DIY Solutions: How To Remove Oil Stains From Sofa Easily?

Written by: Kaushik Jethva

Last Updated: May 8, 2024

sofa before and after removing oil stains
Sofa before and after removing oil stains

Oil stains on sofas are a common nuisance faced by many households. Whether from accidental spills during meals, regular use, or unexpected mishaps, these stains can mar the look of your beautiful upholstery. More importantly, if left unattended, oil residues can permanently damage the fabric, affecting both the appearance and the longevity of your sofa. Timely and effective cleaning is essential to maintain your furniture’s aesthetic appeal and extend its life. In this guide, we’ll walk you through several effective methods on how to remove oil stains from sofa, ensuring it continues to look its best for years to come.

1 Understanding Oil Stains

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Different Oil Stains on Sofa

Oil stains on fabrics, especially upholstery like sofas, present a unique challenge due to their greasy and viscous nature. An oil stain is essentially any mark left by oily substances that have a base of animal, vegetable, or synthetic oils. These stains are stubborn because oils are hydrophobic, meaning they do not mix with water. As a result, simply washing with water is ineffective, and the oil can seep deeper into the fabric if not treated properly. The types of oils that commonly stain sofas include:

  • Cooking Oils: These are perhaps the most common, as splashes and spills can happen easily in the vicinity of the kitchen or during meals.
  • Beauty Products: Lotions, creams, and other skincare products often contain oils that can transfer to sofa fabrics through regular use.
  • Mechanical Oils: Less common but particularly challenging, these can include lubricants from bikes, cars, or any mechanical equipment that might accidentally contact your sofa.

2 Identifying the Type of Sofa Material

multi texture pattern and color of fabric for sofa in blue cyan color tone
multi texture ,pattern and color of fabric for sofa in blue, cyan color tone

Before you get started, try identifying what material your sofa is made from since it will play a huge factor in your cleaning method. Sofas are usually upholstered in one of three materials: fabric, leather, or synthetic blends. Each of them would require a separate way of safe and effective removal of the stain.

  • Fabric Sofas: These may consist of natural fibres such as cotton or wool, and each one may behave quite differently with cleaning solutions. Fabric sofas often offer the most variety in terms of texture and care needs.
  • Leather Sofas: Leather is more durable and has different porosity characteristics than fabrics. It requires special cleaning agents in order not to damage it while removing stains.
  • Synthetic Sofas: These are generally more resistant to stains and easier to clean. It might be made from synthetic materials such as polyester or microfiber.

To determine the exact material and understand the appropriate care, check the sofa’s label for cleaning codes. These codes provide crucial information:

  • W: Water-based cleaner safe
  • S: Solvent-based cleaner only
  • WS: Both water and solvent safe
  • X: Vacuum or brush only, no water/solvent

This label is often found under the sofa cushions or on a tag along the base. Knowing your sofa’s material and the corresponding cleaning code is essential for tackling oil stains without risking further damage to the upholstery.

3 Pre-Cleaning Steps

Before getting into the steps of stain removal, be prepared and make sure that cleaning methods and solutions may not damage your couch. The following pre-cleaning measures shall be taken to save yourself from any mishap:

  • Determining the Type of Fabric: Review the cleaning codes on the label of your couch that were determined from the previous step, which will guide you into which kind of solvent you will be using.
  • Test Cleaning Solutions: Test a little cleaning solution on an inconspicuous part of the sofa first. You will want to make sure that it will not discolour or damage the fabric of the sofa. Test with a little cleaner in an inconspicuous area, like the back of the sofa or under the seat cushions, and let the cleaner dry to determine if it’s going to harm the material.

Materials Needed

sofa chemical cleaning with professionally extraction method
sofa chemical cleaning with professionally extraction method
  • Paper Towels: Useful for blotting out excess oil without spreading the stain further.
  • Baking Soda: Excellent for absorbing grease and oil, especially useful for fresh stains.
  • Cleaning Cloths: Soft microfiber cloths are ideal for applying cleaning solutions and for blotting without damaging the fabric.
  • Mild Detergent: A gentle detergent suitable for upholstery can help in breaking down oil residues.
  • Vacuum Cleaner: Equipped with a soft brush attachment, it’s useful for removing baking soda or any residual particles after the cleaning process.

4 Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Oil Stains

Removing oil stains from your sofa requires prompt and careful action. Follow this detailed guide to ensure effective stain removal without damaging your furniture.

Immediate Action

  • Blotting the Stain: If it’s an oil-based stain, one should blot the stain at once with a piece of paper towel or a clean, dry piece of cloth. Do not rub the spot; doing so will only push the oil into the fabric and enlarge the spot.

Application of Absorbent

  • Applying Baking Soda or Corn-starch: Apply a copious amount of baking soda or corn-starch directly onto the oil stain. This stuff is very good at absorbing oil; in fact, it can draw some of the grease out of the fabric.
  • Duration: Wait for about 10-15 minutes, and allow the absorbent to sit on the stain. Deeper or older stains may require the absorbent to be left for up to an hour or longer.
  • Removal: Once the time is up, use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to gently remove the baking soda or corn-starch from the sofa.

