Best Laundry Detergents for Mechanic / Grease & Oil Stains

Updated: | Author: Steve Freling | Affiliate links may be present.

There is no doubt in any adult's mind that grease and oil are two of the most difficult stains to remove from clothing. They can ruin your favorite pair of jeans or your best shirt in a matter of seconds and sometimes running them through the wash does little to nothing to remove the stain.

Oil and grease are so difficult to remove because they are naturally hydrophobic, meaning they don’t mix with water - instead they repel it. So it can take quite a bit of time and elbow grease (no pun intended) to remove them the old fashioned way.

Top 3 - Mechanics' Laundry Detergents

Mechanics (and other repair industries) deal with grease and oil stains quite often, and thankfully there are some excellent formulations of detergents that are meant Aa for these types of soilants. 

Best Detergents for Work Clothes / Mechanics

1. OxiClean

This tried and true stain fighter has been around for years and there’s a reason for its popularity. Its formula is unique in that it contains something called sodium percarbonate, which is a mixture of regular sodium carbonate and a powdered form of hydrogen peroxide.

It also contains surfactants which reduces the surface tension of the grease and oils, thus allowing water to penetrate deeper into the stain to help remove it. The powder formula also allows you to use it in a variety of ways.

It’s most commonly scooped into your washing machine in addition to your regular detergent. It can also be mixed in a more concentrated form and placed in a spray bottle for pre-treatment. It can even remove some of the toughest stains like ink and sharpie markers when used as a pre-treatment.

The scent of the pure powder can be a bit overwhelming, but the added fragrances are very subtle after a wash. This allows it to remove the odors associated with oil and grease stains as well. It’s also been known to make clothes look brighter after washing (including colors) and this is due to the surfactants that I mentioned.

A large tub of OxiClean will last you quite a bit as well because a little goes a long way with this product.

2. Oil Eater

The grease dissolving agents in Oil Eater are an excellent way to remove new or old stains. Similar to the surfactants in other products, these agents help to penetrate the stain and allow the water and detergent to effectively lift them out.

This is one of the best detergents for grease and oil because it can be used on a multitude of surfaces, not just clothes. Some mechanics and homeowners even use it on the car oil spills in their garage.

When first purchased, it is a concentrated solution and will require dilution before being used. The manufacturer recommends a weaker concentration for a less porous surface (such as clothes) and a stronger concentration for more porous surfaces (like materials heavy in polyester).

An important note for using Oil Eater is that you aren’t going to want to throw it in the washing machine. It can leave a slippery film if it is not diluted correctly. It also needs to be rinsed off within just a few minutes of being applied.

For these reasons, this would be a great pre-treat option for work clothes. Simply apply the diluted solution to the clothes, allow it to sit for a few minutes, and then rinse under warm water. When you’re done, you can either repeat the pre-treat or you can place it in the washer as normal.

3. Fast Orange Mechanic Laundry Detergent

As simple as it looks, this is one of the best laundry soaps for mechanics. The Fast Orange brand is popular among auto shops and other types of mechanics. You’ll most often find their hand wipes that rid your hands of grease and their antimicrobial sprays known for the distinct citrus orange smell.

The convenience of the Fast Orange detergent is two-fold. For one, it is already premixed so there is no need to dilute the formula before use, simply add it straight into your washing machine like you would your normal laundry soap.

Secondly, Fast Orange may be known for its scent, but it’s also known to be one of the best odor eliminating products on the market for mechanics. If your clothes look clean but have that constant smell of the shop and oil, a normal wash cycle with Fast Orange will fix that for you.

Although it is on the pricey side of detergents, if you only use it for your mechanic clothes you can make a bottle last quite a while. You can pretreat with Fast Orange like you normally would and then wash with your regular soap or just use it on the entire load.

For older stains, a pretreat and rinse is recommended followed by a regular wash with an additional amount of Fast Orange detergent.

4. OUT Pro Wash For Work Clothes

Specifically made for clothes of the smelly variety, the OUT Pro Wash detergent helps immensely with removing lingering odors that can sometimes be a byproduct of dirty jobs.

Because it is designed for work wear, it can help freshen and remove stains from coveralls, spandex, lycra, high-reflective suits, aprons, and even certain forms of turnout gear (like those that firefighters wear). Removing the stains from the job while making it smell fresh is all that you need from a work wear detergent.

You can use either the full amount with no other detergent or use it as a booster (by cutting the ratio in half) in conjunction with your regular laundry soap. It’s safe and gentle enough to use with every wash if you wish & can be used in every time of machine.

It is unscented so the odor elimination is done through the actual cleaning process, not through masking. Though there is no added fragrance, the natural smell of the cleaning agents does deliver a generic & pleasant “clean” smell at the end of the wash that isn’t perfumey. 

