how to get oil stains out naturally
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How to Get Oil Stains Out — Naturally

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Dec. 30 2020, Published 3:09 p.m. ET

Oil stains are some of the trickiest stains to treat. Unlike juice or wine stains, oil stains tend to go unnoticed at first. Often, it is only once the fabric has been washed that the stain actually reveals itself. According to cleaning experts, only the toughest detergents and chemicals are up to the job of lifting oil stains. But what if you don’t want to use harsh chemicals to wash your clothes? How do you get oil stains out naturally?

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how to get oil stains out naturally
Source: Getty Images

What causes oil stains?

Oil stains can be caused by a number of different oily culprits. Mayonnaise, salad dressings, cooking oils like canola or olive oil, butter, margarine, motor oil, gasoline, makeup, moisturizers, deodorant, and even the oil from our own bodies can all leave a lasting impression on our garments. You may not even notice the stain right away. It could look like a dark spot and “disappear” a bit later, only to return darker once you’ve put it through the wash. 

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How to get oil stains out naturally:

If you’re a fan of green living, chances are good that you’re not really into the “stain-lifting power of Detergent X.” These commercial cleaners might be effective, but that doesn’t mean that they’re good for you, your family, or the environment. Not only are they not eco-friendly, organic, or natural, they also tend to cost more than the natural options. So, we’ve compiled a list of natural remedies that are sure to lift those stains right out. 

how to get oil stains out naturally
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Distilled white vinegar

Distilled white vinegar does good work all around the home. As effective in recipes and salad dressings as it is for cleaning the microwave, vinegar also happens to work miracles where laundry is concerned. Despite its harsh odor, white vinegar is gentle on fabrics and safer to use than chlorine bleach

White vinegar is cheap and readily available. Just one cup of distilled white vinegar added to your the washing machine will leave clothes soft and smelling fresher than you might expect. You can also use it to spot clean an oil stain.

White vinegar is also quite effective at removing yellow underarm perspiration stains. It eliminates odors, which may sound odd, considering its own highly-pungent smell. It can even be used to eliminate odors inside your washer if run with a cycle all on its own. 

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Please note that not all vinegar work the same way for the same purposes. Cleaning vinegar is used specifically for certain messes, apple cider vinegar for certain recipes, and neither of these ought to be used on your laundry. And while we feel that we shouldn’t have to mention balsamic vinegar here, we will. Don’t try to remove stains with a dark, often viscous vinegar like balsamic. It is just going to make your problems worse. 

Baking soda

Baking soda, like its fizzy counterpart, vinegar, has 1,001 uses around the home, including baking, cleaning, and laundry. It’s inexpensive and can be bought at supermarkets, hardware stores, drug stores, and even some 7-Elevens. You probably don’t need to worry about buying it though, since it’s likely sitting in your kitchen cabinet or your fridge. If it’s in your fridge, you probably already know how effective it is at eliminating odors.  

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It turns out that baking soda can do the same thing for your laundry as well. Just a cup thrown in with your laundry can keep it smelling fresh and remove some of the most stubborn stains. If you do happen to use laundry detergent, baking soda can be a great and very green addition to your laundry routine. It boosts detergent performance, reduces suds, and softens fabrics. 

Lemon or lime juice

Acetic acid is a wonderful thing. It’s in vinegar, which we already mentioned is a natural powerhouse for stain lifting. It also happens to be in lemon or lime juice where it can act as an all-natural bleach alternative. Lemon or lime juice will help to whiten whites and lift even the toughest oil stains. But be warned, if you use lemon juice on colored clothing, you’re going to need to remove the juice quickly. If you leave it too long, the acetic acid will permanently discolor the fabric. Still, it’ll do in a pinch when trying to clean plain white T-shirts. 

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how to get oil stains out naturally
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Hydrogen peroxide

You probably have this one in your house as well. That iconic brown bottle is an essential part of many home first aid kits, but did you know that hydrogen peroxide has other virtues as well? Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidizing agent that can replace chlorine bleach when doing laundry. Unlike bleach, which can be harmful when flushed down the drain, hydrogen peroxide breaks down in the water, making it much more environmentally-friendly

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You don’t need any specific dilution for laundry, either. Experts actually recommend you stick with the same 3 percent solution sold in drug stores. It can work on more than oil stains as well. It can get rid of wine, nail polish, and sweat stains with equal efficacy. To use it, simply pour directly on the oil-stained area before washing the garment in warm water, either by hand-washing or in the washing machine.

how to get oil stains out naturally
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Table salt

Table salt is another multiuse household item that has been proven to be fairly effective on stubborn stains. It isn’t like hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or baking soda, though. Table salt is most effective as a mild abrasive for stubborn wine or rust stains. It might even be a great way to catch an oil stain before it can set. If you spill something, sprinkle liberally with table salt and let it stand to absorb the liquid. 

Once the salt has absorbed as much as possible, brush the salt away and wash the item. Be careful not to leave any of the dry salt on the fabric. You must wash the item after salting it, or you could wind up with white streaks on your still-stained clothing. 

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Cornstarch or talcum powder

The last item on this list can also be found in several places in your home. Just check under your bathroom sink or in your pantry and you might find a new and all-natural stain-remover that you never knew you had: Talcum powder, otherwise known as baby powder. Both talcum powder and cornstarch are absorbent powders that can lift the oil stain off a garment lickety-split.

Like table salt, though, talcum powder and cornstarch are only really effective if you catch the oil stain right as it happens. If you’re lucky enough to catch the stain in the act, simply sprinkle the talc or cornstarch onto the stain and wait at least 10 minutes. This should give the powder enough time to absorb the oil. Once it’s done, brush it off and wash or dry clean the fabric later as normal. It should be effective at keeping the stain at bay. 

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