How to Remove Gas Stains From Clothing

Getting gas or oil stains on your clothes can be annoying and frustrating. However, with the right techniques and products, you can often remove these stubborn stains completely. This article will provide tips and step-by-step instructions to help you effectively remove gas and oil stains from clothing.

Understanding Gas and Oil Stains

Gasoline, diesel fuel, lubricating oils and other automotive fluids can leave behind oily, stubborn stains. These stains occur because the chemicals in the fuels and oils break down and bond to the fibers in the fabric. The longer the stain sets, the harder it will be to remove.

Gas and oil stains often look similar – they are usually dark greasy spots. However, there are some differences:

  • Gasoline stains tend to feel slightly sticky or tacky to the touch. The stain may spread quickly through the fabric.
  • Oil-based stains feel smooth or slick, not sticky. Motor oil and other thicker oils may not absorb quickly into the fabric.
  • Diesel fuel stains feel oily but are thinner than engine oils. The stain often spreads in a ring pattern.

No matter the specific automotive fluid, these organic chemical stains can be challenging to remove completely once they set into fabric. Quick action is key!

Act Quickly for Best Results

The number one rule when removing gas or oil stains is to act fast. The longer the stain has to set, the harder it will be to remove. Ideally, you want to treat automotive stains immediately.

Steps to take quickly on fresh stains:

  • Blot the stain: Absorb excess oil or gas by blotting with a clean rag or paper towels. Don’t rub, which can grind the stain deeper into the fabric.
  • Apply stain remover: Spray on a pre-wash stain remover or apply a laundry pre-treatment stick. This will help break down the oil-based stain.
  • Wash in hot water: Wash in the hottest water safe for the fabric. Hot water helps lift and dissolve oil residue.

Even if you can’t pre-treat the stain right away, just blotting up any excess liquid can make a stain easier to remove later. Never rub a fresh spill, always blot gently.

How to Remove Old, Set-In Stains

Unfortunately, you will not always discover automotive stains before they have set into the fabric. Over time, oil and gas stains can become “baked” on through heat exposure or repeated washing and drying.

Set-in stains require a bit more elbow grease to lift. Here are methods to remove old, stubborn gas and oil stains:

Dish Soap

Dishwashing liquid is an effective degreaser that can cut through set-in oily stains.


  1. Apply a generous amount of dish soap directly on the stain. Concentrated dishwasher detergents work best.
  2. Using your fingertips, rub the dish soap thoroughly into the fabric.
  3. Let the dish soap sit for at least 30 minutes before laundering to allow the degreasing action to work.
  4. Launder as usual, using hot water if possible.
  5. Repeat as needed if any residue remains. The longer you let the dish soap soak in, the better it will lift oil.

Baking Soda

The alkalinity in baking soda helps saponify greasy stains. Make a paste with water and apply it to the stain before washing.


  1. In a small bowl, stir together 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water until a spreadable paste forms.
  2. Using a spoon or old toothbrush, cover the stain with a thick layer of the paste.
  3. Let the baking soda paste sit for at least 6 hours or overnight before laundering. This allows proper dwell time for the baking soda to work.
  4. Launder as usual with hot water. Wash twice if needed.
  5. Check that the stain is fully removed. If not, apply more paste and let sit overnight again.

Oxygen Bleach

Oxygen bleach products, like OxiClean, use the cleaning power of hydrogen peroxide to break down oil-based stains. Check the laundry label first, as oxygen bleach may discolor some fabrics.


  1. Make an oxygen bleach paste by mixing a scoop of powder with just enough water to make a spreadable consistency.
  2. Thoroughly work the oxygen bleach paste into the stain. Cover the entire area.
  3. Let sit for at least 8 hours before washing to allow full stain removal.
  4. Launder with hot water.

For heavy stains, you can also soak the entire garment in an oxygen bleach solution before washing.


Like baking soda, borax has alkaline properties that help remove set-in oil stains. Make a hot borax soak solution.


  1. Dissolve 1⁄2 cup borax in a sink or bucket full of very hot water. For heavy stains, use up to 1 cup borax.
  2. Soak the stained garment in the borax solution for at least 3 hours, longer for heavy stains.
  3. Rinse thoroughly after soaking to remove all borax residue.
  4. Launder as usual with hot water.

Laundry Booster + Hot Wash

For bad oil stains, a heavy duty laundry booster along with very hot water can help lift out the stain. Check care labels first, as high heat may damage some fabrics.


  1. Apply a heavy duty laundry booster, like Zout, Resolve, or OxiClean, directly to the stain according to package directions.
  2. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Wash in the hottest water safe for the fabric. For heavy stains, wash twice.
  4. Air dry in sunlight, which can help further disinfect and remove any residue.

With severe set-in stains, repeating treatments may be necessary. Always check the fabric care label for any temperature or bleach warnings. Polyester and acetate fabrics can be damaged by hot water or non-chlorine bleaches.

