How to remove car oil and mechanic grease from your clothes top methods from real mechanics

How To: Remove Car Oil & Mechanic Grease Stains

How To: Remove Car Oil & Mechanic Grease StainsRemoving Car Oil and Mechanic Grease Stains Top Methods:

Working on cars means you are bound to get your clothes dirty. Hopefully, you remember to change into your mechanic coveralls or at least some junky pants and a shirt.

You may be like me, and constantly forgetting to change into work clothes before diving under the hood of a car. I got tired of throwing away tons of clothes every year just due to a little splotch of oil or mechanic grease. So, I did a couple of thousands of hours of research (not thousands, but you know a couple hours) and I found some really cool tricks I couldn’t find anywhere else online.

The top methods for removing car oil and grease from your clothes are to:

  • Always presoak your oily clothes before washing. Never just straight wash oil-soaked clothes. 
  • Spot treat the really nasty oil spots by first drying out as much oil as possible with a paper towel or similar rag
    • Next, use a solvent of your choice
      • Professional technicians recommend Lestoil/Murphys Oil Soap, Odorless Mineral Spirits, or if you don’t have any of those you can use dawn dishwashing soap mixed with hot water. 
    • Work the solvent with a soft brush into the oily area. Keep doing this until the oil stain starts to disappear. Spot check for colorfastness with solvent first in a hidden part of the clothes. 
    • Soak the oily clothes in the solvent for a bit longer, then throw into the washer and run on the hottest setting possible. 
    • Add an extra rinse to your wash cycle.

removing car oil and grease lestoilHere are the top methods for removing car oil and grease from clothes in 2018:

  1. Minor stains: pre-soak grease-stained clothes in dish soap, oxy clean, or Lestoil the night before.
  2. Medium duty stains: Use a light brush, such as a toothbrush, to work the soap into the stain before leaving it to soak overnight.
  3. Heavy duty stains: Soak the stain directly in Lestoil cleaner. Work the spot with a brush, being sure to check colors for fastness. After a night-long soak, run the laundry on a regular wash cycle (or the hottest it can take) and add an extra rinse to make sure the Lestoil cleaner is totally out of the clothes.
  4. If you can’t find Lestoil, Odorless Mineral Spirits also work great. I use them interchangeably.
  5. Read my article on why Lestoil is better than pretty much every other cleaner out there for removing car oil and grease stains here.

If you’re like me, when you see a car oil spot on your shirt, you just throw it in the pile of your other oil ruined clothes. Well, it doesn’t have to be the last time you wear that nice shirt in a fancy setting. Don’t give up on it yet.

Just follow these tips from mechanics and their significant others on how to remove oil stains from laundry.

Out of everything I read and tried, using Odorless Mineral Spirits or Lestoil, and a soft brush works the best.

Steps to removing car oil and mechanics grease from your clothes

  • Blot the oil stain with a high-quality absorbent paper towel.
  • Keep blotting and using a clean paper towel until no more oil is transferred onto the paper towel.
  • Make sure you have Odorless Mineral Spirits available here (links to Amazon) or Lestoil Cleaner.
  • Using a toothbrush or soft brush dip the brush head into the OMS(Odorless Mineral Spirits)/Lestoil.
  • Scrub the oil stain with the toothbrush or other soft brush.
  • Do this over a paper towel so it catches the oil as the solvent cleans the fabric.
  • Is your oil stain on colors? Do less with the toothbrush and more blotting dry with the paper towel. Keep adding OMS/Lestoil
    •  Blot dry again, and repeat. Avoid scrubbing with the brush as this may cause the fabric to fade.  
  • You will always want to spot check for color changes with the OMS. Primarily if it is a very expensive piece of clothing. This is a do it at your own risk tip and trick. 
  • Keep applying more fresh OMS/Lestoil and keep working it on with the brush until the stain seemingly disappears.

