We Asked a Laundry Expert if TikTok’s WD-40 Hack for Removing Oil Stains Actually Works

published Apr 5, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

If you catch them soon enough, many common stains are easy enough to get out. Oil or grease stains on your clothes, though — especially when they set into the garment after washing and drying — present another level of difficulty.

If you’re battling with an oily stain, and out of other options, a recent viral TikTok suggests a potential solution using a product you probably already have at home. 

According to the creator of the original audio (and tons of enthusiastic commenters), WD-40 is an easy and effective way to banish old, set-in oil stains from clothing. It sounds weird, but the creator says the hack works because it displaces the water in the stain (the “WD” in the name stands for “water displacement”). 


@melissadilkespateras I have tried so many tips! None have worked! Thank you! #laundrymaster #laundrygenius #cleaningtiktok #oilstains

♬ original sound – Melissa Dilkes Pater

Here’s the step-by-step breakdown, as seen in the video: First, you layer cardboard beneath the stain to avoid transferring oil to the back of the garment. Next, spray the WD-40 directly onto the affected area, cover it with baking soda, then drizzle dish soap onto it. (The creator appears to use classic blue Dawn dish soap.) Then, brush the stain out, and wash it in the laundry. It should be good as new!

While the steps could work in theory, laundry expert Patric Richardson, author of the book Laundry Love, says it may not be worth the risk: Using the TikTok hack on your clothes could actually result in a worse oil stain than when you started. 

Why You Should Not Use WD-40 To Treat Oil Stains

The first thing to know: On their own, the three recommended ingredients do make sense for dealing with oily stains. Oil is a great way to pull out oil — in fact, many common stain removers are oily — because it’s the same viscosity as the stain. Baking soda sometimes works to banish grease stains, too, but Richardson says it’s hit or miss. The soap is just there to wash away the greasy residue (that’s why oily stain removers contain surfactants, aka soap, not just oil).

The problem with this hack is that, according to Richardson, by the time the oil dries the baking soda won’t lift it as effectively, if at all. “What the WD-40 hack is trying to do is replace the oil from the stain with the WD-40, use the baking soda to lift the oil back out, then wash it away with soap,” he says. “They’re trying to use a scientific method, but it’s only a sometimes method — not an all-the-time method.”

Theoretically, the re-oiled stain could disappear, thanks to the baking soda. But, worst-case scenario, because you’re adding more oil to the fabric, you could also end up with an oilier garment than when you started — one that’s impossible to remove with other products. 

What to Use Instead

Instead of rolling the dice on making your clothes look worse, Richardson suggests treating fresh or old stains with oily soap, like Amodex. Let the stain remover sit on the affected spot for 30 to 45 minutes, brush the stain out with laundry soap, and run hot water over it to wash the soap out. “Then wash it normally as you would any other clothes,” he says.