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How to Remove Tree Sap from Car

Updated on July 31, 2012

Remove Sap from Car

If you live in a heavily wooded area or unassumingly parked your car under or near a pine tree you have likely had to deal with tree sap falling on your car. If you catch tree sap early it can easily be removed; however, if it has had time to bake in the sun you may have some trouble. To remove baked on tree sap from your car you'll have to take a few extra steps to remove it since soap and water won't remove it in most cases.

If you remove the sap incorrectly you can easily scratch your car. With this method you can remove tree sap with a basic solvent and a little bit of patience.

Tips to Avoiding Tree Sap on Your Car

  • If you live in a climate that is cold you will have fewer problems with tree sap. Tree sap usually starts to come out of the trees in warmer temperatures. If it is an especially hot day you will want to avoid parking your car near sap producing trees.
  • Often times we think we have tree sap on our car when in fact it is honeydew which is a insect secretion that is produced when insects eat the sap from trees. Many ants, caterpillars and butterflies create this sticky secretion. If you live in an area with lots of these types of insects you may want to spray the tree branches with a high pressure water hose to remove the insects that may live above your car.
  • Lastly, the most obvious tip is to avoid parking under or around trees. However, I know this can sometimes be impossible based on where you live and work.

Dissolve the Sap

The easiest way to remove sap from your car is to dissolve it with a solvent. When trying to dissolve the sap it is important that you be careful not to remove the paint from your car as well. This is why it is so tricky to remove sap from cars. Whenever using a solvent on your car you should test the solvent on a hidden portion of the vehicle, if it appears to not affect the paint you can then use it on the portion of the car that has the tree sap. You should also never leave the solvent on your car for an extended period of time. You should wipe on and then wipe off, this will help ensure that you do not harm the paint on your car or permanently damage your cars finish. When using a solvent you shouldn't need anything besides something to apply and remove the solvent, however; if you feel you need a tool to scrape the sap off I would recommend a wooden spoon. The soft wood and rounded edges shouldn't scratch your car yet should be able to help with the extra stubborn sap.

Nail Polish Remover: With this method you will want to pour the remover on to a cotton ball and gently rub the sap in a circular motion. The nail polish remover should start to break down the sap which will allow you to remove it. When you are done you should wash the affected area with a baking soda and water solution. I would suggest using 1 part baking soda and 3 parts hot water. When you are done wash your car as normal. You may need to spot wax your car afterwards; since this method can often times leave a dull finish.

Mineral Spirits: This is an oil based solvent that is usually used to remove paint from paint brushes. When using this method pour some of the mineral spirit onto a rag and gently wipe the affected area. Repeat this over and over until the sap has broken down and can be removed. When you are done wash the car as normal and if needed spot wax the affected area. Using solvents on your car can oftentimes dull the finish, but can be recovered with a bit of wax.

WD-40: This is probably the safest solvent to use on your car, but it also the least effective. WD-40 is a mild solvent which is why it is safer to use than then other solvents. Just spray the WD-40 over the area and wipe away. You may need to do this several times. To remove the WD-40 from your car, wipe the affected area with a water and vinegar solution. Afterwards, wash the car as normal and spot wax it to recover the finish.

Cleaning Up Sap

Hopefully you managed to get the sap off of your car, but you have likely managed to get it on your hands and hopefully not your clothing and hair. If you did, don't worry there are simple ways to remove sap from your hands, clothing and hair.

Hands: To remove sap from your hands you can use hand sanitizer or even something as simple as mayonnaise.

Clothing: To remove sap from clothing, just dab it with some rubbing alcohol and rub it into the sap. Be careful not to smear the sap further around the clothing. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and wash like normal.

Hair: Removing sap from hair is a lot like removing gum from your hair. Try rubbing peanut butter or mayonnaise into the sap. Once you start to feel is breaking apart take a comb and try to brush it out. When most of the sap is removed, wash your hair with shampoo as normal.


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