How to remove car oil from clothesYou can stop here, rinse it (or normal wash cycle), and check to see if it worked. Or use this extra pro tip:

  1. Mix up some dawn dish soap and warm water in a clean dish.
  2. Repeat the same process with a clean toothbrush (or clean the last one).
  3. Rinse with water, and check for cleanliness. If the stain is still there use more OMS or Lestoil.
  • Super Pro Tip I learned from Screen Printers who want to remove ink from a misprint on a t-shirt etc.,: 
    • To really make short work of stains, grab one of these electronic spray bottles from Amazon and fill it with the OMS/or Diluted Lestoil.
    • It will spray high-pressure OMS/Lestoil through the stain to help work it out of the fabric. Think of it like a mini pressure washer full of a great cleaner for oil and grease.
    • My favorite electronic spray gun for getting stains out is this inexpensive one on Amazon. It will spray out a high-pressure fine spray allowing you to spray through the fabric and get the oil out fast.
  • Run the oil-soaked garment (now much cleaner) in the washer by itself on the hottest cycle it can withstand. Check if the stain is gone!

How to clean the washing machine after running a load of greasy clothes:

  1. Have a sideloading washer: fill it with as much boiling water as it can hold (through the opening) usually a 1/2 gallon or so.
  2. Add 1 cup of bleach directly to the water.
  3. Run the washer on the hottest cycle, with an extra rinse.
    1. Or if it has a tub cleaning cycle do that, and follow the instructions it calls for.
    2. You can also buy a specific washing machine cleaner here on Amazon (fresher / cleaner smell).
  4. The hotter the water in the washing machine the better the cleaning.
  5. Hope that your significant other doesn’t find out you washed your greasy clothes in the washing machine.

removing car oil from clothesDoes Coca-Cola work to get rid of grease and oil from clothes:

Answer: Yes, you can do it. But I don’t necessarily recommend it.

Some mechanics swear by doing a presoak of their oil-soaked clothes in coca cola overnight before washing in the washing machine.

The only thing I can say is to be careful and make sure the coca cola won’t change the color of your garment.

Or if you don’t care about the clothes fading a bit, just soak them in Coca-Cola the night before washing them. The acid in Coca-Cola does work well to break apart the grease.

However, Coca-Cola has nothing on the effectiveness of Odorless Mineral Spirits.

how to remove oil stains from clothesWhat is the best laundry detergent for oil-soaked clothes?

Permatex now makes a product specifically designed for mechanics and washing their clothes. It is called Permatex Fast Orange Grease X  (click to check reviews on Amazon).

Some people love it, others swear the only thing that is good about it is the citrusy smell.

It isn’t so much the laundry detergent, it is whether or not you allow the clothes to presoak. People have had amazing luck with using Oxy-clean to presoak garments.

Lastly, grab a tub of Oxy-Clean for super cheap here on Amazon.

Professional mechanics on Facebook were recently debating their favorite laundry detergent to use. A lot of people agreed that a hot pre-soak is necessary.

There was one laundry detergent whose name kept popping up again and again in the discussion.

Persil Liquid Detergent (links to Amazon). It seems to be some of the more heavy duty stuff on the market.

The main thing to remember is to catch the stain earlier. Treat it early. Presoak it. Use hot water. And a strong detergent.

Can you use dawn dishwashing soap on your clothes for oil stains?

Answer: Yes, you can use Dawn dishwashing soap for oil stains. This is the dawn soap (links to Amazon) made for professional kitchens most mechanics use and recommend. It works great. Make sure to buy something professional grade, as it has the strength to really cut through the oil.

Here are the steps to removing a car oil stain from your clothes using Dawn dish soap:

  1. Find the oil stain and dry as much of the oil out as you can with paper towels or clean rags
  2. Mix up some dawn dishwashing soap with some hot water (as hot as your fabric can take)
  3. Brush it into the stain using a soft brush (like this on Amazon) or an old toothbrush
  4. Rinse and repeat until the stain starts to disappear
  5. If it is a stubborn or old stain let it soak overnight in the dish soap hot water mix
  6. Run it through the laundry on the hottest setting the fabric can take. If you still have a stain use the method with Odorless Mineral Spirits outlined above.

How to remove Gearbox oil from clothes (trans fluid, differential fluid, etc):

Gearbox oil is one of the nastiest smelling oils you can find in a car. Fresh it smells bad, used it smells even worse. Like a fart mixed with an old egg. I don’t even know if that is giving it justice or not.

Also, it is a thicker oil than car oil and can be a real pain to get out of your clothes.

