ATK Reviews

I Got Grease Stains on My Favorite Shirt. What Should I Do?

Do these three things and grease will be gone (even if the stain is old).

Published June 20, 2022.

Picture me, happily cooking, wearing a favorite shirt. Big mistake.

If I really love it, that shirt is doomed. Basically, I’m wearing a target, and a lethal blot of grease will inevitably hit the bullseye. (Would this happen in a shirt I didn’t like and was looking for an excuse to get rid of? Probably not.)

Here’s the thing, though. I once tested laundry stain removers, so when that stain happens, I know exactly what to do. 

Sign up for the Well-Equipped Cook newsletter

Shop smarter with our ATK Reviews team's expert guides and recommendations.

Now I know you’re thinking you can just grab some basic stain remover and spray it on, but our testing proved that those products often don’t work. They use a grab bag of enzymes that act like a picky Pac-Man because each kind only gobbles up certain types of stains. 

Unless they’ve got an enzyme specifically for grease (look for lipase on the label), your chances are slim that any old stain remover will do the trick. 

Here’s what really works.

Step 1: Treat the Stain Right Away

Your first weapon: Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid Dish Soap. (Hey, it worked when my toddler put handfuls of greasy Vaseline in his hair. There’s a reason animal rescuers use it to clean animals after ocean oil spills.) I always have some in my kitchen. 

Pour a little soap right onto the spot, add a bit of hot water, scrub with your hands, then rinse well. (Don’t wait till the end of dinner to treat the stain. That just lets it settle in. You want to kick it right back out.) 

While a bit of Dawn dish soap sometimes does the trick all on its own to break up the grease, move on to step two anyway. This is a battle, and you need all of your defenses.

Buy the Best

Dawn Ultra, Original Scent

The nation’s top-selling dish soap product, this traditional liquid soap worked reliably through all our tests, requiring an average of 80 strokes to clean dishes and performing particularly well when we soaked dirty dishes in a sink full of its soapy water.

Step 2: Give the Shirt a Soak

All stain-removing products recommend you apply them to the stain and let them sit before laundering, to give their stain-fighting ingredients a little time to work (this is similar to letting your dishes soak to make them easier to clean). I know you just want to move fast, but believe me, it’s worth following this instruction; soaking made a huge difference to the outcome.  

Grab a bucket and fill it with hot water. Mix in a scoop of powdered laundry stain remover (our winner is OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover) and throw in the shirt. Swish it around, making sure it’s submerged. Leave it for at least 1 and up to 6 hours. Rinse well, and then move on to step three. 

Equipment Review

Laundry Stain Removers

Stain removers abound, all guaranteeing spotless results on the first try. The reality? When it comes to getting out stubborn food stains, almost none of them work.
Read Our Review

Step 3: Run the Shirt Through the Laundry

The final step? Launder the shirt as usual—whatever you typically use for laundry detergent is fine here. Just be sure to use the hot water cycle.

Before you put it in the dryer, check that the stain is gone, because hot air will encourage it to stick around. If it’s a particularly stubborn stain that is still there even after laundering, start from the top and repeat this whole process.

Uh-oh. I found an older stain on my clothes. Now what?

It's not always realistic that you find a stain right away. Sometimes you won't notice until laundry day. Never fear. Do the steps anyway, just as described (yes, that includes the dish soap step!). You may have to repeat the cycle more than once, but the stain will be gone. 

Those are the key steps. If you love that shirt, you’ll do what it takes. 

And next time you cook? Maybe consider an apron.

Photo credit: ThamKC via Getty Images

This is a members' feature.