8 Proven Methods Of Removing Diesel Smells From Your Clothes

You may have been tinkering with your car or spent a few days in your caravan, just to find out later that your clothes smell of diesel.

The smell may not have been that bothersome outside, but the odor can be irritating in your home.

If you’re thinking of trying to get the smell out through regular laundering, we’re sorry to tell you that this won’t work. You’ll need to resort to other methods to get the diesel smell out of your garments.

8 Proven Methods Of Removing Diesel Smells From Your Clothes

If your diesel-smelling clothes are driving you mad, you’re in the right place! We’ll cover some of the best methods that can help you eliminate the annoying chemical smell.

You’ll also learn why it’s so hard to get rid of diesel smells.

Keep reading on to find out how to budge diesel smells once and for all!

Why Don’t Diesel Smells Come Out In The Washer?

You can try tossing your diesel-stained garments in the washer, but this isn’t likely to work. Diesel is a grease stain.

Most commercial laundry detergents don’t have the ingredients to break down oil-based smears, so they won’t eliminate the grease or the odor.

You’ll need to find a solvent-based stain remover, a degreasing solution, or a natural deodorizer.

Diesel is full of sulfur and nitrogen, which explains its strong, potent smell. Diesel isn’t like standard gasoline, as this dissipates quickly, so it won’t leave an adherent smell behind.

Gasoline is also refined compared to diesel, so it won’t have as potent an aroma.

To remove the diesel smell completely, you’ll need to find a method that eliminates both the nitrogen and sulfur particles that are sticking to your garments.

Diesel smells can remain for up to eight weeks on fabric, so it’s important to get the stains out of your clothes or upholstery as soon as you can.

Ways To Remove Diesel From Clothes

8 Proven Methods Of Removing Diesel Smells From Your Clothes

Any of the methods below will help you attempt to get rid of the diesel smell. Some of these will need a few products most people have lying around their house.

Others will need you to purchase a specific cleaner or degreasing method to break down the diesel stain.

Before you start working on your diesel stain, read the advice below.

Safety Guidelines

There are some precautions you need to take before attempting the methods below.

It can be tempting to try and attack the smelly clothes with a few methods and solutions, but remember to never mix cleaning products.

You can try another method if one fails, but rinse the clothing out well before to make sure it’s free from all of the prior cleaning products.

Before You Start

Here are some tips to try before trying the methods.

Try to blot the spill as much as possible. Use a paper towel to gently remove as much of the wet stain as you can.

This means that you won’t have to remove as much of the diesel from your garments.

If you can see a visible diesel stain or if your clothes smell pretty bad, you’ll need to pre-wash them. Wash them in a mix of water and dish soap.

The dish soap is designed to work on the grease, so it will break down some of the oil stains from the diesel.

If you prefer, you can substitute the dish soap for a stronger anti-grease laundry detergent.

Never use chlorine bleach as this can react with the diesel to further stain your clothes.

Don’t waste your time using standard detergent, as this won’t break down grease or fuel smells.

After Treating Your Clothes

Follow any of the methods below by washing the garment in the washer as you usually would. Try to use the best detergent you can for this.

Never place diesel-stained clothes in the dryer, as the heat can make residual diesel particles ignite! It’s best to air dry the clothes in an airy, sunny space.

If you’re camping or cooking outside, don’t wear or place the diesel-stained clothes near a grill or campfire, as they may set alight.

Methods To Remove Diesel Odors And Stains

Vinegar And Baking Soda

Both vinegar and baking soda are known for being natural deodorizers and effective stain removers. These can also be a less expensive way of removing the diesel smell from your clothes.

You may prefer to use natural substances instead of potent chemicals, but keep in mind that this method is best for light spills and faint odors.

If your clothes emit potent diesel smells, you’ll need to try a different method or purchase a strong cleaning product.

