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Home Remedies for Grease Stains

We tested no less than 16 home remedies for grease stain removal.

Search the Internet and you’ll find all sorts of home remedies for grease stain removal. We tested no less than 16 methods on white cotton T-shirts that we stained with 1/4 teaspoon of peanut oil and let sit for 5 minutes before treating. A number of the treatments are reputed to work as absorbents: Put them on the stain, let them sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour so that they can pull out the oil, and then brush them off and wash the clothing. None of the suggested absorbents we tried—cornstarch, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, talcum powder, or salt—worked very well. While they pulled some oil out of the fabric, they also caused stains to spread.

Even though they were long shots, we also gave some unusual treatments a fair shake: hair spray, WD-40, Coca-Cola, aloe vera, and even Cheez Whiz. These all claim to work for different reasons (Cheez Whiz allegedly contains oil-fighting enzymes, while the soda’s carbon dioxide and phosphoric acid are its purported keys to success). Sadly, none were successful, plus several also created stains of their own. Detergents and similar products were most promising. Lestoil, a concentrated cleaner that claims to remove clothing stains such as grease and tar, was a disappointment, while white bar soap (we used Dial) was only somewhat effective, likely because it was harder to work into the fabric. But shampoo (we used a type marketed for greasy hair) and liquid dish soap both worked effectively, on the fresh stains and on those that had sat overnight before treating.

For the best results, rub a clear liquid soap/shampoo into the fabric vigorously on both sides (a toothbrush works well) and let it sit for 15 minutes or up to 1 hour before rinsing thoroughly with cool water and air drying. Depending on how deeply set the stain is, you may need to repeat the process.

FUN, BUT FAILED: Unsurprisingly, remedies like Cheez Whiz and cornmeal only made stains worse.

A CLEAN LIFT: Shampoo and dish soap were impressive stain removers.

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