How to Remove Gas and Oil Stains from Specific Fabrics

The right stain removal method depends partly on the type of fabric involved. Here are some tips for removing gasoline, oil, and grease stains from specific fabrics:


Cotton is a very absorbent material that stains easily. However, cotton’s durability also makes it easier to treat tough oil stains more aggressively. Follow these methods:

  • Apply dish soap or laundry pre-treatment and wash in very hot water. For cottons, water up to 140°F can be used.
  • Make a baking soda or oxygen bleach paste and let dwell overnight before washing.
  • Soak in borax solution for a few hours before washing.
  • Use a laundry booster and wash multiple times in hot water if needed.
  • Wash twice with hot water and heavy duty detergent.

Cotton can stand up to repeated hot water washing and soaking. Bleaching with oxygen products is also usually safe, unless colored cotton. Just avoid chlorine bleach on cotton, which is too harsh.


Linen is another durable, stain-friendly fabric made from natural fibers. Use these approaches:

  • Rub dish soap into the stain and machine wash in hot water. Can use very hot water up to 140°F.
  • Make a borax soak solution and soak overnight before washing.
  • Apply an oxygen bleach paste and let dwell 6-8 hours before washing.
  • Use an enzyme-based pre-treatment product and launder.

Repeated washing in hot water can be used for linen. But avoid chlorine bleach, which is too harsh and may discolor.

Polyester and Poly-Blends

Polyester and poly-blend fabrics like poly-cotton require gentler cleaning methods. Take care to:

  • Blot fresh stains quickly and apply a pre-wash stain remover.
  • Wash in warm or hot water, but avoid water hotter than 120°F.
  • Use an oxygen bleach pretreatment or liquid detergent scrubbed into stain.
  • Rinse thoroughly after using any chemical treatments.

High heat and harsh bleaches can damage synthetic fabrics. Milder cleaners and lower temperature washes are safest. Check labels.


Wool and wool-blend fabrics require the most delicate stain removal methods. Take care to:

  • Blot excess liquid immediately. Avoid rubbing.
  • Use a gentle enzyme-based pretreatment or stain stick only.
  • Wash by hand in cool water with gentle detergent. Or dry clean.
  • Never wash wool in hot water. Use only cool to lukewarm water.
  • Do not use oxygen or chlorine bleach. Do not soak wool.

With wool, always use the gentlest stain removal products and washing methods to avoid damaging the fabric.


Like wool, silk needs a very gentle approach to avoid damage:

  • Blot excess liquid right away. Do not rub harshly.
  • Apply a small amount of mild liquid dish soap or shampoo to stain.
  • Gently rub soap or shampoo into stain. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Wash by hand in cool water with a mild detergent. Or dry clean.
  • Do not use hot water, chlorine bleach, borax, or oxygen bleach.

Silk fibers are easily broken down by harsh cleaners or high heat. Mild liquid dish soap is usually the safest bet for silk stains.

Leather and Suede

Leather and suede require specialty cleaning methods:

For leather:

  • Blot excess oil immediately with clean rag. Avoid rubbing.
  • Use a small amount of mild saddle soap, rubbing gently onto stain.
  • Rinse thoroughly and air dry leather out of direct sun.

For suede:

  • Blot stain gently without rubbing.
  • Use suede cleaner and soft brush to lift stain.
  • Rinse suede brush thoroughly and air dry suede out of direct sun.
  • For stubborn stains, seek professional suede cleaning.

Leather and suede typically need specialty leather cleaners. Avoid household cleaners that may discolor. Professional cleaning is best for severe stains on leathers.

How to Remove Specific Automotive Stains

The exact auto fluid spilled can also influence the best stain removal techniques:

Gasoline Stains

For fresh gasoline spills on fabric:

  • Blot promptly to soak up excess gasoline.
  • Apply dish soap mixed with warm water and sponge onto stain.
  • Rinse thoroughly after washing.

For dried gas stains:

  • Use baking soda paste and let dwell overnight before washing.
  • Scrub with laundry pre-treatment booster before washing.
  • Wash multiple times in very hot water if fabric allows.

Gasoline dissipates quickly but leaves an oily residue as it evaporates. Act fast on fresh spills. Use hot water and degreasers for set-in stains.

Oil Stains

For slick oil spills:

  • Blot gently to soak up free oil. Avoid smearing.
  • Use a laundry stick on fresh stains before washing.
  • Dab corn starch onto stain to absorb oil, then brush off.

For dried oil stains:

  • Make an oxygen bleach paste and let sit before washing.
  • Use dish soap or borax solution as a pre-soak for heavy stains.
  • Scrub with a small amount of vinegar before washing.

Thicker oils may not absorb as quickly. Corn starch can help draw out oil from fabric. Oxygen bleach and degreaser pre-treatments work well on set-in oil spots.

Diesel Fuel Stains

For fresh diesel spills:

  • Blot promptly to absorb excess fuel. Diesel spreads quickly.
  • Spray pre-wash stain remover if available.
  • Launder in hot water. Use multiple wash cycles if needed.

