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Need Advice for Removing Grease Stains from Tablecloths & Napkins

I have some nice medium and dark colored damask soft cotton tablecloths and napkins. The darker and medium range colors seem to show the food grease stains worse than white linens do. I have White Wizard and Fuller Brush's product called Stain Blaster, which is a soy derivative cream and comes in a jar. The White Wizard cream is less effective than the Stain Blaster. I wet the cloth thoroughly, rub in the product very well and then seal in a plastic bag for a couple of days of letting the product soak in to (hopefully) let the magic happen before washing.

So, That's what I do. The Fuller Brush Stain Blaster does not fully remove the grease spots on the first try. But by the third go around I'm pretty satisfied that the stain is gone. But the Fuller product is about $20 for an 8 oz. jar. And it probably takes about an ounce to totally deal with a large grease stain on a tablecloth.

Do you have any other products or hints or techniques that will work for grease stains on medium colored or dark table linens? Bleach is out of the question.


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  1. Have you tried soaking the spots in Dawn dishwashing liquid? That stuff really is awesome at removing grease and oils.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Andiereid

      No. I have not heard of the Dawn product for stains. I guess I thought it was a dishwasing liquid for some reason. I'll definitely check it out next time I'm in a supermarket, which, thanks to TJ's, seems to be increasingly rare lately.
      Thanks for the great tip!

      1. re: niki rothman

        I think Andiereid means just soaking fabric in Dawn dishwashing detergent, not a special Dawn for stains.

        I would definitely give this a go. I use Palmolive with Oxy, but the idea's the same. Dishwashing detergent is designed to really cut through grease, and it works on fabric. I always try to get a little dishwashing detergent on my clothes if I drip sauce on them, and so far so good.

        1. re: Pei

          Note that if you go this route you have to be prepared to lose the item. Although they work really well on fabrics they are not exactly "fabric safe" and they can ruin colors. My sister (four small children) has 70% success rate and a 30% total ruin rate.

    2. For dark linens, try shampoo. It gets the oils out of your hair and won't destroy your coloring.
      I use mild shampoo for spots on antique linens.

      Dawn works wonderfully on kitchen linens. Gets the greasiest pans clean. Why not kitchen towels?
      Also Calgon water softener or Borax as detergent boosters when things smell a little sour.
      I use linen tea towels, bar mops, terrycloth and cotton kitchen towels as well as cloth napkins. Very few paper towels. About 1 load of kitchen laundry each week. I use Dawn for those loads.
      Actually, Dawn is a pretty good general grease spot remover.

      1. Afta is a very good commercial product for removing grease and oil stains but you must use it before laundering. Once a grease stain has been in hot water or, especially, the dryer it's much more difficult to remove.

        1. I use lestoil to get grease stains out of my darks. I usually let it sit for a bit on the stain before tossing in the washing machine.

          1 Reply
          1. re: orangewasabi

            I use Lestoil also, usually with great results. Sometimes, depending on the stain, you have to repeat the process (wet the fabric, soak the stain, rinse). You have to wash/rinse the fabric pretty thoroughly afterward, as Lestoil has a very strong smell. I can't find Lestoil in any store near me (SF Bay Area) so I have to get it when I visit NYC.

          2. I have actually used corn starch to get out grease stains- just kind of rub it around on the spot and it will soak up the grease and make it easier for a stain stick or other pre-treatment to work. Wash the item and (hopefully), voila no more stain. This will only work on a fresh stain (i.e. on one that has not yet been through the washer or dryer and become "set").

            2 Replies
            1. re: Procrastibaker

              yes, flour or corn starch on a fresh grease stain works very well to soak it out of the cloth.
              The fresher the better of course, but still effective after you're clearing the plates two hours later.
              Then proceed to methods detailed above . . .

              1. re: pitu

                I have used cornstarch on a wool blazer and after letting the cornstarch sit on the spot over night and then brushing with a clothes brush saved my self a trip to the dry cleaners. The faaster you can get to it the better.

            2. Niki, I did forget to add that cotton holds dye poorly. Particularly dark and bright colors.
              Whatever you elect to use, don't just spot clean. Use it on the entire piece of cloth, although you will have to pay extra attention to the actual grease spots.
              If you have sets of expensive table linens, wash all of them, even if they don't need it so that they will fade or lose color evenly.
              When I buy bright or dark linens, I try to buy them from the same dye lot so that they will match after repeated washing. Sometime they are marked, but at least buy what you need from the same store shipment at the same time.

              Double check to see if the grease spots came out before placing the linens in the dryer or ironing. Heat will set them forever.

              1. Hello,

                I would recommend Fels Naphtha soap. It's a paper-wrapped bar of soap that you would find in the same part of the store as laundry soap, etc. You wet the bar of soap and rub it on the stain and then wash as usual. It's removed stains of all types for me - grease, etc., so I think it's worth a try!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Michelle

                  Fels is wonderful but a real gamble on dyed fabrics. It's petroleum-based and can cause color changes. Really noticeable on natural fiber table-linens.
                  Basic rule is start with the gentlest thing you can use, especially on valuable or heirloom linens.
                  That's why I use mild shampoo first. It gets out most dinner grease stains, even lipstick, with little rubbing, just a good soak.

                2. Sounds crazy, but my husband came up with this. I've tried it and it really worked on grease stains. Rub the fabric with "GOOP", a waterless hand cleaner found in automotive stores. It's a white, oily-feeling gel. Let it sit for about 20 minutes then launder in cold water. The label says it's safe for fabrics but I've always tested on a small hidden corner of the fabric first. I guess other waterless hand cleaners would work but I've not tried any. I wouldn't believe it works but it does.
                  Good luck

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: chin

                    GOOP advertises on the label that it works on fabrics, and that's what I use. I usually gets the stain out. I haven't been able to find GOOP brand, so I bought GOJO waterless hand cleaner (a similar product) but the GOJO is much oilier and left an oil stain behind. So stick with GOOP.

                  2. While showing off her olive oil mister, my friend accidentally sprayed my new pink cotton t-shirt. I soaked it in her LOC (byt the company formerly known as Amway) solution, but it didn't work. When I got home 5 days later, I soaked the soiled half in an OxyClean + water solution, and the oil was gone, with no lightening of the dye in the rest of the shirt. Hope this helps!