  • Begin by placing the smelly clothes in the washer. You’ll need to wash the stained garment by itself, as adding extra clothes can make the diesel smell spread to your other clothes.
  • Add your usual laundry detergent, then scatter half a box (7oz) of baking soda on top of the garment.
  • Pour half a cup of vinegar onto the clothes. Don’t pour the vinegar in the dispenser slot, as this can lead to clogs that can damage your machine.
  • Run a complete wash cycle.
  • Once the cycle is done, take the wet clothes outside, then hang them to dry. Don’t place them in the dryer as the clothes may have residual diesel particles.
  • When the clothes are dry, check them to see if any smells or stains are leftover. You can repeat this method if needed.

Baking soda and vinegar have an advantage as they are natural, so they are less likely to stain your clothes or harm your machine.

Vinegar has a bonus as it can brighten light or white clothing and clean your machine at the same time.

Cola And Baking Soda

8 Proven Methods Of Removing Diesel Smells From Your Clothes

Regular cola and baking soda are other partly natural ways of removing diesel smells from clothing.

Cola has impressive cleaning abilities as it contains citric acid, a substance that can dissolve and eliminate rust.

Cola is also a great degreaser, so it can help you remove grease stains from your garments. It can work on blood stains on fabric too.

Baking soda will give the cola a helping hand to work hard on tough oil stains.

  • First, wash the affected clothes in your washing machine on a soak cycle. Leave the garments alone for a few hours.
  • Drain the water and start another soak cycle.
  • As the washer begins to fill up, pour in a 2-liter bottle of cola and a full 14oz box of baking soda.
  • Let the clothes soak in this mixture overnight, but no more than 24 hours.
  • Launder the clothes as usual then leave outside to dry.
  • Once dry, check the clothes to see if any fuel smells remain.

The cola cleaning method can work well, but you’ll need to purchase a cola bottle and a full box of baking soda. While this isn’t the cheapest method, it is quite effective on oil-based stains.

Baking Soda & Rubbing Alcohol

Baking soda and rubbing alcohol is another partly natural deodorizing method. Rubbing alcohol is an efficient degreaser that works best on smaller oil spots.

  • First, scatter baking soda over any visible diesel stains.
  • Add a little rubbing alcohol to the stained fabric, letting it soak through.
  • Leave the clothing alone for an hour, then launder normally.
  • If your garment hasn’t got a diesel stain, but gives off a diesel smell, soak it in a mix of warm water, half a box of baking soda, and a cup of rubbing alcohol.
  • Leave the clothes to soak in the mix for up to two hours, then wash as you would normally.

Ammonia And Detergent

Using ammonia may seem like we’re covering up the diesel fumes with another potent aroma, but ammonia is a great stain remover. It can eliminate moldy, oily, or greasy aromas and stains from fabric.

  • First, put your diesel-smelling clothes in the washer. Don’t add any more clothes as the smells could spread to your other garments.
  • Add your usual laundry detergent, using the same amount as you normally would.
  • Start your regular wash cycle and let the washer fill up. As it does this, pour half a cup of ammonia into the machine water.
  • Let the wash cycle finish, then hang the clothing outside to dry. Don’t put the garments in the dryer, as diesel and ammonia are both flammable substances. Any trace left on your clothing may ignite in the dryer.
  • Once your clothing is dry, see if the diesel smells have gone. If you have a sensitive nose, you may need to wash your clothes again to replace the ammonia smell with fresh detergent.

Eucalyptus Essential Oil

8 Proven Methods Of Removing Diesel Smells From Your Clothes

Eucalyptus oil has natural degreasing properties that can help target oil-based stains.

It’s important to purchase essential oils that were distilled or cold-pressed, as this ensures the oils stay 100% pure.

If your eucalyptus essential oil was processed in one of these two methods, you can use it to get rid of the diesel smell.

  • First, put the affected clothes in the washing machine without anything else.
  • Start a regular wash cycle with warm water, without any detergent.
  • Once the washing machine has filled with water, add a few drops of eucalyptus oil.
  • Let the cycle finish, then remove the clothes and leave them to dry.
  • This is a relatively affordable method, but it tends to work better on natural fiber garments, like cotton or linen. Eucalyptus oil may not be as effective on clothes with synthetic fibers, like nylon or polyester.

Listerine Mouthwash

Listerine mouthwash isn’t just good for freshening your breath! Mouthwash, Listerine in particular, is full of essential oils and ethanol.

