How To Get Bike Grease Out Of Clothes, Complete Guide

Complete Guide To Staying Clean and Grease Stain Removal

I once wondered why cyclists used to wear a lot of dark colors. Maybe it was because of the era, maybe they just liked how they looked while wearing it. Nope, it was the bike grease. If your clothing is black, it doesn’t show!

Since I like lots of colors, not just the dark ones, I had to learn how to deal with bike grease. There are a few ways to approach the problem. Perhaps the simplest is to simply avoid it.

How to Avoid Bike Grease Stains

Always ride on a bike with a chain guard and fenders. A chain guard is a simple bit of plastic or metal that is bolted over the top of the chain. It can encase the entire chain on some bikes. It prevents your clothing from coming into contact with the chain. Fenders go over the wheels, keeping the chain and you cleaner.

How to Avoid Bike Grease Stains

If you often ride in loose clothing such as a skirt or a long coat, consider investing in a coat guard for the rear of the bike. It is a device that goes over the rear of the bike to keep your clothing away from the greasy parts of the bike.

Use pant leg clips or skirt weights. These are simple devices that help secure your clothing away from the chain. A pant leg clip is a simple belt you use to peg-leg your pants on the chain side of the bike. A skirt weight is as simple as a few coins and a rubber band used to weigh down a skirt, keeping it away from a chain.

Practice regular maintenance. It is not so much the grease that stains, but the dirt that the grease holds! Regularly clean and lightly oil your chain. Regularly wiping off the road grime and grease from the rear wheel, pedals and other bike parts will also help keep your clothing clean.

What To Do When That Fails and You Get Greasy

Even the most careful among us will get some bike grease on us, eventually. Knowing how to get bike grease out of clothes will always come in handy. But just how you do it will depend on what you have at hand and what kind of material you are dealing with.

For Cotton and Most Natural Fibers

Cotton and natural fibers are generally able to stand up to more rigorous cleaning methods. Now that I’ve said that, you should always start out with the methods least likely to damage your clothing.

For Cotton and Most Natural Fibers

If your clothing stains do not respond to gentle methods you can move on to something a little harsher. Remember that some of these methods can ruin the fabric! If it’s already ruined from staining, then it might be worth trying something crazy before throwing it out.

If you are dealing with wool or other animal fibers, you will need to be a little more careful! Wool can shrink and felt if too much heat or friction is used. It may be best to clean the grease stain out as much as possible, then simply dye the garment a darker shade.

For Polyester and Other Synthetics

Synthetics have many advantages. But cleaning out hard grease stains is not one of them. You will probably need to check your fabric in a hard to see spot to make sure that the soap or other chemicals do not damage the fibers. Extreme heat or harsh cleaners can also melt or destroy elastic fabrics. If the garment is expensive and you are unsure, please take it to a pro!

For Polyester and Other Synthetics

One last word of warning. Do not use a dryer on your clothing until you are sure that the stain is gone. A dryer sets stains in permanently on most fabrics.

The Corn Starch and Soap Method

The Corn Starch and Soap Method

You will need corn starch, a good soap, dry paper towels or a rag and an old toothbrush. This works best on very fresh stains.

  • Remove the stained clothing as soon as possible.
  • Heap corn starch onto the fresh, wet stains. Allow it to sit for fifteen to thirty minutes.
  • Use a dry paper towel or clean, dry rag to wipe away the oily starch and as much solid grime as possible.
  • Use a degreaser-type dish soap next. Gently rub it into the stains, without adding any water. Allow this to sit for a few minutes.
  • Now you can try to hand wash in water or use your machine.

If the stain is gone, great, if not, move to the next method.

The Heat Blast Method

The Heat Blast Method

You’ll need an old but clean tooth-brush and some kind of powerful cleaner. Your chosen soap should be color-free, or white, just in case your fabric can absorb any dye. You can use dish soap, laundry soap or a spot treatment kind of soap.

  • Immerse your stained garment in very hot, nearly boiling water for roughly twenty minutes.
  • You might want to stick the entire thing in a big pan and simmer it on the stove! If your garment cannot take the heat, use warm water and don’t simmer it!
  • Now rinse it carefully in lukewarm water.
  • That step should remove the worst of the grease. Take your soap and brush and carefully and gently scrub the stain. Use plenty of soap. Now repeat the heat treatment.

You can repeat these steps as many times as you’d like.

The Baking Soda and Soap Trick

The Baking Soda and Soap Trick

You will need lukewarm water and fresh baking soda and a clean old toothbrush.

  • Mix the baking soda and water until you have a nice thick paste.
  • Gently rub the baking soda paste into both sides of the stain with your fingers and the toothbrush.
  • Allow the mixture to set until the paste is completely dry. This is normally done overnight.
  • Use the now-dry toothbrush to rub away the baking soda. Your stain should be gone. If not, go to the next step.
  • This time you will be adding soap to you baking soda paste. Use as little water as possible. Allow it to set overnight and launder it.

Serious Cleaning, for Serious Stains

We bikers are nothing if not inventive. Over the years we’ve tried many things to get that grease out of a favorite pair of gloves or shorts. Some of them work very well. Some of these solutions may not be suitable for all fabrics or people! These are a few cleaners of last resort, to try before tossing that garment.

Mechanic’s Helpers

Mechanic's Helpers

Mechanics often use some powerful soaps to clean their skin and keep clothing stain free. These soaps often contain pine oil, orange oil, ‘oxy’ type cleaners or other chemicals that are great at cutting grease.

  • To use these soaps start by following the directions for your particular brand.
  • Safety fabric test on a hidden spot to be sure that your soap won’t destroy your fabric.
  • Most mechanic’s soaps are intended for hand washing. They are harsh enough that many people like to wear gloves while using them.
  • You can also spot treat bad stains 20 or so minutes before washing the item in a machine.

Some mechanic’s soaps can be used in a regular washer. Others are best used for hand washing. Always be respectful of any housemates if you use one of the ‘smelly soaps’ in the shared washing machine. Run a load with a scoop of baking soap to remove any traces of a smell.

The Thinner Trick

The Thinner Trick

Most of us took an art class in high school or college that involved the use of turpentine or paint thinner. We all know just how great it is at removing oils from fabric and surfaces. It can be used for bike grease too.

  • In a well ventilated or out-of-doors space prepare a glass bowl, rubber gloves and turpentine or paint thinner.
  • Put the gloves on.
  • Pour some thinner into the bowl and start working it into the fabric. You can use a clean old toothbrush to scrub at the stain too.
  • You will find that the stain will simply disappear, in most cases. Now you need to remove the turpentine!
  • Properly store any left over turpentine.
  • Allow the garment to air dry. It should lose the chemical smell.
  • Rinse your garment in plenty of soapy water. Use a bucket and change the water a few times.
  • Wash your garment as usual.

Hopefully one of these tricks is successful at removing your stain. It’s one of the unfortunate facts of cycling that grease will eventually come in contact with your stuff. Knowing how to get bike grease out of clothes makes that eventuality far less painful.

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