How do you get bike grease out of clothing? Is it permanent?

How do you get bike grease out of clothing? Is it permanent?

Going for a daily bike ride is a liberating experience. But with frequent riding comes regular bike maintenance – which sometimes ends up ruining your clothes.

We recently discussed “tightening various bike chains” and “how to fix a rusty bike chain” on this blog, both of which are crucial to increasing bike life. Can you guess what the final step in both of those guides was? Degreasing and re-greasing the bike chain.

No matter how carefully you proceed with re-greasing, the grease somehow finds its way to your clothes, skin, and sometimes even the carpet.

I’ve literally tried all kinds of “stain removal methods” over the years, such as using baking soda or using dishwashing soap or buying an expensive WD-40. Some work better than others.

I’ll tell you all about what does (and what doesn’t) remove bike grease stains from clothes in this guide.

Do bike grease stains come off? Are they permanent?

Removing grease stains off of skin or clothing (or any other material) is quite tricky because of the water-repelling properties of grease. But the lubricant stains aren’t permanent, and they come off when washed using the proper grease removal methods such as with baking soda.

Grease is essentially an emulsified soap made out of various oils and minerals. It’s actually semi-solid because of the tiny particles and extremely high viscosity.

It sticks so adamantly to our skin and clothes fibers because grease lubricants have a “protective layer” that resists water. This makes it harder to wash off grease using water. Another issue is time. Grease stains from your bike chain become “more permanent” on clothing and skin with time due to the lubricant particles breaking down and lodging in-between fibers. 

You should be proactive and remove grease stains as soon as you notice them, delaying will only make it worse. The best way to get rid of bicycle grease stains is to use one of the methods I’ll discuss next.

How to get bike grease out of clothes?

Yes, I’ll tell you about removing bike grease stains from a WD40 detergent, but I personally don’t recommend it. Premium stain removers work undeniably well, and they do have their use cases with certain fabrics, but considerably cheaper home remedies work just as fine on regular day-to-day clothes and fabrics.

step 1 apply detergent to remove bike grease stains

1. Removing Grease Stains With Biological Laundry Detergent

Best For: These detergents work perfectly on synthetic fabrics such as spandex, nylon, acrylic, and polyester.

  • Step 1: Put the t-shirt (or pants) on a flat surface and remove the creasing with your hands. Take a small spoon of the laundry detergent, put it right over the stain spread it evenly using your fingers.
  • Step 2: Take a small piece of cotton soaked in cold water and rub the garment’s underside right below the stain. This will loosen up the broken-down grease particles. Let it sit there for a while.
  • Step 3: Finally, run the bicycle grease part through cold water and remove the detergent. Repeat the process again if you can notice the remaining stain until it’s completely gone.

Recommended Buy: Persil Megaperls Universal Laundry Powder

2. Removing Grease Stains With Dishwashing Liquid

The good thing about this method is that you won’t need to go and buy anything from the store. This is extremely helpful because, as I said, removing grease stains as soon as possible is the key to remove grease stains. It works best on cotton and semi-synthetic fibers.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Step 1: Pour some dishwashing liquid onto the stain and keep it there for a couple of minutes. It’s done to allow the liquid to get in and break down grease particles. 
  • Step 2 (Optional): Use a cotton swab or soft old toothbrush to spread the liquid properly on the stained fabric.
  • Step 3: Keep monitoring the stain until it starts to lighten up a bit. After which, you can wash the stain under cold water by rubbing it gently. Repeat the process from step 1 until the stain is completely gone.
  • Step 4: Wash the garment manually or in a washing machine to eliminate the residual grease particles that may have escaped while you were scrubbing.

Do note that dishwashing liquid is far better in removing immediate stains, but it gives less than adequate performance for the older ones.

3. Removing Grease Stains With WD-40

WD-40 is an American company most famous for its lubricants and other sprays. The confusing part is that WD-40 doesn’t have any “stain removal” products. People have been suggesting WD-40’s industry-grade Degreaser spray by claiming that “it’s best for degreasing old grease and gunk for a reason.”

Honestly, I haven’t tried it yet because it does sound far-fetched to me, but if the community reviews are accurate, it does work. Here’s how it’s done:

  • You lay the garment flat on a surface and spray WD-40 degreaser all over the stain. It’ll break down the stain particles faster than any other method.
  • After letting it break down the oils and grease for about 5-6 minutes, use a commercial stain remover or harsh detergent to seal the deal.
  • Finally, wash the garment as quickly as possible to ensure that the degreaser particles don’t sit in-between the fibers.

You can buy the product from here at your own risk.

4. Removing Grease Stains With Spot Remover and Hot Water

If you haven’t been a fan of “home remedies” so far, here’s the correct way of using off-the-shelf spot removers for grease and gunk stains:

  • Step 1: Make sure the garment is laid out straight, without any crease. Now spray the spot remover spray on top of the grease stain.
  • Step 2: Now, use a small soft toothbrush and gently rub the spot remover onto the stain. Don’t make abrupt movements or spread the stain out of the initial area. Just rub slowly so that it has covered the entire area. Unlike other remedies, you have to keep rubbing for a couple minutes this time.
  • Step 3: Put the garment in a bucket or bathtub and put boiling hot water on it to remove the stain altogether. Now, turn it inside-out and repeat the entire process one more time before washing and air-drying the garment.

