Reliable way to remove a stubborn grease stain

In the course of my over 30 years in dry cleaning, I was asked a lot of questions. A LOT!!

The most common one by far was…… Can you get this stain out?

Typically this question was asked when the customer had already tried every home remedy they could think of, or it was an expensive garment they didn’t dare risk trying to spot or clean on their own.

The most difficult common stain to remove is food grease. You know the ones, they are “not there” when you put them into the wash and then magically appear when you are folding them up out of the dryer.

The typical dry cleaning solvent will generally take these pesky troublesome spots out with little effort. The petroleum base solution works wonders of grease stains. But what about a home remedy for the every day cotton or polyester blend items?

The reason the dry cleaning solvent works so well is because of it’s petroleum base. So, in order to try this at home, you need to use a petroleum base product you have on hand. A couple that I have tried and used are WD-40 and lighter fluid. Ok, this sounds a little scary, but a few drops will do the trick.

Here are the supplies you will need to tackle those food grease splatters from cooking or the accidental spill at dinner.

  • 1 piece of cardboard
  • a few Q-tips
  • WD-40
  • baking soda
  • Dawn dish soap

Slide the piece of cardboard in between layers of fabric, leaving it directly under the area of the stain. Pour a dab of the WD-40 (or lighter fluid) onto a Q tip and gently tap the affected area of the garment. You may need to do this a few times depending on how saturated the Q tip gets. This just gives you a little more leverage in the amount of WD-40 that gets applied. Applying too much will result in a much larger spot you will have to take care of later. You can also use an old toothbrush for larger coverage of a larger area. You want to make sure to cover the entire stain.

Apply the WD-40 to each stain, making sure the cardboard is safely between the layers of fabric. After the WD-40 has had a chance to work, approximately 3 minutes, you will then sprinkle baking soda onto the area you just applied the WD-40 to draw the petroleum base liquid out of the garment. Sometimes I will use a toothbrush to carefully work the baking soda into the fibers. .Add a few drops of water if desired to create a paste to work into the material.

Next, to get rid of any excess baking soda on the garment, tap it over the sink. Finally, apply a few drops of dawn dish soap directly onto the stain area. The dish soap will also cut the remaining residue left from the WD-40. Remove the protective cardboard and rinse the affected area under cold water while gently massaging with your fingers. Wash and hang to dry.

If the stain did not come out on the first attempt, you will need to repeat the process again. If the garment goes into the dryer, the chances of the stain being set is higher. The heat of the dryer changes the chemical process that the stain undergoes when it dries. This will cause your stain to be nearly permanent.

This trick works best on cotton materials, but I have also had success with polyester blended fabrics and rayon as well. Depending on the age of the stain or how often it has been through the wash cycle, it may take more than one try. Just as with any spotting techniques, try an inconspicuous place first to make sure your color won’t be affected.

Happy Spotting!!! Hope this helps!!

jars with tooth powder and wooden toothbrushes
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Leave a Reply