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Oil and Grease

Oil and grease do not respond well to cleaning with water alone or even water and soap. Instead, dissolve the oil or grease with a solvent and blot.

Mineral Spirits for Oil Stains
Mineral spirits is a clear water white solvent sold in hardware and paint stores, often as paint thinner for oil-based paints. A combustible liquid, it is a distillate of petroleum and has a mild odor similar to kerosene. Keep it away from ignition sources, use with adequate ventilation, and follow the manufacturer’s label instructions. Avoid alcohols, ketones such as acetone, and nail polish removers.

Grease: Tougher to Dissolve
Try mineral spirits first to remove grease stains, then if necessary, perchloroethylene, which is a better grease solvent and dries fast. However, its strong odor and fumes can be a safety problem if the area is not well ventilated. Follow all manufacturer’s label instructions and the Material Safety Data Sheet (M.S.D.S.):

  • Before applying solvent to the stain, scrape off any excess grease or oil with a knife. If the grease is heavy and stiff, gently loosen it with a soft toothbrush.
  • Being more fluid, oil may be partially blotted up with a clean dry cloth. Avoid spreading the stain.
  • Wet a clean white cloth with solvent and dab the grease or oil stain with it.
  • Quickly blot the stain with a dry portion of the cloth.
  • Repeat this process several times until the stain is gone and the cloth shows no more oil is being picked up.
  • Be careful not to over wet the stain with solvent, especially in the beginning of the cleaning process, because the stain will spread out as the solvent begins to dissolve it.
  • If a ring remains after the spot dissolves, there is probably a small amount of stain remaining that has been pushed out to the edges of the wetted area. Rewet the spot with solvent and blot again with a clean cloth. Using a hair dryer on a warm setting, blow air across the spot. As the wet area shrinks, lightly brush it with a soft cloth or use your hand to feather out the boundary between the wet area and the dry, dispersing the ring.
  • Stains such as shoe polish have oil soluble and water soluble components. They require cleaning with a solvent followed by soap and water.