About a year ago, my mother-in-law spilled a bottle of vegetable oil. Using a handful of kitchen towels, I jumped in to help mop it up — which just made a bigger mess. Then, after hours of cleanup, I tossed the towels into the washing machine, and trying to be efficient, washed them with some other dirty clothes. A second BIG mistake. My kids and poor husband smelled like a bottle of canola oil for days.

Never wanting this to happen again, I’ve made it a mission to find the best way to clean a cooking oil spill. The following method is fast, effective, and best of all, won’t have everyone smelling like the back of a diner. A job well done, if I say so myself.

Related: How to clean burnt cookie sheets with an easy homemade solution.


Hands down, the best way to clean a cooking oil spill. | Jane Sweeney for Cool Mom Eats

The best way to clean a cooking oil spill

1. Soak up the excess oil with paper towels or old dish towels (that you make sure to wash separately) using a dabbing motion. Do not wipe or you risk spreading the oil further. If a glass bottle has broken, too, carefully pick up and wrap the glass pieces in newspaper or collect them in a brown paper bag before tossing them into the trash.

2. Generously sprinkle cornstarch over the remaining oil and let sit for about 10 minutes. Cornstarch has worked well for me, but some sources suggest you can also use baking soda, if that’s all you have on hand. (Update: Stick with cornstarch unless you have a canister vacuum; the fine particles have a tendency to clog the filters.)

3. Vacuum the cornstarch using a handheld vacuum. (Am I the only one who still uses a Dustbuster?!)

4. Wipe the surface using a little water and liquid dish soap if any oily residue remains.

Related: 10 genius, unexpected uses for lemons.

Bonus tips!

• If the oil gets on your clothes, rub a little cornstarch into the clothing and let it set before washing.

• If the oil gets on your carpet, sprinkle with cornstarch and wait about thirty minutes for the cornstarch to soak up the oil. Vacuum excess cornstarch and — fingers crossed — the stain should be gone.

• Your kids wrote on the wall while you were cleaning the oil? We’ve got you covered: How to clean the 5 biggest kid messes, from Sharpie on the wall to play-doh on the rug.