how to get out grease and oil stains
All featured products are curated independently by our editors. When you buy something through our retail links, we may receive a commission.

No use crying over spilled ghee…or olive oil—here’s to to get grease and oil out of your shirt, tablecloth, or kitchen towels.

We’ve all done it. You’re whipping up a vinaigrette and get a little too enthusiastic with your whisking and suddenly there’s a splash of olive oil slowly seeping into the fabric of your favorite shirt. Or you’re eating perfectly buttered toast, only for it to slip out of your equally buttered fingers and land face down on your favorite tablecloth. Does one olive oil accident mean your shirt is now a rag? Should you whip the tablecloth off and run screaming to the dry cleaner? What can you do to make sure that oily stain doesn’t become permanent?

When it comes to food stains in the kitchen, in the inimitable words of Douglas Adams: Don’t panic. While oil and grease aren’t the easiest things to get out of clothing and kitchen linens, with some quick action and the right tricks and tools, even the most ominous-looking butter or oil stain doesn’t have to spoil your appetite.

Hawkins New York Stonewashed Linen Napkins, 4 for $72 on Food52

Don't be afraid to use lovely table linens.
Buy Now

One word of caution: Most of these tips work best on durable fibers like cotton or cotton blends. If you spilled something on a delicate fabric like silk or cashmere or a dry clean only ball gown, go talk to a professional. You can bravely DIY it, but don’t say we didn’t warn you. As always, make sure you check the fabric care label before washing your clothes.

Here’s How to Remove Oil and Grease Stains from Your Clothes or Kitchen Linens:

1. Act quickly. The longer the stain has time to set, the more stubbornly it will resist attempts to lift it.

2. Dab the stain with a paper towel or paper napkin to blot up as much oil, vinaigrette, or errant butter as possible.

3. Since you’re most likely in the kitchen when this cooking catastrophe strikes, work with what is close at hand: Dish soap. Dish soap is designed to break down fat and food that ends up on your dishes, so that same old-fashioned soap can also help get the oily splotches out of your clothing or napkins. Simply dab the dish detergent directly onto the grease stain. Let it sit for a few minutes. Don’t rinse it; go straight to washing the item according to the label, ideally with an enzyme-based liquid detergent. One note: When it comes to breaking down oil, petroleum-based detergents like Dawn are far more effective than eco-friendly alternatives. That’s why it’s the choice for cleaning up oil-covered birds.

4. If you don’t have dish soap or don’t want a wet spot on your shirt, grab some white flour or corn starch or even corn meal. Like in cooking, those dry powders can absorb grease on clothing or kitchen linens. Just pat some on the spot, let it sit and dust off the extra. Similarly, if a chicken-fried feast left some memories on your tablecloth, RD.com recommends heading to the craft room for white chalk. Rub chalk on the grease spot, let it soak in, brush off the extra, and enjoy your dinner. Once you are ready to wash, head to step 5.

5. When you are ready to wash, make sure you check the fabric care label before washing your clothes. Then run the washer with the hottest water your garment can tolerate and ideally use an enzyme-based liquid detergent. Unload your laundry as soon as the cycle is finished. Do not dry the garment until you check it to see if your spot removal worked. If the stain is still there, start over with dish soap and another cycle in the washing machine.

Related Video: Are You Using Too Much Oil in Your Vinaigrette?


Header image courtesy of GoodLifeStudio / E+ / Getty Images

See more articles