Oil or grease stains are not strangers to us. These stains are quite common in our day to day lives. It can be a grease stain from your vehicle or an oil stain in the kitchen. They can be very stubborn to remove, and some of them require extra care and tweaks.
One of the prevailing thoughts amongst users is that the oil from clothes is tough to remove. If you act quickly and rightfully, these stains are very easy to remove.
The Science Behind Oil Stain Removal
There are four different types of stains based on the core chemical in it. They are:
1. Enzymatic Stains – Blood or protein stains.
2. Particulate Stains – Dust and mud stains.
3. Oxidizable Stains – Juices, tea, and coffee stains (Bright-colored stains).
4. Oil or Greasy Stains – Fats (butter, oil) and grease stains.
Oil is a long chain of hydrocarbons and is hydrophobic (water-hating). The hydrophobic nature of the oil makes it difficult to wash it off as it does not dissolve in water.
Our clothing and oil are two chemically different entities which do not mix well resulting in stain formation. Since the oil does not mix up with water as well, it needs an extra effort to remove them.
To remove the oil from the clothes, you need to follow these basic steps:
Dissolve the stain using a hydrocarbon solvent (gasoline) or surfactant (detergent). The gasoline use for cleaning or removing oil stains is known as dry cleaning.
The soaps or laundry cloth cleaning solutions contain a hydrocarbon chain (head) and a hydrophilic (water-loving) end (tail).
The hydrocarbon chain bonds with the oil while the hydrophilic end bonds with water thus making the stain washable. The chemical which does this process is known as the surfactant, and the action is known as emulsification.
Breaking the Chain
Oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), Chlorine, or sodium borate (also known as Borax- Na2[B4O5(OH)4].8H2O) are used in breaking the hydrocarbon links simpler molecules. The simpler molecules are easily washable with water.
The above two steps are the common chemical steps used in many stain removing products. Once properly understood, it is easy to remove even the most stringent oil stains from clothes.
Different Methods for Removing Oil from Clothes
Not everyone has the luxury of access to all the chemicals needed to remove oil stains. Some of them are not available at the nearest stores while some don’t know how to use them.
There are other ways with which you can remove oil from clothes as effectively as the chemicals. These simple techniques can be done at home (DIY) effortlessly.
Before following any of the procedures below, read the fabric care label thoroughly.
Different fabrics need different types of care and washing. Inappropriate usage of home remedies may damage the clothing.
Some early steps will make the job easy. Following these simple steps will prevent further spreading of the oil on the clothing.
Talcum or Baby Powder
The talcum or baby powder is an excellent absorbent. They are very efficient in removing the fresh/wet stains. They suck up the stain as much as possible which makes the stain removal easy while washing.
Spread the powder over the stain and leave it in a warm place. After some time, dust off the powder or you can remove it with a dry cloth or paper. If you still see the stain, repeat the procedure.
For stubborn stains, you can keep the powder on the stain overnight. After cleaning the stain with powder, wash the fabric according to the garment label instructions.
This method is beneficial for delicate clothing as it does not involve any harsh chemicals.
If you don’t have the talcum powder or baby powder, you can use cornstarch or table salt.
Dishwasher or Dish Detergents
Dishwashers are effective in removing the grease or oil from clothes. They act as surfactants and emulsify the oil making the stain washable. Use any liquid dishwasher preferably non-colorful to remove the stain.
Pour the detergent liquid over the stain and leave it for a couple of minutes. Use a soft bristle toothbrush and rub the detergent in a circular motion on the stain gently.
Rinse the detergent with warm water. If you still see the stain, repeat the procedure.
After removing the stain, wash the cloth according to the instructions. This method of cleaning is useful for daily clothing.
Shampoos are also useful in removing the oil stains from clothes. Use any hair shampoo for this procedure. Take shampoo and add a few drops off in a bowl of warm water. Mix them well to produce the right amount of foam.
