlike other stains that can be soaked, sprayed, or washed away, oil stains require a bit of scrubbing and dwell time. It will be worth it to save your clothes!
  • Regarding baby powder. Here’s how to use it more safely. To reduce inhalation exposure to particulates, apply it outside, shake it as close to the garment as possible, and wash your hands immediately.

How Do You Remove Dried Oil Stains From Clothes? 

If you discover a dried-on oil stain, all may not be lost, so follow these steps:

#1: Do NOT use WD-40. This internet hack may work, but WD-40 is incredibly toxic and has no place in a healthy home.

#2: Try the 24-hour baby powder method. Sprinkle natural baby powder liberally on the stain and allow it to dwell for at least 24 hours. This often takes care of it!

#3: You can also try a longer dwell time with baking soda and dish detergent, like 12-24 hours, followed by an overnight soak in Oxygen Boost.

Should I Use Hot or Cold Water for Oil Stain Removal?

In case you missed it in the instructions, always use warm or hot water on oil stains. 

Since oil congeals once it cools, cold water will not help dissolve it.

Do Oil Stains Ever Come Out? 

The good news is, yes! 

Using the methods you’ve just learned, you can naturally get oil and grease stains out of just about anything.

Get Started With a Branch Basics Trial Kit 

As you can see, natural products and everyday household goods can work wonders for removing oil and grease stains from clothing.

If you’re interested in trying out Branch Basics for oil and grease stains, laundry, house cleaning, car cleaning, carpet cleaning, personal care, pets, and more, check out our Trial Kits.

For more tips on non-toxic laundry and stain removal methods, check out:

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson

Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.