From serving up bacon and sausage for breakfast to feasting on hot wings during the big game, keeping grease off your clothes can be tough—especially during the holidays. All those napkins can only soak up so much grease, so if you’re gobbling down your favorite greasy snacks, you’d better know how to get grease stains out.
Why are grease stains so hard to get out? Grease, natural oils, and waxes are lipids. Because lipids are insoluble in water, they grab onto fabric fibers during machine washing. Grease is soluble with organic solvents like degreasers and acids, so you can remove it from most clothing with dish soap, white vinegar, baking soda, and other safe products.
No matter which grease stain remover you choose, be sure to wear a protective apron unless you want to work on more grease stains. Your best shot at getting a grease stain out is getting to work on the stain as soon as it happens. That means soaking up the excess grease to minimize what you need to clean and then tackling the stain.
Unfortunately, many grease stains go unnoticed until clothes have been washed and dried. It’s more difficult to get grease stains out at this stage because your dryer sets the stain by “baking” the grease into the fabric. If you’re in this situation, you must pretreat the stain a little differently. Use your stain remover of choice, let it dry, apply an enzyme-based stain treatment to break down the grease proteins, and wash as normal.
What about commercial stain treatments? There’s no doubt many commercial degreasers and stain removers do an outstanding job tackling grease stains on carpet, upholstery, and clothes. These grease-busting solutions are effective and easy to use, but they can contain potentially harmful ingredients.
Stop and think about how easy it is to ingest or spread those chemicals around your home. You likely rub stain remover into the fabric with your fingers, breathe the tiny droplets when you spray, and wear clothes that have chemical residue clinging to them, even after washing.
You can get grease and plenty of other stains out of furniture, clothes, and carpet without using harsh, potentially dangerous chemicals. When you’re thinking about how to get grease out of clothes, skip the commercial stain remover—try these safe, proven stain treatments first.
How to Get Grease Out of a Shirt
From cooking oil to homemade gravy, it seems impossible to make it through the holidays without getting grease stains on your shirt. But you don’t have to let that oily stain ruin the holiday.
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If the grease stain is fresh, baking soda can save the day. Absorb excess grease with a clean, white cloth by gently dabbing the stain. Sprinkle baking soda on the stain and let it work on the grease for 10 minutes.
Scrape away the excess baking soda and grease with a butter knife. Sprinkle baking soda on the stain again and lightly scrub it in. When the baking soda turns brown, scrape it away and repeat the process until it no longer changes color. Finish up by washing the shirt as you normally would. You can substitute baby powder or starch and get the same results.
Getting grease stains out takes a little more work if they’ve dried and set in. Since you’re reactivating the stain, be careful not to let it spread or get on other parts of your shirt. Use one of our proven grease stain removers and follow these tips for how to get grease out of fabric:
Attack set-in grease stains while the fabric is still dry.
Working on an old grease stain is easier if you don’t wet the fabric, because oil and water don’t mix. The water saturates the fabric around the grease, leaving you with little room to work the grease out.
Use a backer material to treat both sides of the stain.
Putting a piece of cardboard or another backer between the stained fabric and the rest of your shirt will help contain the grease. Treat the stain on the outside and the inside of the shirt with the cardboard on the other side to contain the stain.
Scrape away excess grease residue.
Don’t rub or scrub grease stains before you remove excess grease, or you’ll only make them worse. Instead, scrape away as much grease as you can with a butter knife, being careful not to spread the stain.
Treat the grease stain with dish soap.
Liquid dish soaps bust through grease on your dishes, and they can do the same for your shirt. Apply a few drops of dish soap to the stain and let it soak in for five minutes. Gently rub the solution into the stain with your fingers or use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Wait another five minutes and move on to the next step.
Rinse and wash the shirt.
Rinse the grease stain area with warm water and machine wash the shirt. Add a natural bleaching agent like white vinegar for white shirts and use a color-safe laundry booster for colors.
Air-dry the shirt.
To complete your grease stain removal successfully, don’t throw the shirt in the dryer. It’s hard to tell if a stain is completely gone when the garment is wet. If there is any residue left, a dryer’s heat will set even the slightest remaining grease. Instead, air-dry the shirt. That way, you can repeat your stain treatment if the stain remains.
How to Get Grease Stains Out of Jeans
From chowing down at a holiday get-together to working around the house, getting grease stains on your jeans doesn’t have to be a big deal. If you notice you’ve gotten grease on your jeans, act fast. Dab up excess grease with a paper towel or clean cloth. Grab some baking soda and sprinkle it on the grease stain. Let it sit for 10 minutes to absorb the grease.
Scrub the baking soda into the stain with a soft brush. The baking soda will turn brown as it absorbs the grease and can be easily scraped off with a butter knife. Repeat the process until the baking soda stops changing color. Machine wash your jeans as you normally would.
If the grease stain on your jeans has already dried, follow these tips:
Scrape away any excess residue.
Scrape away excess dried grease with a butter knife. Scrape with and against the grain of the fabric to loosen the fibers and remove the grease residue more easily.
Rinse your jeans in hot water.
Although water and oil don’t mix, hot water can help melt the grease and make it easier to get it out of heavy fabrics like denim. Run very hot water over the grease stain on your jeans until it saturates the fabric. Turn your jeans inside out and repeat the process on the other side of the stain.
Scrub the grease stain with dish soap.
Pour a few drops of dish soap onto the stain and let it soak in for five minutes to break down the grease. Vigorously rub the solution into the stain with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Wait another five minutes to let the dish soap break down the grease further.
Rinse and air-dry your jeans.
Rinse the soap residue out and hang your jeans on a drying rack or clothesline. It’s tough to see if a stain has been completely removed on wet fabric, so skip the dryer. If there is any grease left, the heat from the dryer will set the stain. If you still see the stain after air drying, treating it again will be much easier since the stain hasn’t set.
If you’ve followed our advice for how to get grease stains out but the stain persists, you can use distilled white vinegar for more grease-cutting power. Vinegar is a natural degreaser and stain remover that’s safe on most fabrics, but it’s best to test an out of the way spot before using it on clothes.
Once you know your fabric won’t react to the vinegar, soak the stain with a mix of one part water and one part white vinegar. Add some baking soda and rub the solution into the fabric. The vinegar will break down the grease and the baking soda will act as a mild abrasive to lift the stain. After you get the stain out, launder your clothes as usual and air-dry (just in case!).
Check out our blog for other safe stain removal tips for wine stains, grass stains, and more. And now that you know how to handle grease stains without resorting to harsh chemicals, why not find out more about healthy cleaning?