3 Tips to Remove Oil Stains from Your Car’s Interior

If you perform car repairs or maintenance at home, odds are you’ve accidentally tracked something into your car’s interior. That could be coolant, grease, oil, or dirt from many parts. But if you track oil into the cabin of your car? Don’t worry; there are ways to get those oil stains out. Here are three ways to remove oil stains from a car’s interior:

Use WD-40 to remove oil stains from your car’s interior

A man cleaning oil stains out of a car's interior
Cleaning Car Interior | Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Before removing an oil stain, it’s important to understand what materials you are working with. ItStillRuns explains there are three main types of materials used in seats: fabric upholstery, leather, or vinyl. The first two are more common, with vinyl being more popular in older cars. 

WD-40 can work on both the upholstery and the carpet of your car. If there’s an oil stain on the upholstery, Jerry advises first using some paper towels or an old towel to get up any of the residual grease or oil that’s on the surface. Then use a small amount of WD-40 on the oil stain.

If it’s on the upholstery, pour a small amount of dish soap on a rag and dab it on the stain. You can rub the rag over the oil stain as many times as needed to wipe up the grease or oil. If that doesn’t get enough of it up, use a toothbrush to scrub lightly. But be careful: scrubbing too hard can damage the upholstery. From there, blot the oil stain with a fresh towel or paper towel to get up what’s left. You can then spray the stain with clean water and repeat the process until it’s off the upholstery. 

The process is more straightforward if the oil stain is on the carpet. After spraying WD-40 on the stain, leave it for five to 10 minutes. That way, it can break down the grease or oil that’s on the carpet. From there, blot with a towel or paper towel and repeat the process until the stain is gone.

If it is a fresh oil stain and has not dried yet, Jerry recommends using cornstarch or talcum powder after blotting up as much of the wet grease or oil. Then leave the cornstarch or talcum powder for eight to 10 hours and vacuum the powder up using a wet/dry vacuum. If that’s unavailable, use a household vacuum and change the bag or empty the canister afterward. If that does not work immediately, repeat the process to clean the interior of your car.

Baking soda and a soft brush can remove oil stains too

A clean car interior
Clean Car Interior | Julian Hochgesang via Unsplash

Another method to remove oil stains from your car’s interior comes from YourMechanic. First, get as much grease or oil off the car interior as possible. Then sprinkle baking soda on the grease stain, absorbing the oil particles. 

Use a soft-bristled brush like a toothbrush to work the baking soda into the fabric. Don’t use something too hard, though, as that could pull on fabric threads while working the oil stain out. You can repeat that process if you notice the baking soda clumping or being discolored by the grease. You can also let the baking soda sit for several hours or even overnight. 

Then, vacuum the baking soda off the upholstery, preferably with a wet-dry vacuum if available. Repeat the process again if it’s not entirely out.

A brown paper bag, carpet shampoo, and iron are also effective

This method requires more specific materials than the others but can effectively remove oil stains from your car’s interior. First, remove the excess oil or grease from the car’s interior, specifically for the carpet. 

Then place a brown paper bag or paper towel on the stain. Heat an iron to the warm setting and iron over the paper sack. That’ll get the grease or oil stain off the carpet onto the bag/towel. After the transfer, work carpet shampoo into the stain and scrub with a carpet brush. Blot up the excess with a clean cloth or paper towel and let the carpet dry completely.

How do I get oil stains out of my car?

Spilling oil or grease on your car’s interior is frustrating. But there are many ways to take care of it using various tools. From WD-40 to brown paper bags and carpet shampoo, there are several effective ways to remove oil stains from your car.

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