5 Brilliant Tips for Removing Grease Stains from Clothing, According to Professional Dry Cleaners

published Aug 1, 2022
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person blotting an oil stain on a aqua t-shirt on white marble surface
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Grease stains happen to the best of us. Whether you’re enjoying a freshly fried french fry or a rogue spaghetti strand flicks sauce onto your favorite shirt, the good news is that a grease stain doesn’t have to result in a permanently soiled piece of clothing.

To get the scoop on the best tools and techniques for getting grease stains out of clothes before they settle in, we chatted with professional dry cleaners for their top advice. Here’s everything that we learned.

Credit: zulufoto/Shutterstock

1. Spring into action ASAP.

Act quickly! Get hot water on the grease-stained area and start dabbing. If that doesn’t get rid of the stain, move on to dish soap, laundry detergent, or baking soda, suggests Austin Miller, president at SPRUSE, which offers cleaning services. “This is typically time-sensitive due to the nature of grease,” he says. “Once it settles and dries within the fibers you’re only making the task at hand more difficult.” 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

2. Break out the dish soap.

The key to removing a grease stain is to break down and separate the oil molecules so that you can flush it out with water in combination with a mechanical action, such as dabbing or lightly scrubbing.

To do this, Dan Miller, founder of Mulberrys Garment Care, recommends applying dish soap to the stain, letting it soak in for a second, then rubbing it in with a small scrub brush. 

3. Be patient, and let it sit.

Some initial scrubbing is good to break up some of the grease and work in the dish soap, but letting it sit is also super important. Before washing, Miller lets the dish soap sit on the stain for 15 minutes, which gives the soap time to break down the oil. You can also use a steam gun to accelerate the process, as Miller demonstrates in a YouTube video

4. Try enzymes.

Say what? If your dish soap doesn’t do the trick, Miller recommends using products containing enzymes that break down oil. Enzymes such as lipase (which is particularly good at removing oils) can be found in stain removers and detergents.

He recommends checking the label to see which enzymes are in a specific product. Rub in the enzyme with a small brush, making sure it fully penetrates the fiber, and give it time to break down the oil as you would with dish soap.

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

5. Move your brush in the direction of the clothing’s threads. 

Okay, here’s a really important tip! Rick Rome, principal of WashClub NYC, notes that successfully removing stains depends on the type of clothing you are cleaning. Firmer, more rigid fabrics allow you to really get in there with a brush, but more delicate fabrics like silk require extra care to prevent from stretching the microfibers.

When tackling stains, Rome sticks to old-fashioned baking soda and vinegar, and depending on the material, uses a toothbrush or a firmer bristle brush to work it in. “You want to move the brush in the same direction as the threads in the clothing, if possible,” he says. A quick dabbing motion can be helpful for more delicate fabrics.

How do you get tough grease stains out of your clothing? Tell us your laundry secrets in the comments below.