How to remove oil stains from clothes

As Polonius quite rightly stated in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “clothes make the man” – and fashion is just as important to us today as it was back in the 16th Century.

Unfortunately, one nasty stain can render our fashion a little questionable, and by far one of the most frustrating of stains is oil. If you’ve come unstuck from oil stains before then we’re here to provide you with some quick and easy stain removal tips and advice to ensure your clothes stay clean.

Where do oil stains come from?

Oil stains are a lot more common than you may think. There are many different ways in which oil can splash, splatter, or slop onto your clothing, so it’s important to know the best stain removal techniques to get rid of this troublesome liquid.

Common causes of oil stains include oily foods like chips and oil from a bicycle chain, but there’s also many more uncommon causes, too. For men who use a beard trimmer, it’s not unusual to find a few drops of lubricating oil on your shirt after some routine maintenance. For women, something as harmless as daily moisturisers can transfer natural oils from the skin to clothing if getting dressed in a hurry.

Why is oil stain removal tricky?

How do we normally wash our clothes? With water! But as we know, oil and water are immiscible liquids which means they don’t mix with one another. Instead, they remain separated. This means that if you simply popped an oil-covered shirt in the washing machine and expected to see some decent stain removal, you’d be pretty disappointed.

That’s why a lot of people find oil stain removal to be such a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve got some excellent tips to help you salvage those clothes.

So, what are the best oil stain removal techniques?

Here’s how to quickly and easily tackle those annoying oil stains on your favourite clothes:

  • Blot the stain using an absorbent cloth to remove as much oil as possible before getting started. A tea towel is best but if you’re in a pinch then a standard paper towel will do. Always use a white cloth or towel to avoid transferring colours from the fabric to your stained clothing.
  • Treat the stain before putting it in the washing machine. Stain removers or laundry detergent are great for this as they help to break down the enzymes in the oil so that the stain can be penetrated with water. If you don’t have any, dishwashing soap comes in at a close second.
  • Stain removal is always best at a warm rather than hot temperature. Hot water can set the stain into the fabric, so instead of washing your stained clothing at 60 degrees, try a 30 degree setting. A lot of laundry detergents are now designed to work great at these lower temperatures anyway.
  • When you get your clothing out of the wash, give it a thorough check to ensure that the stain has been completely removed. If it hasn’t, then repeat the steps. above. Unfortunately, if an oil stain is allowed to dry into the fabric, it can become very difficult, or even impossible, to remove.

So, now that you know the secret to stain removal for something as tricky as oil, getting the rest of your clothing stain-free shouldn’t be so daunting. Just remember to use the right technique for the type of stain and test any stain removal methods on a small area of the fabric first to prevent against any unexpected damage.


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