Skip to Content

5 Ways to Get Diesel Smell Out of Clothes

5 Ways to Get Diesel Smell Out of Clothes

If you’ve ever worked around diesel-powered machinery, you know it can stink. Not only that, but you probably ended up walking away smelling more like a semi-truck and less like a person. If you don’t want your entire home smelling like a truck stop, you’re probably wondering how to get diesel smell out of your clothes. 

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Below we discuss why diesel is so smelly and five easy ways to get that smell out of your clothes! Let’s begin. 

How To Use Coca-Cola to remove diesel smell from clothes

Why Does the Smell of Diesel Stick to Fabrics?

Have you ever filled up your truck, motorhome, or other diesel-powered vehicle and accidentally spilled fuel on yourself? We know the feeling. That sense of dread because you know you’re going to smell for the rest of the day. Even running your clothes through the wash may not do the trick. Why exactly does the diesel smell stick to fabrics so easily? 

The main reason is that diesel is petroleum-based. Essentially, it’s oil, and we know oil and water don’t mix well. This is why running your clothes through the wash just doesn’t cut it. Water doesn’t break down oil like it does dirt and grime. 

Moreover, diesel is made with sulfur and nitrogen, which gives it a strong odor. It also evaporates slower than gasoline, causing it to seep into your clothing that much more. This means diesel can easily penetrate fabric with a pungent smell, stain clothing, and stick around even after a good wash. 

fueling up diesel truck

Pretreat Your Clothing for Best Results

Like anything, the sooner you take action after getting diesel on your clothes, the better. It will give you the best chance of reviving your clothes back to their original state. 

Begin by soaking the oil stain in cold water. Then, scrub the spot with an oil-fighting dish detergent, such as Dawn. It will begin to break up the oil compounds and prepare your clothes for the deep clean they truly need. 

Pro Tip: Make washing clothes easier with one of these 5 Best Small Washing Machines for RV Living.

Woman washing clothes
There are some simple solutions to get the diesel smell out of your clothes.

5 Easy Ways to Get Diesel Smell Out of Clothes

Now that we’ve explored why diesel is so potent and how to pretreat your clothing, let’s talk about how to get diesel smell out of your clothes for good. Fortunately, it is easy and very doable, and you probably don’t even have to run to the store for supplies. Below are five easy ways to treat your fuel-stained clothing using common household items.

1. Baking Soda & Vinegar

How It Works: Baking soda and vinegar trigger a bubbly reaction you may remember from Science Fair in grade school. While each is a great cleaner on their own, and actually is quite useless combined, the reaction itself from their mixture can help remove the diesel smell from clothes. Baking soda is known for being a great degreaser, and vinegar’s acidic nature can help cut through the oil.

When mixed, vinegar and baking soda cause a foaming chemical reaction that creates carbon dioxide. You can rely on this bubbling reaction for many cleaning purposes, including breaking up the components of diesel and lifting it out of your clothing.  

How to Do It: Simply lay down the piece of clothing you want to treat and sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the affected area. Then, apply the vinegar (we recommend a spray bottle for maximum coverage) until the mixture bubbles vigorously.

You may want to turn your clothes inside out and treat them multiple times, especially if the diesel soaked all the way through. Then, wash like normal.

Baking powder product shot.
Baking soda is an affordable, easy way to remove the smell of diesel.

2. Rubbing Alcohol & Baking Soda

How It Works: Rubbing alcohol and baking soda can work too. Unfortunately, these two ingredients don’t produce the exciting reaction that the former does.

Nevertheless, baking soda is fantastic for soaking up oil and eliminating odor. Rubbing alcohol then breaks up the diesel compounds even more, helping to effectively lift and remove the fuel from your fabric. Plus, the alcohol evaporates, so that’s one less residue to worry about washing out. 

How to Do It: Lay down your garments and generously sprinkle baking soda on them. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, allowing the baking soda to soak up any diesel that soaked into your clothing.

Then, add the rubbing alcohol and scrub. When you believe the diesel smell is completely gone, run your clothes through the washing machine. 

Pro Tip: Got more stink to remove from your clothing? Check out these 5 Simple Ways for How to Get Campfire Smell Out of Clothes.

Rubbing alcohol product shots
From rubbing alcohol to Listerine, there are many options to remove the smell of diesel from your clothes.

3. Listerine

How It Works: Good old Listerine. It helps with so many things–bad breath, gingivitis, and now, smelly clothes. Believe it or not, it actually works great at removing pungent smells from fabric, and firefighters even use it to remove the smell of smoke from their clothes!

How to Do It: If your clothes are especially smelly, try soaking them in Listerine directly prior to washing them. But if you just want to rid your clothes of the smell (rather than an actual oil stain), simply add a cup of Listerine to your regular wash cycle.

4. Cola & Baking Soda

How It Works: We all know that soda isn’t particularly good for us, but at least it’s good for getting the smell of diesel out of clothes. We’ve already discussed baking soda’s absorbent and deodorizing properties, but what about cola? Cola is actually a natural degreaser, and it works amazingly at removing grease stains from clothing. 

How to Do It: Put your diesel-stained clothes in the bathtub or sink and add at least 2 liters of cola. Then, add a full box of baking soda and let the concoction do its magic for at least 12 hrs. This is probably one of the most effective ways of getting the diesel smell out of clothing if you don’t mind the wait. 

Can of coca-cola
Coca-Cola isn’t just for drinking! It can also help remove the smell of diesel from your clothes.

5. Use a Heavy Duty Detergent

How It Works: Last, but not least, we recommend using a powerful detergent to remove the smell from your clothes. Invest in something like Fast Orange Mechanic’s Laundry Detergent, which is specially formulated to remove and repel grease and oil stains. You can use this to both pretreat your clothing and wash as normal. 

How to Do It: To pretreat, soak your clothes in cold water and apply the detergent to the affected areas. Scrub it in, and let it sit for at least 2 hrs. To wash, use the heavy-duty detergent to replace your regular detergent. 

Pro Tip: Time is precious. Use these 5 Best Ways to Get Rid of Gasoline Smell Fast.

Housekeeping Tips : How to Wash Out Diesel From Clothes

Is Diesel Vapor Smell Harmful?

While breathing diesel exhaust fumes is known to be harmful, what about unburned diesel vapors? If you have to smell spilled diesel all day, you would likely experience temporary irritation of your eyes, skin, or respiratory tract. Depending on how much fuel has spilled on you, it could also cause dizziness, headache, or nausea.

While smelling spilled vapors will likely not result in hydrocarbon poisoning like sometimes happens with diesel siphoning, you still probably don’t want to prolong the experience.

That’s How to Get Diesel Smell Out of Clothes! 

If you’ve ever wondered how to rid your clothing of that putrid odor, you now have a useful toolkit to reference each time you work around machinery. Whether it’s just the diesel smell or a full-blown grease stain, these tips can get your clothes to a cleaner, fresher state. 

Do you have any go-to methods that we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments below! 

Become A Mortons On The Move Insider

Join 10,000+ other adventurers to receive educating, entertaining, and inspiring articles about RV Travel Destinations, RV Gear, and Off-Grid Living to jump-start your adventures today!

About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

About Us

Sharing is caring!


Tuesday 18th of January 2022

Very informative! And, Listerine! Who would have thought of that?! I also wonder if Simple Green would work? It's good on other grease stains, too. Thank you for this great article!


Tuesday 18th of January 2022

A good and helpful article!