How to remove petroleum jelly from clothes

Petroleum jelly, also known as Vaseline, is a common household product that has a wide range of uses. From moisturizing dry skin to providing a protective barrier, petroleum jelly is a versatile substance. However, one of the downsides of using petroleum jelly is that it can be difficult to remove from clothing if it gets spilled or transferred.

Petroleum jelly is a stubborn stain that can leave clothes looking greasy and discolored if not properly treated. Luckily, there are several effective methods for removing petroleum jelly from fabrics. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the best techniques for getting petroleum jelly out of clothes, as well as provide some prevention tips to help you avoid stains in the first place.

remove petroleum jelly from clothes

Why Is Petroleum Jelly So Difficult to Remove?

Petroleum jelly is challenging to remove from clothing for a few key reasons:

Oily Consistency

The primary reason petroleum jelly is so hard to get out of fabric is its oily, greasy consistency. Unlike water-based stains that can be flushed out with water, petroleum jelly binds to the fibers of the fabric, making it difficult to lift and extract. Its oil-based nature means it won’t easily dissolve in water alone.

Ability to Spread

Another issue with petroleum jelly stains is that they have a tendency to spread and seep into the surrounding fabric when not treated promptly. The longer a petroleum jelly stain sits, the more it can bleed into the material, making it increasingly difficult to remove.

Stains Easily

Petroleum jelly is also highly prone to staining, as it can easily transfer from your skin or hands onto clothing. Even a small amount can leave a noticeable mark, especially on light-colored fabrics.

Stubborn Residue

Even once you’ve treated a petroleum jelly stain, there’s often some residual greasiness or discoloration left behind. This stubborn residue can be challenging to fully eliminate, especially on delicate or dark-colored garments.

Preparation and Supplies

Before getting started on removing a petroleum jelly stain, it’s important to assemble the right supplies. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Blotting cloths or paper towels
  • Dish soap or laundry detergent
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Cornstarch or talcum powder
  • Stain remover (optional)
  • Soft-bristled brush (optional)

Having these items on hand will ensure you can effectively tackle the stain using a variety of methods.

How to Remove Petroleum Jelly Stains

Now that you have your supplies ready, let’s dive into the step-by-step process for removing petroleum jelly from clothes:

1. Act Quickly

The sooner you can treat a petroleum jelly stain, the better. As mentioned earlier, the longer the stain sits, the more it can spread and set into the fabric. As soon as you notice the stain, start the removal process.

2. Blot the Stain

Begin by blotting the affected area with a clean, absorbent cloth or paper towel. Gently dab at the stain to lift as much of the petroleum jelly as possible, being careful not to rub or press the stain further into the fabric.

3. Apply Dish Soap or Laundry Detergent

Next, apply a small amount of dish soap or laundry detergent directly to the stain. Avoid using hot water, as this can cause the petroleum jelly to further penetrate the fabric. Instead, use cool or lukewarm water. Gently work the soap into the stain using your fingers or a soft-bristled brush.

4. Let It Sit

Allow the soapy solution to sit on the stain for 5-10 minutes. This will give the soap time to help break down and lift the petroleum jelly.

5. Rinse

After letting the soap sit, rinse the area thoroughly with cool water to remove any loosened petroleum jelly and soap residue.

6. Treat with Vinegar

If the stain is still visible, mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a bowl. Dip a clean cloth into the vinegar solution and dab it onto the stain. The acidity in the vinegar can help further dissolve the petroleum jelly.

7. Rinse Again

Rinse the area with cool water to flush away the vinegar solution.

8. Apply Baking Soda

Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda directly onto the stain. The baking soda will help absorb any remaining grease or oil. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

9. Brush and Rinse

Using a soft-bristled brush, gently scrub the baking soda into the fabric to help lift the stain. Then, rinse the area thoroughly with cool water to remove all the baking soda.

10. Launder as Usual

Once you’ve completed the above steps, you can wash the garment as you normally would, following the care instructions on the clothing tag. The agitation and detergent in the wash cycle should help remove any lingering traces of the petroleum jelly stain.

Additional Tips and Tricks

Here are some additional tips and tricks that can help remove stubborn petroleum jelly stains:

Use Cornstarch or Talcum Powder

If baking soda doesn’t fully absorb the grease, try sprinkling some cornstarch or talcum powder onto the stain instead. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes before brushing and rinsing.

Try a Stain Remover

For especially stubborn petroleum jelly stains, you can also use a commercial stain remover product. Some highly-rated options include:

  • OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover – This powder-based stain remover is formulated to tackle tough, oily stains like petroleum jelly.
  • Shout Advanced Stain Remover – The active enzymes in this liquid stain remover can help break down petroleum jelly stains.
  • Persil ProClean Stain Fighter – This specialized stain remover is designed to penetrate deep into fabrics to lift stubborn grease and oil stains.

Apply the stain remover to the affected area, let it sit according to the product instructions, then launder as usual.

Avoid Heat

As mentioned earlier, exposure to heat can cause petroleum jelly to further set into the fabric. Avoid using hot water, the clothes dryer, or ironing the stain, as this can make it much harder to remove.

Be Patient

Removing petroleum jelly from clothing often requires a bit of elbow grease and patience. Don’t get discouraged if the stain doesn’t come out immediately. Keep repeating the steps until the stain is fully removed.

Preventing Petroleum Jelly Stains

The best way to deal with petroleum jelly stains is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are some tips for avoiding petroleum jelly mishaps:

  • Wear old or dark-colored clothes when using petroleum jelly. Lighter fabrics and delicate materials are more prone to staining.
  • Apply petroleum jelly sparingly and carefully, keeping it away from your clothing as much as possible.
  • Immediately wipe up any spills or accidental transfers of petroleum jelly onto your clothes.
  • Wear gloves when using petroleum jelly to avoid getting it on your hands and then transferring it to your clothes.
  • Store petroleum jelly in a secure, sealed container to prevent accidental spills.

With these prevention methods in place, you can help minimize the risk of petroleum jelly stains on your clothing.


Removing petroleum jelly from clothes can be a tricky task, but with the right approach, it is definitely possible. By acting quickly, using a combination of soap, vinegar, and baking soda, and avoiding heat, you can effectively lift petroleum jelly stains from most fabrics.

Remember to always check clothing care labels and test any cleaning solutions in an inconspicuous area first. With a little elbow grease and patience, you can get your clothes looking fresh and stain-free, even after a petroleum jelly mishap.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.