Getting Bike Grease out of Clothing: The Magic Formula

Actually, this works for all oils and stains. I’ve only lost one pair of pants to biking-related stains in almost a year of riding and wrenching in work clothes, and that was my fault for riding home in a torrential down-pour without fenders clad in very light khaki pants. If anyone knows how to get road tar out of clothing, I would love to hear about it.

1. Mix clear, no-dye added dish detergent with cold water (about 1:5 ratio). You don’t need very much.

2. Rub this into the stain. I use my fingernails to really work it into the clothing. The sooner you attack the grease, the better your chances of success!

3. Spray stain with enzyme stain remover.* I use Zout, which seems to work well. I’m sure it’s horrible for the environment. I have decided that ruining clothing and having to buy new things is more horrible for the environment.

4. Let sit the amount of time prescribed on the stain remover bottle.

5. Launder in cold water. Line dry. If you tumble dry clothing that the stain did not completely come out of, it will probably set it and make it permanent.

Clearly, this only works for washable items. I have heard that for very stubborn stains you can try dissolving the oil in mineral spirits prior to step one. Perhaps this is the solution to future road tar incidences. I’ll let you know if I get a chance to try it!

If steps 1 through 5 fail, try your local dry cleaner. Mine got bike grease out of a tan Smartwool sweater than I had given up on.

*Do not use enzyme stain remover on merino wool! Do not even put merino in the same load of laundry as the enzyme stain remover! Thanks to Carissa for this very important tip. Also, check out the comments for more helpful advice from experienced cyclists!


13 comments on “Getting Bike Grease out of Clothing: The Magic Formula

  1. careful with merino as enzyme cleaners can eat holes in the fabric

    • Thanks so much for your comment! All of my merino is black so I haven’t come across this yet. I’ve had great luck with synthetics and cotton. I really appreciate the heads up.

  2. I find that a really stubborn stain can get loosened up by WD-40. It reactivates the grease and binds to it. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then follow with the dish soap to get both greases out together.

  3. If you are a person who owns eye make-up remover, it works wonders on bike grease. It’s great for getting grease off hands (you know, so I don’t get grease all over my clothes in the first place) and I’ve used it to take out stains on my clothes too.

  4. Thanks to everyone for the comments! I absolutely LOVE the skill and knowledge sharing in the biking community, both in the Twin Cities and on the internet. If anyone else has any input, I’d love to hear it. All of you are inspirational!

  5. bookmarking to use on DD’s pants! She has been out riding on a tandem with her grandmother and came home all black and icky.

  6. […] Girls Biking To Work: Getting Bike Grease Out Of Clothing: The Magic Formula […]

  7. hey
    had lots of trouble over the years with bike grease!
    two methods ; first make a paste of Jif and baking soda…yes the jif for stove tops! then rub it gently into the stain…..after a minute or so use the paste again but with a bit of water added and the stain will dissolve away ….then rinse in hot water and wash normally
    second for those really bad ones use the auto clean goop supplied to garages but with a bit of baking soda again and then rinse well to remove the stain and smell

  8. Try pure lavender or eucalyptus oil. I just rubbed the grease stain with an oil soaked cotton pad and it immediately disappeared!

  9. For road tar, we have this orange pumice soap and that worked brilliantly on a white shirt of mine. The big difference between chain grease and road tar is the road tar is full of tiny fragments as well as grease so you need something abrasive to get it out. Anyone have tips for getting grease out of wool. My wool coat got grease on it while I was transporting my bike. 😦

    • I’ve had good luck with dry cleaners getting stains out of wool and other dry clean only clothing when I’ve pointed out the stain to them and described what it was. Sorry for the slow reply – this blog is on hiatus. Hope you figured it out, and I hope this info helps others.

  10. Oh! Wow! This saved my brand-new, drapey-sexy, finally-something-beautiful-in-my-size (XL) dress! I used dish soap and a nail brush. It took thirty seconds and then I spent ten minutes dancing around in my underwear. Thank you!!!

  11. Dish soap and scratching with my fingernail just brought out all of the bike grease from my silk style cream skirt. Thank you!

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