One of these oils is eucalyptus oil, which, as mentioned above, can be a good degreaser.

Mouthwash was created to get rid of bad odors in the mouth, so it may be able to do the same with fabric.

Listerine is also known for its ability to remove smoke smells from clothing after a campfire, so this method may be promising when it comes to diesel spills.

  • Add the affected clothes to the washing machine, then start a regular cycle.
  • Add a cup of Listerine either in the detergent compartment or straight into the water.
  • Let the wash cycle finish, remove your clothing and leave it to dry.
  • Once the clothes are dry, smell the fabric to see if any diesel smell remains.
  • If you still notice a lingering odor, repeat the process, but try adding half a cup of baking soda to the wash. The baking soda may enhance Listerine’s effectiveness.

Pine-Sol Cleaner

Pine-sol is a popular bathroom cleaner, but it’s also good to use as an all-purpose house cleaner.

It can eliminate greasy stains and smells from your clothing, which is perfect when trying to remove diesel smells. Pine-sol can also work on built-up grease in your washer.

  • Put the affected clothes in the washer without any extras, using a good-quality detergent.
  • Pour in half a cup of Pine-Sol as the water fills the machine.
  • Let the cycle finish, then hand your clothes out to dry.
  • Examine your clothes to see if any fuel smells remain. If they smell like Pine-sol, give them another wash with detergent.

If you don’t have Pine-sol on hand, other cleaning products can work, like Mr. Clean.

Just be sure to read the label before to make sure the product doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals, as this may damage your clothing and your machine.

Fast Orange Hand Cleaner

Fast Orange is a hand cleaner that’s applied like a lotion. It’s designed to remove oil and grease from the skin, which is why it’s so popular with mechanics.

The lotion works well on grease spills on the skin, so it may help to remove oil-based diesel from fabric.

  • First, identify any visible diesel stains on the fabric.
  • Once you’ve located all the stains, rub a little Fast Orange straight onto the spill.
  • If there aren’t any stains, but your garment reeks of diesel, place your clothes in the wash and add a tablespoon of Fast Orange in your washer.
  • Run your usual cycle, then hang the clothes up to dry.
  • Once the clothes are dry, check for any residual smells or stains.
  • You can repeat the process if needed, but try pouring half a cup of baking soda into the machine.
  • Other similar products like Simple Green can work as well, but carry out a test patch on your clothing so you don’t risk damaging the fabric.

Eliminating Diesel Odors From Garments After Washing

8 Proven Methods Of Removing Diesel Smells From Your Clothes

If you’ve already washed your clothes before treating the diesel smell, a vinegar soak along with any of the methods above can help remove the smell.

It’s always best to try and target the diesel smell as soon as the spill occurs, but this isn’t always possible.

If you’ve already washed the clothes before tackling the diesel smell, follow these steps.

  • Start by choosing one of the methods above, like the Listerine Mouthwash method. Gather all the necessary supplies.
  • Now you’ll need to pre-soak the affected garment. Fill a bathtub, basin, or bucket with equal amounts of vinegar and hot water.
  • Leave the clothes to soak for half an hour up to an hour.
  • Once the clothes have soaked, carry out one of the chosen methods above.

These methods can be effective, but diesel smells are notoriously tricky to remove. You’ll likely have to repeat the methods a few times before you notice a difference.

Remember that it’s harder to remove diesel smells if you’ve already placed the clothes in the washer without tackling the smell.

Try to carry out one of the methods above before washing the clothing as normal.

How To Remove Diesel Stains From Fabric

The methods above will work on diesel stains as well as eliminate the fuel smell. These tips can help you with the process.

  • Before you tackle a diesel stain, use a paper towel to blot as much of the moisture as possible. This will remove some of the fuel, making it easier to remove them later.
  • Try to pretreat stains with a solvent-based stain remover before attempting one of the methods.
  • Before you try one of the methods in this article, try sprinkling some baking soda on a new stain and leaving it to work for 24 hours.
  • Dish soap also works as a pre-treatment. Rub it into the stain with your fingers or a clean toothbrush. Leave it to work on the spill for a few hours before trying one of the main approaches.
  • Processes with natural products, like vinegar or essential oil, can work, but they’re likely to need a few goes.
  • Cleaners like Fast Orange can work well on grease spills, but they are potent, so you may risk damaging light or fragile materials.
  • Fresh stains are much easier to remove from clothing, so try to avoid letting them dry! Blotting the moisture and applying a pre-treatment are simple steps that may save your clothes.

