Sometimes it's difficult to tell whether that yellowish stain on your favorite linen tablecloth is from the vinaigrette dressing you served with salad or from the zesty marinade sauce you served with dinner. But if you've identified the stain as oil-based, you may be able to remove it. The sooner you address the stain, the better, since the less time a stain has to settle in, the better your chance of removing all traces of it.
Blot the stain with a clean cloth or paper towel to lift as much of the oil stain as possible. Do not scrub the stain or else you will risk setting it. Work from the outside of the stain to the center to contain the area.
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Apply an absorbent substance, such as baby powder, salt or cornstarch, to the stain and let it sit for 20 minutes. Brush off the absorbent with a paper towel.
Mix a grease-cutting dish soap with baking soda to make a paste the consistency of toothpaste. Spread the paste on the stain.
Scrub the stain on both sides of the linen with an old toothbrush. Don't use a toothbrush with hard bristles as this will shred the fibers of the linen. Let the paste sit for another 20 minutes.
Rinse off the paste with warm water.
Repeat the process, if necessary, if remnants of the stain remain.
Treat the stain with a pre-laundering stain treatment, such as Shout or OxiClean, to reduce the likelihood of any discoloration remaining on the linen. Apply this treatment to an area slightly larger than the visible oil stain, as oil tends to spread on linen.
Launder the linen in the hottest water possible. Check the washing instructions on the label of the linen to be certain of the correct temperature setting.
Inspect the linen carefully, in a bright light, to ensure that the stain is completely gone before putting it in the dryer. Dryer heat will permanently set even the faintest oil stain, making it impossible to remove.