Apply this foam to the stain, and you can see the shampoo foam dissolving the stain. Repeat the procedure as many times as you can until the stain is gone completely.
You can directly apply the shampoo on the stain but make sure the foam reaches the stain. Wash the cloth according to the fabric care instructions after using the shampoo.
Vinegar is chemically acetic acid (CH3COOH). It is a mild acid and is used in various applications. It will act as an oxidizing agent and will break the hydrocarbon chain in the oil.
Do not apply vinegar directly to clothing as it will be difficult to get rid of the vinegar odor. Mix one part of vinegar to 2-3 parts of warm water.
Apply this solution on the stain and leave it for few minutes. Rinse the solution with warm water and see if the stain has gone.
Repeat the process if necessary and wash the fabric with your regular laundry detergent as per the safety instructions.
Baking soda (NaHCO3) is used widely in the cooking section. Apart from its uses in the kitchen, it has other wide varieties of applications. One of them is oil stain removing.
The baking soda (not to be confused with baking powder) is chemically an acid and reacts with water or wet solutions and releases carbon dioxide (CO2). It also acts as an absorbent of the stain.
Spread the baking soda generously on the oil. Leave it for few minutes so that it will absorb the stain as much as possible. Rinse it with warm water, or you can use vinegar.
The water and soda react with vinegar and releases carbonic acid (H2CO3). The carbonic acid is highly unstable and breaks into water and carbon dioxide.
The carbon dioxide gas is seen as effervescence, and this reaction will break the hydrocarbon chains in the oil stain into simpler and water washable molecules.
Ammonia (NH3) is a good grease breaker. It will break the hydrocarbon chains in the oil when used along with detergent or ammonia alone. Mix equal parts of ammonia and liquid soap in a clean bowl. Apply this solution to the oil.
You can use a toothbrush to scrub the solution on the stain. Wash off under running water and repeat the process if necessary.
Since ammonia has a strong pungent smell, it is advised to use it with caution. Avoid it if you are sensitive to strong odors.
Other oil removal methods include the use of commercially available stain or spot removers. These stain removers act similar to the mechanisms as mentioned above but they use a combination of two or more methods.
Some spot removers are available in the form of sprays. Spray the spot remover on the stain and leave it for few minutes until it sets.
Boil some water and place the cloth in a large sink. Pour this hot water on the fabric from as high as possible.
This method will physically (force of water) and chemically (spot remover) remove the stain. But this procedure is not suggestible for delicate clothing.
Baking powder can also be used for removing oil from clothes. It acts similar to baking soda, but the action is slow or delayed.
Watch The Video: How to Easily Remove Oil From Fabrics/Clothing
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What are the different absorbents for stain removal?
Talcum powder, baby powder, corn starch, table salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
2. What if the fabric care label mentions not to use any liquid detergents?
You can use hydrocarbon solvents such as gasoline. Professional dry cleaners do this, and you can give it to them for removing the stains.
3. Is it necessary to wash the cloth with liquid detergent or in the washing machine after stain removal?
It is a good practice to wash the cloth after removing the oil from the clothes. This procedure will remove the remnants of the chemicals used in oil removal and gives a pleasant odor to the fabric.
4. Are baking soda and baking powder the same?
They both are chemically different, but their mechanism of action is the same. Baking soda is a single chemical compound, i.e., Sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) whereas baking powder contains Sodium carbonate, acidifying agent, and drying agent.
5. Can we use any of the methods you have described for any clothing?
Nope. Some clothes are delicate and can be damaged if you use certain chemicals such as oxidizing agents. Before using any of the above methods, read the fabric care label properly.
Removing oil from clothes in different methods is quite easy if you understand the chemistry behind it. A simple procedure involving dissolving, breaking, and washing of the stain is the procedure involved in all methods.
Some home remedies will suffice for stain removal while some need professional care. Read the label of the solutions or stain removers before using them.
Some of them must be avoided for specific fabrics, and you find this information on the fabric care label.