Warning: Use grease stain sprays or “spot removers” on non-delicate clothing only.

Recommended Buy: Shout Advanced Foaming Grease

5. Removing Grease Stains With Normal Bar Soap

As I said earlier, you don’t necessarily need many shenanigans or fancy cleaners to remove grease stains from your garment. All you need is the knowledge of your clothing fabric and recommended washing limitations. Even a regular bar soap goes a long way for bike grease stain and gunk removal on clothes:

  • Step 1: Soak the grease stain in warm water and gently hand wash or rub the bar soap over it without spreading the stain. Let the soap lather break down the oils and grease.
  • Step 2 After rubbing for a couple more minutes, wash the garment thoroughly in cold water.
  • Step 3: Repeat the process until the grease stain is completely removed and then air dry.

Read More: How to tighten a bike chain on single and multi-gears?

how to get bike grease out of clothes with soap

6. Removing Grease Stains With Baking Soda

Best for: It works best for stains on delicate fabrics such as wool and silk.

Baking soda has been the age-old home remedy for all types of stains including bike grease. It’s very versatile, cheap, and works flawlessly for getting grease out of clothes and skin. There’s one minor caveat, though – you have to be extra careful when using the baking soda method on delicate fabrics.

For tough fabrics like jeans, you should make a thick paste with baking soda and water. Put baking soda paste onto the stain with an absorbent cloth right underneath it. Leave it overnight, and you’ll notice that the baking soda has sucked and broken down all the oil stains from the garment. Now just remove the baking soda, wash it thoroughly, air dry, and voila!

For delicate fabrics like silk, replace the thick paste with A LOT of baking soda and washing powder, and you’re good to go.

Points to Note Before Removing Grease Stains:

  • Always use gloves when attempting to get rid of bike grease, especially when you’re using harsh detergents. It’s a good idea to wear gloves even if you use a toothbrush and baking powder.
  • All sub-categories of garments have different wash instructions on its care label. For example, a cotton shirt and a nylon shirt aren’t cleaned similarly. So, make sure you know the proper washing practices of the clothing garment.
  • Professional stain removers aren’t always the best choice for grease-based stains.
  • Suppose it’s an artificial fabric or a rather special fabric with complicated washing instructions. In that case, you’d be better off with getting it cleaned professionally. 

How to avoid bike grease on your clothes?

The old adage “prevention is better than cure” fits perfectly here. Because let’s be honest, even after “removing” the grease stain, it’s not as good as the original unless you removed it quickly.

So, it’s always better to take the necessary steps and prevent lubricant stains on your clothing or skin instead of finding random ways to remove bicycle grease. Here are some tips on how to do that:

  • Wear old clothes and put your bike on a rag when doing bike chain maintenance. Also, always wear rubber gloves to avoid getting gunk on your skin.
  • If you have got a couple extra bucks, you can invest in bike gear such as leg shields that protect your pants from getting grease on them.
  • You can also attack full bike chain guards if you don’t mind the slightly extra weight.
wear gloves for bike chain maintenance

Read More: How Safe is a Bike in a Lightning Storm?


1. How to get bike grease off of skin?

While you should take all the necessary steps and avoid getting grease & gunk on your skin, don’t panic if something like that happens to you. 

The quickest and easiest way to remove stubborn grease stains from your skin is to first wipe off the grease with a proper detergent and wipes. Then, use a WD-40 solution with soap and thoroughly clean the stained part off your skin.

Others home remedies are cleaning your hands twice and extra thoroughly, using organic dishwashing soap or bar soap, vegetable oils, an organic washing powder, or a mixture of sugar and lemon juice on the stain as soon as possible and then air dry. You can also scrub instant coffee with an old toothbrush because it smells good.

2. How to get bike grease out of carpet?

Removing stubborn grease stains from your carpet is very similar to removing bike grease from clothes. First, use something like a spoon (or butter knife) to take off the bigger chunks of the lubricant stain before the stain spreads.

Follow that up with tissue paper or a paper towel to wipe away remaining macro chunks of grease from clothes. And then start removing the stains from an outer corner to halt the spread of the stain ASAP. Also, don’t wipe in all directions, instead use up and down motion only.

Removing it aggressively and radically will just spread the stain even further. Then apply the various grease removal methods that we discussed earlier and air dry. Also, don’t forget to check for the manufacturer’s care label on washing methods.

3. How to get bike grease out of shoes?

Grease stains on your shoes are third-most common after clothes and skin. Fortunately, these stains are comparatively easier to remove – just always confirm whether your grease stain removal method will negatively affect the shoe material or not.

Treat the grease stains on your shoes with Persil’s biodegradable stain removers (or a similar method) by rubbing a small amount onto the stain using an old soft toothbrush. This will help loosen up the grease particles. Finally, rinse thoroughly with cold water and air dry.

So, now that you know how to tackle fresh grease stains most efficiently don’t hold back on bike maintenance. I know it’s gunky and goo-ey, but you must perform maintenance (or get a bike shop to do it for you) at regular intervals for a long-lasting bike and an accident-free life.

Oh, and don’t forget to take 5 minutes and research the fabric and material you’re about to remove bike grease from. Trust me, you don’t wanna wash a cotton t-shirt in a way it isn’t supposed to. Happy riding.