How to Get Grease out of Towels


Grease is probably the most stubborn substance. It seems to cling to fabrics and is challenging to get out. You could wash a towel repeatedly and still find bits of grease on it, eventually forcing you to throw an otherwise perfectly good towel away. But chucking a greasy towel into the washer right after using it is an ineffective way to get the grease out. It doesn’t matter if it’s cooking grease, oil from detailing cars or sticky salon products — grease and oils will cling to towels and fabrics for dear life, making it tricky to successfully remove them.

The good news is there are some surefire ways to thoroughly clean your towels so you can continue to reuse them for years to come. These tips will help you reduce waste, while saving you the cost of continually repurchasing new towels.


How to Remove Grease Stains From Towels

The little-known secret to successfully get oil out of towels is pretreating. The worst thing you can do is throw a greasy towel into a washing machine without addressing the grease stain separately. If you wash a greasy towel with other clothes, you can look forward to that grease transferring to the other items, creating an even worse mess for you to deal with. 

Regardless of the type of grease or oil you’re dealing with, the removal process is relatively uniform and involves three steps:

  1. Pretreat
  2. Wash
  3. Dry

If that seems simple, it’s because it is. Pretreating is where you do most of the heavy lifting, which is the best way to successfully free your towels of pesky grease and oils. 



There are several ways to pretreat grease, and the method you choose will depend on the equipment you have available and the amount of grease you’ll be dealing with. 

The first method requires regular old hair shampoo, which is how you’ll get rid of most of the grease. Wet the towel and pour a drop or two of shampoo right on the grease or oil stain. Rub the shampoo into the towel’s fibers like you would your hair, and you’ll find the grease stain coming out. When it’s out, rinse the towel with some warm water. The best thing about this technique is you can use it to pretreat a particularly stubborn grease stain or as a quick spot-cleaning for smaller grease stains. 

You can also pretreat using your laundry detergent or even dish soap instead of shampoo. If you decide to use laundry detergent, make sure you read the instructions to know exactly how long to let the detergent sit on the stain.

The second method to pretreat requires brushing it out. You can use either cornstarch or even talcum powder for this, since both will absorb the grease from the fabric. With the towel still dry, sprinkle some cornstarch or powder on the spot and let it sit for a few minutes. This waiting period gives the absorbent material adequate time to soak up the grease. Then, using an old toothbrush or other soft-bristled brush, you can gently brush the grease-filled powder into the trash can.

The final pretreatment method requires only a bucket filled with a gallon of water and a cup of white vinegar. This method works best for towels used in kitchens. Toss greasy towels into the diluted vinegar until you’re ready to wash them all. The vinegar will loosen and remove the grease and oil, while a proper laundering will get rid of the vinegary smell.


Washing the towels is probably the most straightforward step, requiring little else than a washing machine. When it comes to how to clean greasy towels, regular laundry detergent will be fine for most stains. Clean extremely stubborn stains or those from dangerous chemicals with a dedicated degreaser, which will safely remove the stains.

Hot water is your best friend to wash and sanitize greasy towels. The hot water will kill any germs and bacteria, while also forcing the grease to loosen its hold on the fabric. If you’re using laundry detergent, add a cup of baking soda or half a cup of white vinegar to the load to get the last remnants of grease out of the towel. The vinegar and baking soda will also be able to remove any greasy smells, while the detergent will prevent the smell of vinegar from lingering.


It’s crucial to check your towels once they’re out of the wash. Make sure there are no stains left. If you end up putting washed towels with stains into the dryer, the stain will lodge itself into the fabric permanently. If you find stains left on your towels, run them through the wash again until they are clean.

If you don’t have the time or patience to check a giant load of greasy towels that have just come out of the washer, you’ll be better off hanging your towels to line dry instead. Air drying towels, even if they have grease stains on them, will keep the stains from settling into the fibers.

How to Prevent Towels From Getting Greasy

Knowing how to clean grease off towels is one thing, but prevention is often easier than the cure. So, how do you keep your towels from getting greasy? The best way is to not use fabric towels for cleaning grease or oils at all. If you can, use paper towels instead. However, if the whole point of learning how to get grease out of towels is reducing the amount of waste, switching to paper towels is not an ideal option. Instead, here are some ways to keep grease from lingering on your towels, no matter what industry you’re in.


