My next door neighbor decided to saturate panels of our steel fence with cooking oil to stop the rust (which was expected and is a desired patina).

How can we get rid of the old oil smell and get the oily stain off the fence?


4 Answers 4


Knowing that you don't mind the rust, I'd go at it the same way you would dirty dishes soiled with the same thing--dish detergent and water. A little scrubbing with a nylon brush shouldn't damage the surface, and the rust will return shortly.


You will want to use something that is non-toxic and biodegradable since it is outdoors.

I would recommend using car wash soap, and wash it the same way as you would with your car. It has degreasers in it, and is usually safe. Mix a small amount with hot water, and scrub the fence with a stiff bristled broom. Spray the fence with water, and then scrub with the soapy water and let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse.

You may need to repeat a few times to get all of the oil off. A pressure washer will speed up the process.

  • Are most car wash soaps non-toxic and biodegradable? They often leave "protective" residues behind by design.
    – isherwood
    Aug 17, 2016 at 19:15
  • There are many soaps out now that use naturally-derived surfactants and claim to be non-toxic and biodegradable. If your store has an "organic" store brand (Stop and Shop in Massachusetts has "Nature's Promise"), start by looking for that brand in the cleaning aisle.
    – Doktor J
    Aug 17, 2016 at 21:41

Most solvents will remove oil. if you really want to strip the oil quickly brake cleaner is amazing and bare metal starts rusting quickly after cleaning with this product. I use it quite a bit and it is one of the best degreasers I have found.

  • 2
    I'd be reluctant to dump that much of a caustic solvent into my yard or the air if I had other options. How do plants react to it?
    – isherwood
    Aug 17, 2016 at 16:28
  • It evaporates very fast, I do not think it is a caustic. I have never gotten it on plants so I am not sure but it kills yellow jackets quite well.
    – Ed Beal
    Aug 17, 2016 at 18:54

Simple Green is a degreaser, it's biodegradable and non-toxic. If you could stand up a sheet of 4 x 8 plywood behind the fence and hit it with a power washer, that'd be great (probably). But if not, apply some good ol' elbow grease.

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