I Tried 5 Ways to Get Grease Stains Out of Clothes — Here’s How It Went

published Apr 1, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Grease stain on a blue jersey
Credit: Matthew de Lange/Getty Images/iStockphoto

It doesn’t matter if you’re a dainty diner or an enthusiastic eater: Grease will eventually find its way onto a piece of your clothing. Be it by bacon or a delicious vinaigrette, it will find a way, and attempt to claim your clothing for the dark side of the closet. Because it can be so hard to lift a grease stain — and everyone seems to have a recipe for what works best — I decided to put five popular methods to the test. The good news is that one method really stood out, and a very, very close combo platter took second place. Let’s take a look.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Design: The Kitchn

How I Tested the Different Methods

I tested five similarly sizable splatters of bacon grease on a 100 percent cotton dress shirt. I waited 15 minutes for each stain to set (I used that time to eat the bacon!) and then got to cleaning.

The ratings: Each method received a rating of one to five, with five being the best method overall and one being the least favorite method. Along with the rating you’ll find notes on how easy or difficult the method was, how much elbow grease it took (pun intended), and how much time it took to remove. 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Grease Cleaning Method: Hairspray 

  • Total time: 30 minutes (active time: a few seconds of spritzing)
  • Rating: 1 / 5

The method: Lay the soiled clothing on a paper towel and saturate the stain with hairspray. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then launder in hot water. If you can still see the grease stain, spray again and let sit for another 30 minutes. Do not dry the item until the stain has been lifted.

How it went: I saturated the stain with TRESemme non-aerosol hairspray and let it sit for about 30 minutes. According to my research, I should have started to see the stain lift at that point. Because the area was saturated, though, it was difficult to tell if what I was seeing was grease or hairspray — so I went ahead and laundered it in hot water. After removing it from the washing machine, it looked as if the stain was completely gone, but the fabric was wet (clearly), so it was actually hard to tell. I went ahead and tossed it in the dryer. Mistake! I was bummed to learn that the stain hadn’t lifted much at all and I had set it into the fabric deeper. Out of all the methods tested, this was the least effective. 

I could see how you might use this method if you’re out and about and need something to intercept the stain until you can launder your clothing, but I wouldn’t recommend hairspray being your only line of defense. Definitely use dish soap, or a stain-fighting agent to spot treat your garment before laundering at home. (More on this below.)

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Grease Cleaning Method: Chalk 

  • Total time: 15 to 20 minutes (active time: a few seconds) 
  • Rating: 2 / 5

The method: Rub chalk over a grease spot and let it absorb the oil, then brush the chalk off and launder. If stain persists, continue rubbing chalk on the fabric until the stain lifts. The idea is that the chalk will absorb the oils that hold dirt in. 

How it went: I definitely saw the chalk absorb the grease (it turned brownish and got gross pretty quickly), but I also noticed that rubbing the chalk seemed to move the stain around and make it bigger. Once the shirt came out of the washing machine, it looked like the stain had disappeared, but once it was dry, the stain was clearly visible. 

I might use this method as a Band-Aid of sorts, to absorb the grease stain until I could take the clothing item home and properly treat it with a stain-fighting agent, but would not recommend chalk on its own to fight grease stains. 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Grease Cleaning Method: Dish Soap 

  • Total time: 10 to 30 minutes (active time: seconds to squirt)
  • Rating: 3 / 5

The method: Squeeze a dab of dish soap onto the stain and let it sit for 15 minutes or so. Place the stained garment in the washing machine and once the cycle is finished, check to be sure the stain has disappeared. If you don’t see it you can transfer the item to the dryer; if the stain persists, repeat with more dish soap. 

How it went: I dabbed the dish soap right over the stain and let it sit for about 30 minutes before popping it into the washing machine on hot. (More time is better than less time, right?) Once the cycle was finished, I held up the wet cloth and couldn’t see the stain anymore, so into the dryer it went! I pulled it out of the dryer with high hopes (dishwashing detergent is a degreaser, after all!) and was disappointed to find that the stain hadn’t completely disappeared. It did work at removing quite a bit of it, but I think it’s necessary to first soak up the grease with baking soda (see below), then treat it with dish soap. (I used Dawn by the way!) 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Grease Cleaning Method: Baking Soda 

  • Total time: 6 to 12 minutes (active time: 1 to 2 minutes) 
  • Rating: 4 / 5

The method: Sprinkle baking soda on a fresh stain and let it absorb the grease for 5 to 10 minutes. Next, use a brush (a toothbrush or a clean kitchen brush would be great) and scrub the baking soda into the stain. Once the powder changes to a brown color, scrape it off and repeat until the soda no longer changes color and the stain is lifted. 

How it went: I sprinkled the baking soda on the stain in a nice little mound and let it sit, undisturbed, for about 10 minutes. I shook the excess soda into the sink, grabbed my cleaning toothbrush, and started scrubbing. I definitely saw the baking soda turn a dingy brown color, so I scraped it all off, poured more soda on the stain and let it sit for 15 more minutes. After the second pass there was so much baking soda pressed into the fabric that I really couldn’t see much of the stain at all, so I went ahead and popped it into the washing machine on hot. 

When the shirt came out of the wash I couldn’t see any of the stain at all, so I happily chucked it into the dryer, feeling victorious. Once out of the dryer it looked like the stain was completely gone — until I took a photo of it with my phone, then I could see the faintest ghost of the stain. I was still really happy with this method, but think it could be perfected if used in combination with Dawn dish soap, after the baking soda step. It’s definitely the best/least harsh method! 

Credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani

Grease Cleaning Method: Salt + Stain Remover

  • Total time: 1 to 5 minutes (active time: a few seconds) 
  • Rating: 5 / 5

The method: Immediately sprinkle salt on the grease stain (it works like baking soda to absorb the grease). After the salt absorbs the grease for a few minutes (or once you make it back home) use Shout Advanced Grease-Busting Foam as a spot treatment before laundering the garment in hot water. As always, make sure the stain is gone before drying the garment. 

How it went: In almost every sort of light, the stain looked like it’s completely gone. Even when photographed there’s just the slightest, faintest ghost shape of the stain. This method worked just a bit better than the baking soda method, although I’m not sure how effective the salt really was.

I liked this method so much, I also tried it on a yellow dinner napkin. I noticed that, once again, the grease came out, but it emerged from the dryer looking a bit worn, which tells me that this treatment is pretty harsh. I’m giving this the highest rating because it did the job and I would 100 percent use it again. But only on an all-white garment. I would not recommend using it on black, or anything colorful.

Also, if you hesitate to use extra chemicals or products in your household, go with the Dawn and baking soda combo.

Do you have a method for lifting grease stains out of clothing? Tell us about it in the comments below.