If you need to remove gearbox oil from your clothes follow these steps: 

  1. Attack the stain with the odorless mineral spirits and the paint sprayer immediately
  2. Do this by stretching the fabric over a bowl, or something so that it is stretched tight
  3. Then spray the OMS through the fabric so that it sprays the oil out the other side
  4. Keep cleaning until the stain starts to disappear.
  5. Soak the stained area in a dishwashing liquid, hot water, and a capful of Murphy’s Oil Soap (links to Amazon).
  6. Wash in your washing machine using the hottest water the fabric can handle and an extra rinse cycle.
  7. Air dry, repeat the process if necessary, and pray that the smell is gone!

Lifehack if you don’t want to spot treat the stain, and have too many oily clothes to wash:

  1. Add a capful of Murphy’s Oil Soap, or Lestoil Cleaner into your regular load of laundry (greasy clothes only)
  2. Add the same amount you always do of high-quality laundry detergent like this highly recommended Persil brand
  3. Do not add more than one capful of Murphy’s oil soap per a load of laundry or your skin will burn. 
  4. To be safe, run the washer on an extra rinse cycle. And if you feel your skin starting to burn or itch, take the clothes off asap.
  5. This tip comes from Johnny on the facebook forums for professional automotive technicians. He claims “one cap and you will be amazed at the results,” “two caps and you will have EVIL WICKED CROTCH FIRE.” So, please be careful with this one.
  6. If the washing machine has a greasy shine to it after washing your clothes follow the instructions above for cleaning the washer tub.

Can I use brake cleaner or carb cleaner on my clothes oil stains?

Answer: Yes, many mechanics swear by the use of brake cleaner and carb cleaner on their oil stains. However, the methods I described above will be less toxic and less expensive.

Here is how to clean your oily clothes with brake cleaner or carb cleaner: 

  1. Stretch the oil-stained part of your clothes over a bowl, cup, or pipe.
  2. Spray the stain thoroughly and let it soak for a bit
  3. Spray again side to side pushing the oil out the other side of the fabric
  4. Keep cleaning until the stain is gone.
  5. Run in a load of laundry like normal after the brake cleaner or carb cleaner has mostly dried (evaporated)
  6. If that didn’t work follow the steps above for sparkling clean mechanics clothes.

The best way to avoid greasy oily stains on your clothes that you care about is to wear coveralls when working on your car, motorcycle, or scooter.

Above all, I personally love wearing coveralls and some good high-quality gloves, because you will be clean after working on your car. 

Therefore, here are my recommendations for coveralls and gloves.

my favorite coveralls in 2018Best coveralls for working on cars in 2018:

  1. Dickies Premium Long Sleeve Cotton Coveralls W/ Front Pockets
    • I love that it has front pockets, and also a front zipper. The button coveralls are a pain in the butt and take forever to button up. Stick with a zipper and a pair that has pockets (these are zippered).
    • Free returns for 7 days after buying if they don’t fit you.
  2. Dickies Short Sleeve Stain and Wrinkle Resistant
    • Good if you work in a hot environment or for summer months
    • I prefer using a long sleeve coverall as oil tends to want to go down your arms while wearing a short sleeve coverall. If doing a lot of oil changes / working on the ground you will want the extra protection.
  3. It is best to have a couple pairs of both summer and winter coveralls. That way if you get one dirty, you can presoak it while you wear the clean ones. 

Finally, the top gloves to wear while working on cars in 2018 for oil changes and heavy-duty work:

  1. Grease Bully 6 Mil Nitrile Gloves (for all-around work / Disposable / Case of 100)
  2. If you do a lot of oil changes buy a reusable pair of long chemical resistant gloves like this pair:
    1. Grease Monkey PVC Coated Long Cuff
  3. Read my article on 3 must have safety products for working on cars here.

Also, to take your oil changes to the next level, read my article here on how to change the oil in your car as an airplane mechanic would.


Shopping list for a happy wife, husband, the mechanic in your family. Keep the laundry machine clean, and get those oil stains out fast:


Click here to read about my favorite 3/8″ ratchets that aren’t Snap-On here.

Or if you’re really enjoying this discussion of cleaners and soaps, read about how the ingredients of Lestoil allow it to be one of the top cleaners in 2018. It may have been created in the 1930s but it still runs circles around other cleaners.



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