How to Treat Laundry Stains with Less Toil and Trouble

Now and then I open my mailbox to find a letter than makes me want to jump up and run around yelling, “I know the answer! I know exactly how to fix this problem!” That’s exactly what happened the day I heard from Chris …


Dear Mary: As an older woman whose hands tremble a bit (I’ve been thoroughly checked and it’s not a serious matter) I am forever dropping food on my clothing while I eat. That results in grease spots that set in no matter what I do. I have tried pre-washes, baking soda, double washing, and stain removers. I have not found anything that will remove the grease stains and I am not willing to wear a bib, especially while eating in a nice restaurant with friends and family. I am on a limited budget, and this is becoming a real issue. Please help! Chris

Dear Chris: I can identify because I have the same problem, only mine is a result of cooking over a splattering stove while failing to wear an apron. I know what you mean about tough grease spots setting into my clothes and refusing to budge. But not to worry. I have the perfect solution—one I’ve used nearly every day of my life since I found it. 

Lestoil (“less toil”) Concentrated Heavy Duty Cleaner is a product that’s been around for at least a hundred years. Your mother probably used it on your clothes when you were a kid. It is a thick liquid stain treatment that is not easy to find. I understand that some Walmart stores carry it, which you will find in the laundry aisle or online; now and then I’ll see it at Home Depot. For sure you can always find Lestoil Concentrated Heavy Duty Cleaner online at Amazon. I buy two bottles at a time, because I don’t ever want to run out of Lestoil.

Here’s the thing with Lestoil: It is stinky. It smells like the inside of a greasy machine shop. But that all disappears in the laundry once you wash the stain-treated garment.

I pour Lestoil into a spray bottle for ease of use so I can blast grease stains, old stains, food stains, make-up stains and any other stain I manage to pick up. I’m so used to the smell by now that I find it rather lovely because I know what’s going to happen—no more stain.

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Next—and this is very important—I roll up that treated item and leave it overnight. (I’ve tried letting it sit for an hour or so, but find that is not long enough to guarantee a good result.)

In the morning, I wash and dry these items as usual and Voila!, stains are gone without a trace of the infamous Lestoil odor.

One last thing: There have been a few times that a stain did not come out completely on my first attempt. On that rare occasion, rather than give up, I repeat the process with Lestoil. So far, I’ve never had to resort to a third attempt. For more info on Lestoil, take a look at my previous post, 10 Things to Know About Lestoil.

Lestoil. It’s just plain wonderful.

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  1. glenda davis says:

    I use the old blue Dawn… I dab the spot with the Dawn and let it sit for an hour or so and the grease stains almost consistently come out. If needed, I do it again and let it sit overnight ! 🙂

  2. deborah h cleveland says:

    I have removed grease stains for years by sprinkling baby/talc powder on the spot, rubbing gently, and then rolling up the garment overnight before washing it. This works every time!

  3. Corinne D says:

    I just looked for Lestoil on Amazon, and a description stated, “Not for use on metallic fabrics or white clothing.” I think this would be important info to have before using. As many of my shirts and blouses are white, what other product would you suggest for tough stain removal?

  4. wendyb80 says:

    Another brand I would recommend with a stain stick is Buncha Farmers. It has a nice eucalyptus scent. Most of the time I carry a whole stick, but it would be easy to cut a piece to carry with you wherever you go. I just add water to the end of the stick, rub it on the stain and launder as usual. Grease, catsup, mushroom sauce – all gone!

  5. Cat Nap says:

    Chris, I have a suggestion that doesn’t involve treating the stain. How about wearing a large, patterned scarf around your neck. Tie it behind your neck, then let it drape in soft folds over your chest, and hope the food hits the scarf instead of your clothing. If it’s patterned, it may not be noticeable. It will look like a fashion accessory and not a bib.

  6. Pragmatist says:

    Liquids or bar soaps are all fine for at home, but when TRAVELING, I prefer to take along a small piece of Janie Dry Spot Cleaner. (See several sources online, including some offering travel sized containers.) All you do is rub the chalk-like stick into the grease stain, wait a very short time, and then brush off the powder firmly with an old toothbrush or even the hem of a garment. Repeat, if needed. This has the advantage of allowing emergency treatments without leaving a visible damp spot on your clothing. I’ve given Janie to friends and relatives who travel a lot for business or pleasure.

  7. Jeannie says:

    I found this tip years ago for grease stains: cover the stain with CLEAR shampoo (not the type with conditioner in it; use the type you can see through). Then top it with plain table salt. Let the stain sit overnight (or longer…whenever you get to doing the laundry). The salt pulls the grease up through the shampoo. Works every time. I also like Dana’s suggestion below to use Fels Naptha; I always have a bar of this on hand.

  8. FrugalAnnie says:

    Another option is Stanley Degreaser, which is only sold by Stanley “agents” or whatever you call them…..sort of like Avon. It works well and is not stinky. It has a distinctive odor, but not stinky. It even gets oil paint out of my (art student) daughter’s clothes.

  9. Dana says:

    Hi Mary and Chris,
    I’ve never tried Lestoil because it’s not the cheapest product and it isn’t available on supermarket shelves in my area. I use a bar of Fels Naptha laundry soap. It is sold in our supermarkets and is usually only $.97 per bar. (And, it lasts a long time.)
    I wet the bar of soap, rub it into the stain (making sure the stain is all wet and scrubbed), let it sit about 10 minutes, then launder as usual. It’s worked on numerous grease stains… no waiting overnight. I have only once had a slight discoloration of the fabric, so I would test it on really bright colors or when used on delicate fabrics.
    Hope this helps in the laundry and the frugal department. :0)

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