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How to Remove Tree Sap from Just About Anything

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A pine cone dripping tree sap.

Spring and late summer are the prime seasons for sticky, gooey, tree sap. The stuff seems to ooze onto everything with ease. Getting it off, however, can be a whole different matter. Here are some sure fire methods for removing tree sap from just about anything.

Let the Agent Do the Work

The most efficient and effective way to remove sap from any surface is to allow the removal agents to do the work. In the case of alcohols, that means letting them dissolve the sap, and in the case of oils, letting them soften the sap before rubbing the remainder of it off.

To avoid damaging the surface covered in sap, AWAYS test removal agents on an inconspicuous area first. Only when that area has been treated successfully should you proceed to a larger area. Always wear gloves and use precautions when using any type of chemical.

How To Remove Sap From Vehicles

Note: When removing sap from a vehicle, the goal is to use the least amount of pressure possible to reduce the risk of scratching the paint. After the sap is removed, treated areas should always be buffed with a high quality polish or re-waxed in order to clean up any marks created during removal. As always, test the method in an inconspicuous place before applying to a broader area.

  • To remove the tree sap from your vehicle's surface, use finger nail polish remover on a cotton ball. After removing the sap, make a paste from water and baking soda to wash the affected area, then polish or apply wax.

  • Another method to remove sap from your vehicle is to use mineral spirits or denatured alcohol (also removes tar). Use a soft towel or wash cloth dampened with mineral spirits. After removal, wash the car and apply polish/wax to the affected area.

  • WD-40. Spray some on the sap, let it sit for a while and wipe off with a soft cloth. Repeat if necessary then wash, polish/wax as usual.

  • Buff the affected area with lard or bacon grease and wipe clean with a soft cloth diaper or terrycloth towel. Wash and polish/wax and usual.

  • Make a paste out of baking soda and water and cover the affected area. Wipe clean with a soft, damp cloth.

  • Applying mayonnaise to the area is also said to remove tree sap.

  • Another technique is to use citrus-based solvents and children's molding clay. Apply a small amount of the solvent and rub with the clay. It is abrasive enough to scrub off the sap (which has been broken down by the solvent) without damaging the paint.

How To Remove Sap From Wood (including decks and wooden patio furniture)

Try applying non-diluted Murphy's Oil Soap with a mop (large area) or pour directly onto the affected surface. Allow the soap to sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing it clean with a soft brush. Rinse and allow to dry. Supposedly, this method works best on sealed wood.

How To Remove Sap From Clothes (including fleece, polyester, and cotton)

Apply a liberal amount of hand sanitizer to the area, and gently work it into the fabric. For really stubborn spots, brush the area with a soft bristled toothbrush. Rinse and dry.

How To Remove Sap From Leather

Rub creamy peanut butter into the leather. The oil conditions the leather while softening the tree sap. Simply rinse with warm soapy water and allow to dry.

How To Remove Sap From Skin

Oil-based Agents:
  • baby oil
  • tea tree oil
  • Avon Skin-So-Soft bath oil
  • mayonnaise
Alcohol Agents*:
  • rubbing alcohol
  • WD-40
*Caution: these can cause skin irritations with some people

Apply to the skin with a soft damp cloth, then rinse with warm, soapy water.

How To Remove Sap From Hair (including pet hair and paws)

Hair is one of the hardest things to remove tree sap from, but the task can be made somewhat easier if the sap is still soft. Short of getting yourself a new haircut, try the following:

Creamy peanut better (the oilier the better). Apply it liberally to the hair and soften it using a hair dryer on the lowest setting (careful to avoid burning the skin). Let the softened peanut butter sit for a few minutes before combing it through the hair with a large-toothed comb. Shampoo and rinse with warm water. If you can't stand peanut butter, substitute mayonnaise.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at http://www.sustainable-media.com

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By fordfan_907/07/2013

I should of taken before and after pictures our pickup was cover hood and roof with cottonwood tree buds which are covered in pitch, I use a bit of butter on a little spot and unreal how it worked, so I did the whole affected area and it all come off unreal the whole hood and roof took about 1/4 pound of butter (not much considering the area) after washing the truck and very happy with the results
thanks so much for the idea.

By (Guest Post)12/04/2008

Butter! Use butter.....works wonders!

By JANE (Guest Post)12/01/2008

I had tree sap in my hair and got online and found out about using off. The bug repelent. It works great. We have a yard full of pine trees. I use it on everything that gets pine sap on it.

By (Guest Post)12/01/2008

Use damp fabric softener sheet to remove sap from your windshield and car. Cathy from MA

By Jimmie (Guest Post)12/01/2008

My niece had tree sap in her hair and she was about to be in a pagent. It was awful. Our family talked to some older people and they said to use mayonnaise. Worked like a charm. She did not win the pagent but atleast her hair was shiny and clean.

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