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How to Remove Oil Stains from Outdoor Equipment

By Posted in - Clothing and Outerwear on January 2nd, 2015 sleeping_bag

How to Remove Oil Stains from Outdoor Equipment

Some of the most difficult stains to remove from synthetic fabrics are oil stains. This is particularly the case with large, bulky items like sleeping bags and down-filled jackets that are time-consuming and difficult to launder. What follows is a simple, time-tested, technique for removing oil stains from textiles like nylon and polyester.

1. Preparing the oil stained fabric:

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix a quarter-sized dollop of dish soap* with an equal amount of room-temperature tap water. Apply this directly to the stain and work lightly with your finger or a dishcloth. If you’re doing this with a sleeping bag or down coat, try to lift the textile from the down as this will help to keep the down from getting overly saturated.


2. Removing the soap:

Wait 20-45 minutes then fill a medium size bowl with warm water. Soak a clean dish cloth in the bowl and then wring. Using this moistened cloth, dab the area, working to remove as much of the soap as possible. Continue to dab, soak and wring the cloth until you’re comfortable that all the soap has been removed. Try to keep the area contained; the larger the working area, the longer the item will take to dry.

3. Applying baking soda:

Before we transition into the next phase of our cleaning, move the item to an area of your home where it can rest undisturbed for as long as needed. Now, with the fabric still saturated, thickly sprinkle baking soda over it. With your fingers, work the baking soda into the fabric until it takes on the consistency of a dry paste. Leave the item for 6-24 hours. As the baking soda dries it will “pull” the remaining oil from the fabric.


4. Cleaning the fabric:

Once you feel that the baking soda has done its job, remove it by dumping into a sink, garbage can or out in the yard. You’ll probably have to rub the area with your fingers to rid the fabric of any deeply-set remaining powder. Now, return the item to its drying area. Fill a medium size bowl with warm water and a clean dish cloth. Dab the area with the moistened cloth to clean any remaining baking soda residue.

5. Drying:

Once you’re comfortable that the area has been sufficiently cleaned of baking soda, allow the item to dry for up to a day. If the down has gotten wet, you may need to let it dry for a few days before putting away. You’ll know that the down has gotten wet if it feels clumpy, or if the area is noticeably less lofty than the surrounding area. If the down has gotten really wet, place it in front of a fan for a couple days.

As with all stains, the earlier you treat the textile the more successful you’ll be. But that being said, we’ve had success using this method with items that have sat for weeks. And, because you’ll be using relatively gentle cleaning agents, repeating these steps for a deeper cleaning shouldn’t damage the fabric.

*We recommend using a natural dish soap like Seventh Generation. If using a commercial brand with detergents, spot test for color fastness. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that whenever you clean technical fabrics you affect their waterproofness and/or durability. Always review care tags before spot cleaning or laundering your equipment.

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