Get the Grease out of Your Workwear


A mechanic's job is a dirty one that includes working with tools and auto parts coated with gunk and grime.

Here are some shopworthy remedies for getting stubborn oil and grease stains out of automotive workwear. (Some may surprise you. Some may already be in your kitchen.)

These tips comes from real people who wash real mechanics' shirts, pants, and coveralls. As you probably know from experience, what works for one person may or may not work for you. But these are worth a try. Effectiveness may depend on variables such as your water, your washer, and (of course) your stains.

Liquid dishwashing detergent
Dishwashing soap is formulated to cut through oil and grease found on dishes, pots and pans, so why not use it on your greasy and oily clothes? While it's likely that most any grease-fighting dish detergent will work, the one most often recommended--especially for automotive workwear--is regular Dawn® liquid dish soap. Use it to pre-treat spots or soak entire garments. Treat, let sit for 5 to 15 minutes, then wash in hot water. (Be sure to check garment labels to see if washing in hot water is OK. Most Dickies garments can.) 

Soda pop
This tip comes from a mechanic who does his own laundry. Put oily, greasy work clothes in a tub or bucket, add 2 to 4 liters of Coca-Cola®, fill with water until clothes are covered, let soak overnight. Wash the next morning with regular laundry soap. 

A variation of this is to pour a can of Coke into the washer with your regular detergent and water. Then run the load through a normal wash cycle. People who use this technique say it even helps deodorize smelly clothes.

More Stain Removal Tips

Waiter and Waitress Tips Fels-Naptha

Use Fels-Naptha® heavy duty laundry bar soap to treat oil and grease stains before washing. It's cheap and has a good track record for getting out grease. Wet the stain, rub the wet bar of soap over it, then scrub with an old toothbrush. (As a side note, Fels-Naptha also removes poison ivy resin from clothing.)

Lestoil or Pine-Sol.

Dab a grease stain with Lestoil®or Pine-Sol®, then launder as usual, remembering to pull the garment out of the wash to air dry before transferring the rest of the load to the dryer.


Cornstarch, another kitchen staple, removes stains--especially older set-in stains. Lay the garment flat, pile cornstarch on top of the stain, then leave it for an hour. Brush off the cornstarch and remove any residue with a damp rag. If there's still a trace of the stain, treat with a grease-cutting liquid dish soap such as Dawn® or Palmolive®.

Be prepared 

One last bit of advice from Tom and Ray, popular Car Talk radio show hosts. Be prepared for the occasional defeat. You won't get out every stain, but your odds for success are best when you start degreasing as soon as possible. The longer a grease stain remains on your clothes, the harder it is to remove. 

Look for Dickies mechanic pants with built-in stain release that won't wash out.