How To Get Valve Oil Out Of Your Clothing


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How many times have you been oiling your valves when — splat — a big drop lands right in the middle of your khakis; or you hold your horn under your arm for a moment, and end up rubbing dirty slide grease all over your favorite white shirt? If you’re anywhere near as clumsy as I am, it happens to you on a weekly basis.

The Inspiration

A few days ago, I was reading one of my favorite sites and came across an article that offers the tip of using shaving cream to remove tough, greasy stains. A few people had commented on its effectiveness. I immediately wondered if it would work on valve oil and slide grease. I decided to find out.

The Experiment

I selected three articles of clothing on which to test the technique: a pair of khakis, a red cotton t-shirt, and a white cotton t-shirt. On each item of clothing, I put a few drops of Al Cass Fast Valve Oil, and a smear of Superslick Slide Grease. In addition, I wiped one of my valves and one of my slides on the white t-shirt, to get a little grime in there. I let the stains set in for twenty-four hours. (Because really, who has time to deal with these things immediately?)

The next day, I sprayed a glob of foam shaving cream on each stain, lightly rubbed it in, and let it set for thirty minutes. I then gently scrubbed each spot with a clean cloth.

The Results

Before and after (color difference due to lighting)

Before and after (color difference due to lighting)

The experiment yielded mixed results. After wiping away the foam, the Al Cass valve oil splotches were gone, but the Superslick slide grease stains were barely touched (though the slide grease seemed to be less noticeable on the red shirt than on the khakis). Of the two “grime” spots on the white t-shirt, neither appeared to be diminished.

In order to see if the shaving cream is effective as a pre-wash treatment, I then washed and dried all three items. Laundering seemed to help with the grime. A bit of it came away, mostly on the valve oil grime spot, but a bit of the slide grease grime, too. The plain slide grease spots remained untouched.

L to R: valve oil, slide grease, after cleaning

L to R: valve oil, slide grease, after cleaning

My conclusion: If (when, really) I spill valve oil on myself, I will definitely use this trick to get it out of my clothing. It’s simple, and I already have everything needed for it. However, if I get slide grease or any grime on myself, I’ll go with a more powerful cleaner to get it out.

Do you have any tips for dealing with valve oil drips, goopy slides, and other brass musicians’ occupational hazards? Leave them in the comments!

5 Responses to “How To Get Valve Oil Out Of Your Clothing”

  1. Christen S. says:

    We had a small bottle of valve oil explode in the music room yesterday which got on both students and myself. I sought out advice online of how to remove it from clothes and I found your experiment, tried the shaving cream method, and was glad to see it worked on my dress pants. Thanks for the advice! I passed the advice onto my students’ parents this morning.

  2. Alexi says:

    I had been wondering for a while where weird stains on my clothing had been coming from. I had blamed it on laundry detergent (which seemed unlikely though), until I was playing my trumpet today and dripped valve oil onto my leg and pants! I will definitly try this experiment!
    Thank you for the tutorial!

  3. Sally says:

    I would recommend using Krud kutter cleaner on the stain. It really works!

  4. Sally says:

    I would recommend using Krud Kutter cleaner on your stain. It works!

  5. KD says:

    Any recs on how to get valve oil out after it’s been through the wash? I didn’t realize I’d stained my pants until after I sent ‘em through the wash.

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