How To Remove Motor Oil Stains From Clothing

Have you ever wondered how to remove motor oil stains from clothing?

Whether you’ve been working on a car, close to someone else who was, or just in the wrong place at the wrong time, it’s helpful to know how to get those pesky motor oil stains out of your clothing because you’re going to keep getting them on there.

The more quickly you tackle a motor oil stain, the better your chance of successfully cleaning it with fewer steps.

So, if you do know what to do, you’re already saving yourself a bunch of time, money, and trouble right there, and you’re saving much more by using common household products!

Whether or not you already know how to get motor oil stains out of clothing, if you’re willing to learn a few different steps, you’ve come to the right place!

Items You’ll Need

In this section, we’ll list and discuss the common household items you’ll need to remove motor oil stains from clothing.

Additionally, we’ll provide any alternatives as possible options for items, if applicable.

Plastic Spoon

A plastic spoon or similar utensil will be used to initially scrape off as much of the motor oil from the stain as possible.

Paper Towels (Or Alternatives)

Paper towels or another absorbent material, such as a napkin, cloth, or towel will be used to blot at the motor oil stain to soak up any excess oil.

I’ve found that these microfiber cleaning cloths work best.

Absorbent Powder

An absorbent powder, such as baby powder, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, or something similar, will be used to soak up any motor oil remaining in the stain.

Liquid Dish Soap (Or Alternatives)

A liquid dish soap, preferably a grease-cutting alternative such as Dawn or Ajax, shampoo, bar soap, etc. will be used to clean motor oil out of the stain.


Water, warm or hot, will be used with various soaps to clean the stain.

Clean Cloth

A clean cloth, nail brush, old toothbrush, small scrub brush, or towel, etc., will be used to rub the various cleaning agents and solutions into the stain to clean it.

White Vinegar

White vinegar will be used either as a rinse or mixed with water as a pre-soak solution (one-part vinegar with two-parts water).

I really like this brand that I found on Amazon.

WD-40 or Lighter Fluid

WD-40, or even lighter fluid, will be used, if necessary, to clean more stubborn motor oil stains on clothing.

Pro Tip:

Be careful when using lighter fluid not to be near any open flames or other heat sources, as this has the potential to be extremely dangerous.

Laundry Detergent (Liquid and Powder)

Laundry Detergent will be used to launder your clothing, as usual, taking care to follow instructions on the care label.

Step By Step Instructions For How To Remove Motor Oil Stains From Clothing

#1 Remove Any Excess Oil

Using a plastic spoon, scrape off any excess motor oil from the stain.

Next use a paper towel or another absorbent paper cloth or towel to blot at the stain soaking up any remaining motor oil or engine oil taking care to get as much as possible.

#2 Apply Absorbent Powder

Apply a generous amount of an absorbent powder from the items list to the motor oil stain and let it sit for 5 minutes up until overnight, soaking up as much of the oil from the stain as possible.

Wipe or brush away the powder being careful not to get it anywhere else on the fabric.

#3 Liquid Dish Soap

Place a few drops of liquid dish soap, or an alternative from the items list, on the stain, followed by a few drops of water, working them into the stain with your thumb and finger.

Using an old toothbrush or a nail brush, rub the soap into the stain in a circular motion on both sides of the fabric to help loosen up the motor oil.

Launder the clothing as usual, following the garment care label exactly.

However, only air dry until you’re certain the stain is completely gone, as heat from the dryer will only set the stain into the fabric, causing it to be much more difficult to remove.

Repeat these steps until the stain is gone or for an extra kick, optionally incorporate step #4.

Otherwise, if you have a more stubborn stain, move on to step #5.

Pro Tip:

Be sure to work at the stain from both sides of the fabric, inside and outside.

#4 White Vinegar (Optional, If Necessary)

White vinegar is a natural cleaning agent, which may optionally be incorporated into step #3 either as a garment rinse between the dish soap treatment and laundering or as a diluted pre-soak solution before the dish soap treatment.

To use white vinegar as a rinse, in step #3 immediately after scrubbing, rinse the stained area with water
first, then, optionally, follow with a vinegar rinse before proceeding to launder.

To use white vinegar as a diluted pre-soak solution, in step #3, the first thing to do is prepare your vinegar solution from one-part white vinegar mixed with two parts water.

Soak the stained clothing in the white vinegar and water solution for 5-10 minutes, then rinse out the vinegar and proceed with step #3 in its entirety.

#5 WD-40 Or Lighter Fluid (If Necessary)

If your stain is proving more difficult to remove, a more drastic stain removal technique is to use a little WD-40 or lighter fluid on the stained area of your clothing.

Before proceeding, it’s a good idea to do a spot test on your clothing to make sure there aren’t any ill effects due to the nature of these products.

To perform a spot test:

Apply a drop of WD-40 or lighter fluid to a hidden or inconspicuous area of the clothing.

Let it sit for 1 minute, then rinse with water and blot it dry with a clean towel.

If there’s no change, you should be able to safely use the product on the clothing.

If there’s a change, discontinue use of the product and use something else.

Apply some WD-40 or lighter fluid to the stained area of your clothing and let it sit for 20 minutes.

Wash out the WD-40 or lighter fluid by thoroughly soaking your clothing in warm water.

Launder your stained clothing, alone, with laundry detergent, according to the instructions on the care label.

However, only air dry until you’re certain the stain is completely gone, as heat from the dryer will only set the stain into the fabric, causing it to be much more difficult to remove.

Commonly Asked Questions

Is it a myth, or is it possible to remove motor oil stains from clothing using Coca-Cola?

Some people swear on their lives by the Coca-Cola method of stain removal, even when it comes to removing motor oil stains from clothing.

They treat and set a motor oil stain with Coca-Cola, and the stain gets removed.

Of course, Coca-Cola also leaves marks on the clothing as it’s not a clear substance, but they come out after washing, hopefully taking the stain with it!

Are there any good degreasers which can be used to pre-treat motor oil stains on clothing?

Yes, there are several, all of which can be easily found in places like hardware stores, Walmart, Target, and Amazon, etc.

Pre-treat your motor oil stain with the degreaser, but be sure to check your clothing care label to make sure they’re compatible, before laundering as usual and air drying.

Here are one or two I’ve seen good results with, and I also found them on Amazon with great ratings and reviews:

Goo Gone All-Purpose Cleaner – Removes Dirt, Grease, Grime, and More.

Multi-Surface – Use to remove dirt, dust, grease, grime, and goo.

Safe cleaner to use on metals, finished wood, sealed stone, glass, plastics, and fabrics.

De-Solv-it! Orange Sol Laundry Saver Stain Remover Spray

Removes baby stains, grease, blood, mustard, and more – even out of the dryer.

Don’t toss it – use De-Solv-it!

A new laundry saver for tough, after the dryer stains – it even doubles as an outstanding prewash on tougher stains.


Did you enjoy learning how to remove motor oil stains from clothing?

Instead of throwing them into the trash or the rag pile, you’ll now be able to salvage your motor oil-stained clothing – without too much trouble and without too much cost, using a few different methods and steps along with a few common household items!