How To Remove Diesel Odors From Shoes

It’s hard to remove diesel smells from clothes, but it can be even more tricky trying to remove them from shoes.

Some of the best ways of removing diesel odors from shoes are to wash them, apply a vinegar and baking soda mix, or deodorize the shoes with a potato – yes, you read that right!

Washing Your Shoes

Before you do this, check to see if your shoes are washable or not. If they are, place them in a zipped laundry bag and toss them in a standard wash cycle.

The bag will stop the laces from tangling and getting lost in the machine.

  • Use a strong, high-quality detergent, or try one of the cleaners mentioned above, like Fast Orange.
  • Once the cycle is done, don’t put your shoes in the dryer! Let them dry in a warm, airy location.

If you spilled a lot of diesel on your shoes, you’ll probably need to pre-treat them and repeat the cleaning process a few times.

Try pre-soaking your shoes in a bucket of water with a little dish soap.

Vinegar And Baking Soda

Baking soda is known for removing fabric stains, but it can also deodorize your shoes to remove fuel smells.

Keep in mind that you may need to repeat these steps to ensure you’ve fully eliminated the diesel smell.

Follow the baking soda and vinegar steps mentioned earlier, just with your shoes instead of your clothes.

As these substances are natural, you can use this method without worrying about damaging your shoes or clothes.

Potato In A Bag

8 Proven Methods Of Removing Diesel Smells From Your Clothes

It may sound weird, but potatoes have impressive deodorizing abilities. All you need is a potato, a peeler, and a Ziploc bag.

  • Begin by peeling two potatoes small enough to fit inside your shoes.
  • Push the potatoes so that they reach your shoe’s toe area.
  • Place the shoes inside a Ziploc bag and leave them overnight.
  • Check on the shoes in the morning to see if the odor has gone.

The potato method can work very well on leather shoes, but not so well on fabric ones.

If your shoes are made from canvas or fabric, one of the other methods would work better.


Diesel smells are hard to remove from clothes, but not impossible! The methods outlined above can work well on fuel smells.

You can choose between natural substances like baking soda and vinegar or opt for stronger products, like Fast Orange or Pine-Sol.

Try to tackle the diesel smell as soon as possible. You may have to repeat the steps or try a few methods before the diesel smell leaves for good.

Be persistent, and remember, never place the affected garment in the dryer, as residual diesel particles may ignite in the machine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get your last-minute queries answered below! 

How Long Does It Take For The Diesel Smell To Go Away?

Diesel and standard gasoline are made from different chemicals, which make diesel more likely to stain.

As diesel has sulfur and nitrogen in it, it evaporates slowly and releases a stronger smell. If you don’t eliminate a diesel spill soon, diesel odors can last anywhere between 6-8 weeks.

Why Does Diesel Leave An Odor?

Diesel is a chemical compound that’s full of several ingredients. Diesel contains 75% saturated hydrocarbons and 25% aromatic hydrocarbons.

One of the aromatic hydrocarbons is benzene, a sweet-smelling substance that the human nose is perceptive to. 

Benzene is very potent, so much so that our noses can smell it if there’s only 1 part per million within the air.

Diesel smells are more difficult to remove compared to gasoline, as the latter evaporates much faster, along with its smell or stain.

Why Should You Remove Diesel Smells?

Other than its potent smell, it’s important to remove diesel stains and odors as soon as possible. When a human smells diesel fuel, they inhale some of the fumes.

As these enter the body, the blood can absorb the fuels, allowing them to reach important organs like your brain and heart.

If the blood starts to contain hints of this fuel, the blood’s oxygen content lowers, meaning your organs don’t receive enough oxygen.

This is very bad for your health. In most cases, you’ll be fine if you smell diesel while filling your car up a few times a month.

However, those that frequently smell diesel are at risk of endangering their well-being.

Amanda Brown

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