For dried diesel stains:

  • Apply baking soda paste and allow to dwell overnight before washing.
  • Soak in a borax solution for a few hours before washing.
  • Use heavy duty laundry booster and wash with very hot water.

Diesel fuel is lighter than oil but still leaves a tough stain. Borax and baking soda pastes help lift out that dark diesel stain over time.

Grease Stains

For fresh grease stains:

  • Gently scrape off any excess grease with a dull knife.
  • Blot up free grease carefully with paper towels.
  • Apply dish soap directly on the stain.
  • Rinse dish soap thoroughly before washing.

For dried grease stains:

  • Rub dish soap, laundry pre-treatment or baking soda paste into the stain.
  • Let solution sit for 30 minutes to overnight before washing.
  • Launder using hot water and heavy duty detergent.

Grease is thicker than automotive fluids. Use a dull knife to lift off any excess grease before applying a degreaser.

Laundering Tips for Stubborn Gas and Oil Stains

Once you have pre-treated or soaked the stain, follow these tips when machine washing items with lingering gas, oil or grease stains:

  • Wash in the hottest water allowed for the fabric. This helps dissolve oil residue.
  • Use a heavy duty laundry detergent, which contains stronger surfactants to remove oil.
  • For heavy stains, wash the garment twice. Stains often release more trapped oil the second wash cycle.
  • If stains remain after washing twice, do not dry the item. Repeated washing while still damp provides the best chance for full stain removal.
  • Add borax or baking soda along with laundry detergent. Their degreasing boost helps remove the last traces of oils.
  • Use an oxygenated bleach in the wash cycle for extra whitening and degreasing action.
  • Air dry the washed item in direct sunlight if possible. The sun’s UV rays help break down any remaining oil stain residue.
  • Inspect carefully when the garment is fully dry. If any faint stain remains, spot treat that area again before washing once more.

With repeated wash cycles, the right detergents, and proper drying, even the most stubborn oil and grease stains can eventually be removed from washable fabrics.

How to Remove Stains from Car Upholstery

Oil and gasoline stains aren’t just a laundry problem. Car seats and upholstery are also prone to soaking up hard-to-remove automotive fluid stains when spills occur. Use these methods to remove gas, oil and grease stains from auto upholstery:

Blotting and Cleaning Sprays

For fresh spills on car fabric:

  • Immediately blot the spill with paper towels to absorb excess liquid. Avoid scrubbing or smearing.
  • Spray a dedicated auto upholstery cleaner directly onto the stain if available.
  • Gently dab the sprayed area with a clean cloth. Avoid heavy scrubbing.
  • Allow upholstery to fully air dry before using seats again.

Upholstery cleaner sprays help lift fresh spills from car fabrics quickly and easily. Read labels to confirm they are safe for your specific car interior.

Baking Soda

For more dried-on stains:

  • Liberally sprinkle baking soda directly over the stained area.
  • Let the baking soda sit for 6-12 hours to absorb oils.
  • Use a soft brush to gently work the baking soda into material.
  • Vacuum the area well to remove baking soda and lift stained material.

Similar to laundry uses, baking soda can help degrease and lift stubborn oil stains from car upholstery over time. Just allow proper dwell time before vacuuming.

Dish Soap

Dish soap is a versatile degreaser for car upholstery too:

  • Mix a few drops of clear dish soap into a spray bottle filled with warm water.
  • Lightly spray or blot soapy water directly onto the fabric stain.
  • Gently work the dish soap into the stain with a soft brush or sponge. Avoid scrubbing.
  • Blot with clean towels to soak up soapy residue.
  • Air dry fully before using upholstery.

Use care not to oversaturate the car fabric with excess water. Dish soap can cut through greasy films left behind by gas and oil.

Professional Upholstery Cleaning

For older, deeper set upholstery stains:

  • Seek professional upholstery cleaning at a car detailing shop.
  • An extractor machine is used to thoroughly scrub stained areas and lift out embedded grime.
  • Stains are pre-treated with commercial degreasing solutions.
  • Extraction also flushes away any soap or chemical residues.

Professional extraction cleaning provides a deeper clean for upholstery with excessive staining or soiling. This service is available at most car detailing businesses.

How to Stop Stains from Setting

While removing stains can be a chore, you can take some simple steps to help prevent gas and oil spills from permanently staining your clothes and upholstery in the first place:

  • Wear an apron or old clothes when handling automotive fluids or greasy car parts. Better the apron gets stained rather than your good shirt or pants.
  • Place cardboard or paper on the floor or seats when doing automotive work or maintenance. This protects from drips and collects most spills.
  • Keep rags or paper towels handy while working near vehicles. Promptly blot any spills on fabrics before they absorb and spread.
  • Mix automotive fluids carefully and avoid overfilling tanks and reservoirs to prevent spillovers. Work slowly and carefully.
  • Transfer used oils and fluids into sealed containers right away. Never leave oily ra