To Remove Oil Stains from Clothing

We’ve all been there— you’re making your famous pasta sauce, dipping some delicious bread, frying up some chicken, or doing anything with oil, and you look down to find a big old stain on one of your favorite shirts. Or, even worse, you’ll be out and about, minding your business, and suddenly notice a stain that’s not only old, but super set. It’s so upsetting! Stains are never fun, but oil stains are particularly tricky and difficult to treat. It makes sense, then, that the Internet would be full of tips and crazy-sounding strategies for getting rid of them, but how do you know which ones are worthwhile and which ones are just a waste of time? By asking us! We decided it was time we tried all those oil-stain tricks for ourselves and found out once and for all which ones really work. Here’s how it went!

The Contestants

There are tons of oil-removing strategies floating around, but there were three in particular that kept cropping up on sites like Pinterest:

  1. Chalk
  2. Hairspray
  3. Aloe Vera

We also decided to try out a more traditional kind of stain removal strategy from one of our favorite cleaning mavens, One Good Thing By Jillee, involving a scrubbing paste made out of hydrogen peroxide, Dawn dishwashing liquid, and baking soda. We tried each strategy on a simple shirt that had been stained by a mix of soybean, canola and olive oils.


Using chalk to remove oil stains is one of the most popular tips we found, everywhere from Pinterestto Feminiya to Lifehack. The technique is simple:

  1. Grab a stick of white chalk.
  2. Rub it over the stain in long, strong strokes. Cover every bit of the stain.
  3. Allow the chalk to absorb the stain.
  4. Brush off the chalk. Repeat steps 2 through 3 if you think you need.
  5. Launder your clothing as you normally would.

The Verdict

This strategy works . . . not well. The stain is certainly lighter, enough so that if you don’t know to look for it, you might not notice it, but it’s definitely still there. Rubbing the chalk onto the stain wasn’t as easy as it sounds like it was going to be, and I felt like I was making a mess the entire time. Based on further Internet investigation, it seems like this trick might work better if you use it on a more immediate spill, but not so much for a set-in stain.


Another surprisingly popular, counterintuitive treatment that kept showing up was hairspray! The application is similar to the one used for chalk:

  1. Spray hairspray all over the stain.
  2. Rinse thoroughly.
  3. Allow to air dry.

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