How to Use Acetone to Remove Grease Stains

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I read in your book about using acetone to remove grease or oil stains from clothes, but it just mentions it in a list of items one might use. Can you please elaborate on this? I am forever ruining knit shirts with food stains, as is my son (although, in his case he can still wear them. I think teaching with a big oil spot on my blouse looks pretty hideous.) Oftentimes I don’t realize it until after I’ve washed and dried them, so the cornstarch idea seems irrelevant at that point. Would you put acetone right on the fabric or is there a special way to do this?

Signed,
Greasy in Great Lakes

Heather says:

Remember the Home-Ec 101 Code of Stain Removal – Always test in an inconspicuous area.

Acetone is a solvent and is excellent for getting out grease stains on some colorfast fabrics. However you must never use acetone on modacrylic, acetate or triacetate. Acetone will dissolve these materials, sure you won’t have a stain, but you won’t have much of a garment left, either.  Use caution when using acetone on silk, wool, and other natural hair fibers as these can be damaged by the solvent.

Please keep in mind that acetone is flammable. I know we all need a little more romance in our lives, but save the candle-lit stain removal session for another time. Acetone can also be an irritant, so keep it out of your eyes and don’t stand around huffing the fumes.

If the stain is just oil, you may be able to remove the stain with acetone. Unlike protein stains whose structure changes after heating, oily stains can occasionally be removed by bringing them into solution and convincing that solution to take a hike. How do we move that grease stain along?

It’s easy.

Grab an absorbent rag, acetone, and your stained garment. Now find a well-ventilated area. Fold your rag to create a thick pad and place it on your work surface. Turn your garment inside out* and place the stained area over the absorbent pad. Drizzle the acetone over the stained area. You may need to do this several times as the oil has worked itself deep into the fibers. You may not be able to remove all of the oil stain, but you should notice an improvement.

Follow up your efforts with normal laundering.

Where do you find acetone to use for stain removal?

Acetone is often sold as nail polish remover and can be found in the health and beauty aisle of most stores, just be sure you get straight up, plain acetone. you don’t want to get anything with conditioners or other ingredients that could leave a new stain. Need to know what you’re looking for? Here’s an example of acetone nail polish remover from Amazon.

We’re just trying to solve our problem, not create new ones.

*Unless of course you were wearing the shirt inside-out, then by all means turn it right side out. The key is to work from the reverse side of where the staining occurred.

Send your household questions to helpme@home-ec101.com. 

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Comments

  1. Rachel@FoodFix says:

    Thanks for this tip! I’ve been making my monthly supply of garlic conft, onion confit and soffritto and experimenting with oil poaching fish…so boy, have I got oil stains…and after the first stain I finally concede that I should be wearing an apron…but I never think ahead!

  2. KeterMagick says:

    Sometimes “oil stains” are actually wax stains from cheap dryer sheets. Those won’t always come out with acetone. If you really want these out, you’ll probably need to send the affected garments to the dry cleaner, as they have access to chemicals you don’t. If you can find it in stores (it’s getting really hard to find!), try using “Energine” fabric spot treatment on a cotton ball (gloves strongly recommended). If all else fails, you can take your DNA integrity in your hands and try methylethylketone (MEK) which is sold at auto parts stores. Spot test first, use THICK chemical resistant gloves, use only outdoors, no smoking, and try to stand with the wind to your back. MEK is seriously nasty stuff.

  3. Thanks :-) . I will try this. What if it’s a protein stain–what do you recommend for that? I’ll go check the book, but I just wondered after reading your post. I’ll look for the Energine mentioned below, too.

    • KeterMagick says:

      @stacyl Enzyme spot removers and hydrogen peroxide work well on protein stains. The important thing about protein stains is to get to them as early as possible and don’t let them get heated, because heat can set them.

      • @KeterMagick Thanks. I’ll try those. The problem is that I usually discover things later on, after they’ve been washed and dried. I need to be more careful before putting things into the laundry. I’ve used an enzyme spot remover, and it sometimes works. Thanks for all of the suggestions.

  4. hislovendures says:

    I have a large spot of pure olive oil on one of my favorite sweatshirts. I read somewhere not to wash/dry anything with cooking oils (I think that’s what it said) since they are flammable. I just got a new washer/dryer and don’t want to ruin them or start a fire or anything. How do I get the spot out?

  5. modelt212 says:

    use goop to get grease out. you can buy it in the auto dept. at walmart. it is a hand cleaner. my wonderful aunt-in-law told me about it years ago.

  6. Dear Sir

    I need to make a oil stain remover for the hotel laundry. Please let me know what are the chamicals can be mix to achieve my requiremet. Need a product with no foarming at all

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