Cleaning Solution

  • Preparing the Cleaning Mixture: You may prepare the cleaning mixture with a mild soap type and water. If the label of your sofa allows, you can add some vinegar to the mixture—it works to help break the oil down.
  • Application Method: Apply the solution on a clean cloth and gently pat the affected area. Do not over-wet the fabric.
  • Sitting Time: Let the cleaning solution sit on the stain for 5-10 minutes, breaking down the oil.

Blotting Technique

  • Gentle Blotting: Allow the cleaning solution time to act, and then another clean piece of cloth is to be taken and placed on the area to blot up the cleaning solution and lifted oil. This should be repeated until the time when the stain ceases to transfer onto the cloth.

Rinsing and Drying

  • Rinse and Dry: Rinse off the area with the cleaning solution by padding a piece of cloth dampened in clean water, if need be, to rinse the remaining cleaning solution. Care should be taken not to wet the couch.
  • Effective Drying: Allow the spot to air-dry after cleaning. Do not apply any source of heat to it because it will make the remaining oil stay in the fabric, and this will be difficult to remove. You can put a fan to speed drying or open windows if the weather permits.

For Fabric Sofas

close up of a fabric sofa with styled cushions and throw
Close up of a fabric sofa with styled cushions and throw

Blotting the Stain:

  • Quick Action: Oil stains must be attended to immediately with paper towels or a clean absorbent cloth. Press down with gentle force to absorb the oil, but never rub, as that will only spread the oil.

Applying Baking Soda:

  • Procedure: The baking soda was sprinkled on top of the oil stain to absorb the grease. Baking soda is the best substance for this purpose because it soaks the oil out of the fibres.
  • Duration: Allowing time for it to soak is useful, at least for 15 minutes; more time may be necessary if the stain is older or larger.

Using a Cleaning Solution:

  • Homemade Cleaner Recipe: Another one of the mixtures you may want for the cleaner is 2 cups of warm water, 1 tablespoon of dish soap, and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Most fabric sofas will be safe with this cleaning solution, as it works to break down oils.
  • Application: Apply the solution to the stained area and dab with a clean cloth. Do not soak the material.

Rinsing and Drying:

  • Rinsing: Rinse the place by lightly pressing the moist cloth onto the area to remove any soap residues.
  • Drying: You will pat the area with a dry towel and then let it air dry fully. Don’t use heat.

For Leather Sofas

luxurious expensive black leather couch
luxurious expensive black leather couch

Blotting the Stain:

  • Immediate Action: Quickly absorb as much oil as possible with a dry cloth. Be careful not to spread the stain.

Cleaning with a Leather Cleaner:

  • Procedure: Commercial leather cleaner is used to dab on a clean cloth in small proportions, then blot the stain. In any case, follow the instructions on the product so that you do not damage the leather.

Conditioning the Leather:

  • Importance: Apply leather conditioner to renew moisture back and protect the leather from more damage after cleaning.

For Synthetic Sofas

internal view of a modern living room with wood flooring green synthetic sofa and white bookshelf
Internal view of a modern living room with wood flooring, green synthetic sofa and white bookshelf

Blotting the Stain:

  • Quick Action: Dab the oil stain immediately with a clean, dry cloth to remove oil penetration as much as possible, but do not let the oil penetrate any further into the material.

Using Rubbing Alcohol:

  • Technique: As a way of getting rid of the ink, dab a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a clean piece of cloth, and then blot the stain gently. Rubbing alcohol may help to cut the grease without damaging synthetic fibres.
  • Blotting Out: After application, take a dry piece of cloth and blot the place to take up the oil and alcohol.

Final Wipe and Air Dry:

  • Wiping: Wipe the cleaned area with a clean damp cloth to remove any residue.
  • Air Drying: Yes, you can air dry your sofa after the whole surface is fully covered in foam and water. Ensure the area is left to dry to its capacity to avoid dampness, which may build up to mildew and odour.

5 Alternative Cleaning Methods

While some of these stains do alright with the application of typical household items like baking soda and mild detergents, others may require more specialized solutions or professional intervention.

Using a Dry Cleaning Solvent:

  • When to Use: Dry cleaning solvents are the best to be used on the fabric where the cleaning code requires an “S,” meaning solvent-based cleaners are deemed safe. Most are used for rigid kinds of stains or those put onto very delicate fabric.
  • Application: Apply the solvent on a clean piece of cloth and dab at the stained area very lightly. Do not rub. Always test first on an inconspicuous area whether the solvent will discolour or burn the fabric.

Specialized Upholstery Cleaner:

  • Choosing a Cleaner: Always choose a cleaner which is designed purposely for upholstery and has compatibility with the material used in your sofa. The cleaners are formulated in such a way that they take care of the difficult stains while ensuring the fabric is not harmed.
  • Usage: Use as the manufacturer recommends. Generally, the cleaner is applied to the soiled area, a few minutes wait, and then it is blotted or lightly rubbed with a soft cloth.

