Dear Home-Ec 101,
I read in your book about using acetone to remove grease or oil stains from clothes, but it just mentions it in a list of items one might use. Can you please elaborate on this? I am forever ruining knit shirts with food stains, as is my son (although, in his case, he can still wear them. I think teaching with a big oil spot on my blouse looks pretty hideous.) Oftentimes I don’t realize it until after I’ve washed and dried them, so the cornstarch idea seems irrelevant at that point. Would you put acetone right on the fabric, or is there a special way to do this?
Greasy in Great Lakes
Remember the Home-Ec 101 Code of Stain Removal – Always test in an inconspicuous area.
Acetone is a solvent that is excellent for removing grease stains on some colorfast fabrics. However, you must never use acetone on modacrylic, acetate or triacetate. Acetone will dissolve these materials, sure you won’t have a stain, but you won’t have much of a garment left, either. Use caution when using acetone on silk, wool, and other natural hair fibers, as these can be damaged by the solvent.
Please keep in mind that acetone is flammable. I know we all need a little more romance in our lives, but save the candle-lit stain-removal session for another time. Acetone can also be an irritant, so keep it out of your eyes and don’t stand around huffing the fumes.
If the stain is just oil, you may be able to remove the stain with acetone. Unlike protein stains, whose structure changes after heating, oily stains can occasionally be removed by bringing them into solution and convincing that solution to take a hike. How do we move that grease stain along?
Grab an absorbent rag, acetone, and your stained garment. Now find a well-ventilated area. Fold your rag to create a thick pad and place it on your work surface. Turn your garment inside out* and place the stained area over the absorbent pad. Drizzle the acetone over the stained area. You may need to do this several times as the oil has worked itself deep into the fibers. You may not be able to remove all of the oil stain, but you should notice an improvement.
Follow up your efforts with normal laundering.
Where do you find acetone to use for stain removal?
Acetone is often sold as a nail polish remover and can be found in the health and beauty aisle of most stores. Just be sure you get straight-up, plain acetone. You don’t want to get anything with conditioners or other ingredients that could leave a new stain. Need to know what you’re looking for? Here’s an example of an acetone nail polish remover from Amazon.
We’re just trying to solve our problems, not create new ones.
*Unless you were wearing the shirt inside-out, then by all means, turn it right side out. The key is to work from the reverse side of where the staining occurred.
Send your household questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.