Note that there is a small amount of blue dye in this formula so using it in a whites only wash may lead to a slightly darker white shade once it’s finished.

5. Persil Pro-Clean

Shifting away from work specific detergents or soaps that are designed especially to remove grease and oil, we have Persil Pro-Clean which is one of the more powerful “everyday” laundry detergents that could assist with keeping your work clothes looking brand new.

The pro-clean formula is the same as their regular laundry detergent except it is twice as concentrated. There’s no need to dilute it before you add it to your washing machine though as this stronger concentration is what allows it to remove those deeper stains.

It has been shown to be highly effective at removing grease and oil stains from mechanic clothes with less fuss than a regular detergent. Also, because it is concentrated you are able to use less product but still achieve the same results which makes this a win for your pocketbook.

There is a slight fragrance to Persil but it is now overpowering. It should be noted that “fragrance allergens” are a listed ingredient for this detergent which means it has the potential to cause skin irritation on those who have previously shown allergic reactions to fragrance.

This is actually a popular laundry soap for those in the medical field because it is able to fully remove some of the tougher stains from scrubs - even bloodstains. But consumers also note its excellent ability to completely erase a wide range of stains. 

6. Parker & Bailey Stain Medic

My personal favorite of all the tough stain detergents is this Stain Medic laundry soap. I usually use it as an additive to my normal detergent but you can use it by itself as well. It’s gentle enough to use every wash but strong enough to remove almost any stain, even if it has been sitting for a while.

The most important feature of this soap is that it is completely odorless. There is no added fragrance and the only smell that is left after the wash is just a general clean smell. This is useful because many people can have allergic skin reactions to some added fragrances.

It can be used on other types of workwear fabric as well, like hats, gloves, and even shoes. A quickly processed pre-treatment (approximately 15-20 minutes) is enough to remove difficult stains that are days old and dried.

Grease and oil stains are easily lifted as well in a regular wash cycle. There’s no dyes in this formula either so it will clean without altering the color of your clothing. Its ingredients help to make grease and oil more water soluble so there isn’t a film left over inside the washing machine when you’re done.

How to Wash Mechanic Clothes

The amount of stain producing products mechanics worth with make this an extra dirty profession. Grease, oil, lube, and other fluids needed to maintain or fix a car are bound to find their way onto the mechanic’s clothes. 

The way in which these fluids are removed can mean the difference between long lasting clothes or having to constantly buy and replace your work outfit. There’s several important things to keep in mind when washing these types of clothes.

Pay Attention to the Material

While some people choose to wear a rugged pair of jeans and an old t-shirt, some choose (or are even required) to wear coveralls. Coveralls go over a mechanic's regular clothes and provide certain types of protection such as fire resistance and protection from harmful chemicals getting on the skin.

Most coveralls are made of polyester for durability mixed with varying amounts of cotton for breathability. Polyester can be easier to clean but make sure whichever detergent you choose is safe for use on this type of material.

Pre-treat Set in / Large Stains

In order to get a jump start on stain removal, use your detergent of choice to pre-treat any particularly difficult stains. The manufacturer should give instructions on the specific pre-treat options that can be used but there are several common ones.

You can dab a small amount of the detergent on the stain and vigorously rub it in then allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes. You can also put some detergent in a spray bottle with a small amount of water and spray it on the stain.

If there is a bigger stain, you can fill up your sink or your bathtub with a few inches of hot water (just enough to cover the clothing) and mix in the detergent, allowing it to soak for several minutes before transferring it to the wash.

Wash Separate from Other Clothes

When grease and oil are lifted from your clothes, they are still present in the surrounding water until it drains from the washing machine. You may notice that some of your clothes have a slippery “film” on them after washing them with greasy clothes and this is the reason why.

To avoid this happening, make sure you wash your dirty work clothes separately from your everyday clothes, even if they have been pre-treated.

Don’t Use Too Much Soap

Adding more than the recommended amount of soap doesn’t mean your clothes will be any cleaner. In fact, this increases the chance of soap residue remaining on your clothes after the rinse cycle and causing skin irritation.

Rinse Very Well

Some washers have the option to run a 2-rinse cycle. If you have that available, always choose that setting. If not, you can manually run the machine again but start it at the rinse cycle. This makes sure your preferred soap isn’t leaving any residue on your clothes.

Also, you should run a rinse cycle with an empty washer before proceeding with washing other clothes to remove leftover oil film if there is any.

This is to make sure every bit of grease and oil is removed from the sides of the machine and doesn’t transfer over. You should then rinse down your tub or sink with very hot water if you pre-treated your clothes in them. 

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About Steve Freling

Steve has worked for more than 20 years as an automotive mechanic, and later run his own repair shop for both cars and motorcycles. He's a maintenance freak, and generally pretty good at troubleshooting!

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