6 Preventive Measures

Avoiding Common Stain Sources:

  • Mindful Eating: Try not to eat over the sofa. If this is impracticable, use a tray or a stable surface to at least steady whatever you are eating or drinking.
  • Use of Sofa Covers: You can always put the washable sofa covers over your upholsteries as an investment that saves your pieces of furniture from greasy marks and any spills of liquids by accident, which becomes a great necessity at home if you have kids or pets running around the house.

Regular Maintenance Tips:

  • Routine Vacuuming: Regular vacuuming of your sofa can prevent dirt and debris from embedding in the fabric, which can exacerbate oil stains when they do occur.
  • Immediate Spot Cleaning: Address spills immediately—even if they don’t initially seem to stain, they can attract dirt and lead to harder-to-clean spots later.
  • Keep Cleaning Supplies Handy: Having cleaning supplies readily available encourages prompt spill management, significantly reducing the likelihood of permanent stains.

Professional Upholstery Cleaning:

  • Scheduled Cleanings: Even without visible stains, scheduling professional cleanings once or twice a year can maintain your sofa’s condition and extend its life.

7 Wrapping Up

You should pay attention to oil stains on your sofa as soon as possible. The reason is that oil can damage the fabric permanently when it remains untreated for quite some time. We have seen some of the best ways to remove spills from sofas made of fabric, leather, or synthetic materials. Some precautionary methods, such as the use of sofa covers and keeping eating away from the sofa, also come in handy to avoid such stains. That is what makes its beauty and attractiveness long-lasting and extends the life of your sofa. Remember, the care you give to your furniture will yield returns in helping them keep quality and add charm to your abode. If you enjoy these cleaning tips, make sure to also check out how to clean window grills and how to clean a water tank for more useful advice!

FAQ's about How to Remove Oil Stains from Sofa

What removes oil stains from fabric?

To effectively remove oil stains from fabric, you can use several methods:

  • Baking Soda: Ideal for absorbing grease, apply it directly to the stain, let it sit for a few hours, then brush off and launder as usual.
  • Dish Soap: Apply liquid dish soap to the stain, gently rub it in, and allow it to sit before washing. Dish soap breaks down the oils and is gentle on fabrics.
  • Corn starch or Baby Powder: These can be used similarly to baking soda for absorbing oil. Apply, let sit, and then brush off.
  • WD-40: For stubborn stains, spray a little WD-40 on the area, let it sit for 30 minutes, then apply dish soap and wash.
  • Shampoo: Shampoos designed to remove oil from hair can also remove oil from clothes. Rub it into the stain, let it sit, then wash.

Yes, dried oil stains can still be removed, but they may require more effort. To treat a dried oil stain, you can use a combination of baking soda and dish soap, which are effective at breaking down and absorbing the oil. First, sprinkle baking soda over the stain to absorb as much oil as possible. After letting it sit for a few hours, brush off the excess baking soda. Next, apply a few drops of dish soap to the stained area and gently rub it into the fabric. Let this sit for about 10 to 15 minutes. Finally, wash the fabric in the warmest water safe for the material, as indicated on the care label. Before drying, make sure the stain is completely removed. If remnants of the stain persist, repeat the process. Persistent stains might benefit from a pre-treatment with a stain remover before washing.

Yes, hot water can help remove oil stains, especially when combined with a detergent or soap that breaks down oils. The heat helps to dissolve the oil, making it easier for the detergent to lift it from the fabric. However, it’s important to check the care label of the fabric first, as hot water can damage certain materials or cause them to shrink. For fabrics that can tolerate high temperatures, pre-treating the stain with a detergent or stain remover and then washing in hot water can be an effective way to remove oil stains. Always ensure the stain is fully removed before drying, as heat from the dryer can set the stain permanently.

The best chemical to remove oil stains largely depends on the type of fabric and the severity of the stain. However, several options are widely recognized for their effectiveness:

  • Dish Soap: Commonly used for its degreasing properties, dish soap can break down oil molecules, making it highly effective for treating oil stains on most washable fabrics.
  • Dry Cleaning Solvent: For delicate or dry-clean-only fabrics, a dry cleaning solvent can be an excellent choice. It’s designed to dissolve oils and greases without damaging sensitive materials.
  • Degreasers: Commercial degreasers such as Lest oil or Pine-Sol are strong chemicals that can tackle tougher or larger oil stains. They’re particularly effective on durable fabrics but should be used with caution due to their potent nature.
  • Enzyme Laundry Detergent: Enzymatic detergents are effective at breaking down oils and are safe for most fabrics. These detergents are especially useful for biological stains but also work well on oil.

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About This Article

Kaushik Jethva
Written by: Kaushik Jethva author

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Updated: May 8, 2024
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