  • Keep a stock of towels handy: An excellent way to avoid getting your fresh, clean towels dirty is to have a separate stock of old towels dedicated for use on anything oily or greasy. That way, you’re reusing towels that are nearing the end of their usable lifespan. Once the old towel becomes too full of grease stains to be effective, you can throw it out.
  • Separate greasy towels: Grease stains can transfer onto different fabrics and surfaces, so it’s smart to keep soiled, greasy towels in a separate hamper to wash apart from the rest of the linen.
  • Don’t skip pretreating: As mentioned, pretreating grease stains is the best way to get the bulk of the oil out of it before you put it in the laundry. While the washer alone may get most of it, you’ll be better off pretreating first and getting most of it clean before a stain has time to settle into the fibers.
  • Avoid reusing dirty towels: Ideally, you’ll only use a towel to clean up grease or oil once, rather than reusing the same one over and over. Like with the stock of old towels dedicated to grease and oil, always have a stack of fresh towels available, so you never feel tempted to reuse soiled ones. This tip is vital if you work in an industry where hygiene is paramount, since you don’t want guests to ingest the grease or oil.
  • Boil towels occasionally: An easy way to both sanitize towels and remove any lingering odors is to boil them on a stovetop. Put them in a pot filled with water and let it boil for about 10 minutes.


Importance of Removing Grease From Towels

Sanitation is one of the main reasons you’ll want to keep your towels free of grease and oil. Grease is easily transferable, so it can quickly contaminate other fabrics and surfaces in your business if you improperly dispose of or launder a greasy or oily towel. The accumulated grease and oil can also lead to a bad smell, which can turn patrons off your business. 

Knowing how to properly wash the grease off towels is vital because improperly laundering them will leave bits of grease behind, which can then turn to stains. If you go to a spa, a towel with a giant stain on it is the last thing you want to see. The towel may be clean, but if you put it in the dryer without ensuring there was no grease on it, you’ve permanently marked your towel with an ugly stain. If you provide these stained towels to your patrons, you risk your reputation as a responsible and hygienic business.

Greasy towels aren’t just a nuisance because of the oil, stench and dirt. Greasy towels and rags are a common cause of fires in homes and businesses thanks to spontaneous combustion, which is the culprit behind 14,070 fires in the United States every year.

Spontaneous combustion is when something catches fire without the need for a flame. Instead, oxidation creates heat, which can lead to a spark. For example, if you use towels to wipe up oil from a deep fryer and then wash the towels without pretreating them or ensuring that all the grease was out, putting them in the dryer can cause a fire. Even little bits of oily residue on the towels are dangerous, since the high heat of a dryer will cause rapid oxidation, which will result in spontaneous combustion.

Grease and oils become trapped in the fibers of towels and create a fire hazard. That’s why it’s not a best practice to chuck greasy rags into a pile. Instead, store them separately. A stack of greasy rags will eventually generate enough heat to combust. If you go through a ton of greasy towels at your business, storing them in diluted vinegar is better than dumping them into a hamper. Not all types of grease and oil are necessarily prone to combustion. It’s the flammable oils you should worry about, such as gasoline, some paints and kerosene. 

Ideally, hang oily towels to dry outdoors, separate from each other. You can hang them indoors as well, but you must make sure to do so far from heat sources. 

Best Ways to Avoid Spontaneous Combustion

Luckily, there are several easy ways to reduce and even prevent the chances of spontaneous combustion in your business.


  • Avoid mixing towels: Wash towels in a separate load of laundry, and don’t mix grease-stained towels with non-stained ones. The source of the grease stain is crucial because you don’t want to wash incompatible chemicals together. For example, it’s not safe to wash towels used for manicures and pedicures with bath towels. Since the unique products used for nails and hair likely have incompatible chemicals that can encourage combustion, avoid mixing spa towels in the same load. 
  • Don’t let greasy towels sit: Do laundry often to avoid greasy towels sitting around in a pile. As mentioned, when the grease and oils settle into the fibers of towels and those towels get heaped on top of each other, heat will naturally begin to generate, increasing the likelihood of spontaneous combustion. Even if you hang your towels to dry before putting them in the hamper, it’s best not to let them sit for too long. Similarly, you don’t want to leave your towels in the dryer for too long. Take them out as soon as possible to be on the safe side.
  • Improve ventilation: Store your soiled laundry in a cool, well-ventilated area. For the same reason it’s dangerous to leave too many greasy towels in a pile, a heap of oily towels in a hot, airless room will only increase the chances of heat generation and oxidation. 
  • Watch the dryer heat: While hot water is ideal for killing germs and loosening stubborn grease, putting greasy towels into a piping-hot dryer can make combustion more likely. Make sure you’re drying your towels at a temperature that’s not too hot in case there are any leftover remnants of grease on the washed towels.
  • Outsource if necessary: If you regularly feel overwhelmed with greasy towels and rags, you may find it valuable to hire a laundering service that will pick up the soiled towels for you and return them thoroughly clean. Leaving it to the professionals gives you peace of mind that the service you hire is taking good care of your laundry. It also frees up space in your business, reducing the chances of soiled towels piling up and creating a fire hazard.
  • Train your staff: If you work with flammable items, educate your staff on how to handle them safely. Create a laundry protocol that emphasizes specific safety guidelines for greasy towels, such as storing soiled towels, reminders to never leave greasy towels in the dryer overnight and properly disposing of hazardous items.

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We invite you to browse our vast collection of wholesale towels and place your order today.


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