Car Cleaning Products Can Save Stained Clothing Sometimes

Every time I open the hood of a car, I end up greasy. I swear to the gods I’m like a bumbling idiot in the “before” scene of an infomercial. Last weekend I dared inspect the engine of my 1984 Nissan 300ZX while wearing my favorite sweatpants, and cue dramatic music, disaster struck. But I fixed it with the same stuff I use to detail the car. Neat.

Earlier this year Jay Leno’s car detail guy showed me how to get grease stains out of automotive seat fabric. He was also selling me on his then-new product, a green cleaner spray that’s supposedly non-caustic and safe to squirt on pretty much any material.


It’s pretty simple, really. Sweatpants are soft, car seats are soft, I figured why not try that same stuff along with the agitation and “key-turning technique” of un-grinding grease from fabric?

One of many sad sooty spots

And... it worked! Here’s exactly what I did, and straight up, in my experience, this works for getting almost any stain out of almost anything:

  • Hit your stained fabric with some cold water. If it’s really light and literally just happened, sometimes that’s all you need. Then you can pretty much scratch the stain away with a fingernail.
  • You need more power for grease, though. That’s when you need an aptly named degreaser chemical. Spray that on, let it sit for a second, and then agitate with a fingernail. Or plastic-bristle brush could work, too.
  • After a few rounds of that, your grease spot should either be gone or completely ground into your fabric. But now you might have a degreaser stain on your pants. That comes out in the regular laundry machine. Usually.

You would do well to read the instructions on the cleaning product of your choice instead of relying solely on my anecdotal advice. Obviously, some degreasers are harsher than others, and you’re going to want to make sure you don’t turn a grease stain into a burned hole.

Now look at that fine field of fresh fabric!

Man. “Favorite sweatpants.” “’84 Nissan.” Banal epiphanies. I’m kind of outing myself as an all-American dumbass with this blog here, but it will be worth it if I can help just one of you save some clothing.

I really did want to share this because I’ve wrecked a lot of shirts and pants with grease stains in my years on this Earth, and it only recently occurred to me to start trying more than hand soap and cold water. Maybe some of you were raised by wolves as well and could also benefit from this information.


This isn’t meant to be an ad for Jay Leno’s green cleaning spray, although I do have to admit that stuff seems to work really well. There are plenty of degreaser products out there, just make sure you grab one that won’t wreck the coloring of a garment material. And of course, different cleaners will work on different textures.

While we’re calling out specific products, I’m also a fan of stuff called “Oxy-Clean Max Force” which is, you know, actually intended for laundry instead of car seats. But after a little experimentation, I am starting to think that the car cleaner works just a little more effectively on automotive grease.


Hopefully this helps at least one of you. Not everybody knows their way around laundry; I sure could have used this tiny tip myself 10 years ago.

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About the author

Andrew P. Collins

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL