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How to Remove Sticky Tree Sap or Pine Pitch From Almost Anything

Updated on September 20, 2017
eddiecarrara profile image

25 years in the auto business & hiking a lot with my kids (who have a knack for getting sap everywhere) has taught me how to deal with sap.

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Tree pitch, sap, or tar is very difficult to remove from your hands, clothes, and most of all, from the paint on your car. This stuff is a nuisance. It takes days for it to wear off your skin, it never comes out of your clothes no matter how many times you wash, and you will probably end up ruining the paint on your car trying to scrub it off.

I will show you how to remove tree sap from almost anything with ease, and with a very common product you can find almost everywhere. This product is so common that you probably carry it around with you every day. You can find it in airports, grocery stores, public restrooms, restaurants, child daycare centers, and most schools. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

The Secret Ingredient for Removing Tree Sap

You probably didn't realize you carry pine pitch or sap remover with you every day, in your bag or in the glove box of your car. You may even hook it on the belt loop of your pants, depending on how germaphobic you are.

If you guessed this product is hand sanitizer, you are correct.

Hand sanitizer will remove tree sap from almost anything, including the paint on your car. Just be sure you try it on a small, unnoticeable area of the surface before you go to town on whatever it is you're cleaning. Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) is the chemical ingredient that breaks down and removes the resin.

If You Use Hand Sanitizer, Make Sure It's Alcohol-Based

How to Remove Pine Tar From Cars, Skin, Hair, Clothes, and Your Dog's Fur

  • If you're trying to get sap off the paint off your car, just work lightly and slowly so your don't harm the surface. The alcohol shouldn't harm a new paint job, but the dirt or friction might scratch it. First, just press the rag or cotton ball dipped in alcohol against the sap and hold it there for a minute or two, then start rubbing gently in a circular motion, and rinse with soap and water. You might have to wax the area again because although it shouldn't harm your paint, alcohol will remove any wax you may have applied.
  • If you're trying to get the stuff off your hands or skin, simply rub some alcohol (or hand sanitizer) on your hands until it comes loose, then rinse.
  • For clothing or fabric, gently scrape off as much as you can, then rub the spots with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol until it lifts off, and wash as usual.
  • For hair (including your pet's fur). The hand sanitizer or alcohol will work but I recommend something gentler, especially if the sap has already dried. Try working some cooking oil into the tar and gently working to break it up with your fingertips.

What Else Can Be Used to Remove Sap, Tree Tar, or Resin?

If you're in a tight spot and you don't have any hand sanitizer on you, these other things could work:

  • Eyeglass cleaner wipes will work. There is not much alcohol in the little towels, so you may need a few.
  • Olive or cooking oil can help loosen sap, especially if it's dried. Anything super oily is worth a try. Some people swear by peanut butter, and some use WD-40.
  • Heating the sap with a hair dryer or freezing it in the freezer might allow you to loosen or pick it off more easily.

How Do You Know Alcohol Is Safe for Car Surfaces?

In my 25 years in the automotive business (Honda, ASE certified master technician), I have installed many automotive accessories that use two-sided tape (like body side moldings, door edge guards, bumper protectors, and rear spoilers). Before you install any of these items, the manufacturer will have you wipe all wax and dirt from the area that you will be installing it on. Manufacturer supply alcohol wipes in the installation kit. This is the reason I know alcohol is safe to use on automotive paint.

I have removed pine sap with hand sanitizer from my own car's paint and interior. I've also used it on skin, clothes, hardwood floors, footwear, and hair. We hike a lot with the kids and they have a knack for getting it everywhere, like on the seats of their pants, and you can guess what it gets on after that.

(You don't need the wooden spoon.)

© 2011 Eddie Carrara

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    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 4 days ago from New Hampshire

      Hope it works Jill. I have had a lot of help with my grammar lately :)

    • profile image

      Jill 6 days ago

      Thank you so much. I have been making beeswax wraps with pine resin and managed to get it on almost everything I touched. I will give the hand sanitizer I try. By the way your grammar is fine by me

    • profile image

      Pamela 9 days ago

      How about on red flagstone? Can I use isopropyl alcohol on that? Thank u

    • profile image

      kARL eHLERS 2 weeks ago

      lOTS OF SAP IN MY POOL FROM HURRICANE iRMA'S FALLING TREES. aNY SUGGESTIONS??

    • profile image

      Betsy 3 weeks ago

      We removed sap from fir trees on my sun umbrella with Fantastic 5 in 1 bleach cleaner. First we tried everything mentioned in your list that we had, except hand sanitizer (we had none). The bleach cleaner cleaned quickly, considering the plastic surface was slightly textured.

    • profile image

      Sue 4 weeks ago

      How to get it off trec decking?

    • profile image

      bertha 7 weeks ago

      could I use rubbing alcohol on a marble or granite head stone as it has spruce sap on it.

    • profile image

      Joe blow 2 months ago

      Another product which works well is WD 40.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 2 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Kathy,

      I have not tried it on vinyl. I recommend using rubbing alcohol on a towel, the alcohol will break down the sap, so it will take some time to clean this camper up. Let me know how you make out, thanks.

    • Kathy Nisse profile image

      Kathy Nisse 2 months ago

      Found your article by googling How to remove Pine Sap from vinyl. I purchased a used 2003 pop up camping trailer about 3 weeks ago. I noticed that there was pine sap on the corners of the pull out bed areas. Seller said the person they bought the pop up from had it sitting under pine trees when it was for sale. Well after bringing it home and having it set out in the drive side pad and then opening it, wow, the sap is on all 4 corners and after being in the sun is sticking all the side vinyl panels together. Now my question, have you tried Hand Sanitizer on vinyl? I have a LOT of pine sap to clean off my pop up and if Sanitizer is the answer than I'm headed to the dollar store and purchase a BIG bottle. I'm sure I'll have to get a vinyl cleaner/protector to use after the sap clean up, I just want to make sure I'm not going to dry out the vinyl. Thanks.

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      Kelly 3 months ago

      Thanks for the tips! It cleaned bottom of shoes perfectly. Do you have a remedy for getting the tar/pitch off my puppies paws?

    • profile image

      pops 4 months ago

      Fantastic - did it when the car paint was warm. Tried a bug and tar product that did not work. My problem was pine pitch that had baked on. The biggest glop popped off with my fingernail, but the thin streak would not budge. I used a Purel wipe because that is all that I could find. Just rubbed it for maybe a minute.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 4 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Betsy,

      Try magic eraser.

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      Betsy 4 months ago

      Need to clean up a porcelain tub. It has dark brown black residue in the bottom. Maybe pitch? From sitting outdoors. Please advise. Trying alcohol now . Not effective.

    • profile image

      Vue Girl 6 months ago

      I have a Saturn Vue with a plastic body. Is this safe on plastic as well as metal car bodies? Thanks for the tips.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 11 months ago from New Hampshire

      Keep me posted on how you make out Papa Joe :)

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      Papa Joe 11 months ago

      Will be trying hand sanitizer tomorrow have Pine sap all over my semi truck. Been parking under pine trees up in the moutains uhg.

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 21 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hey David, it's amazing what hand sanitizer can do lol. Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it :)

    • profile image

      David 21 months ago

      Thehand sanitizer worked great let sit about 15 minutes came right off hardwood with a dish scrubber

    • profile image

      David 21 months ago

      will try this hope it works . thank you

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 22 months ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Bonnie that's great!

      You can also use rubbing alcohol, but in a pinch the hand sanitizer is mostly alcohol so it works just as good. I'm glad you found my article :) and thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate it.

    • profile image

      Bonnie Miller 23 months ago

      Thank you so much....the hand sanitizer worked perfectly! Apparently the pine tar must've been on for a while and was very dried on. I was afraid that anything I might use would take the clear coat off my car. Goo Gone didn't even begin to cut it, but the hand sanitizer worked within seconds with very minimal rubbing. The finish is still perfect!

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 2 years ago from New Hampshire

      Rubbing alcohol is the best remover Missy. Let me know how you make out, thanks :)

    • profile image

      Missy 2 years ago

      I sat on a bench under a pine tree--big mistake!! How do I get it off my rayon/spandex skirt?? I will try the sanitizer. Any other suggestions?? Thanks!

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 3 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hey Mariana, that's fantastic, glad I could help. Good thing you didn't put your tree on a carpeted floor, Yikes!! :) Thanks for the feedback Mariana, I really appreciate it.

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      Mariana Takacs 3 years ago

      It worked! I had a big pine tar on my hardwood floor because I forgot to put a towel under my Christmas tree. Thank you so much!

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Kathryn,

      I think I would have rather the pine pitch falling on my car than the whole tree, lol . Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it :)

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      I wish I had seen this over a year ago! I used to have a car that was parked under a pine tree all of the time, and it had plenty of pine pitch on it. It's not a problem anymore, because that same tree fell on my Eclipse during a storm last year!

      I will keep this useful information in mind. Voted up!

      ~ Kathryn

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Vera, that's awesome :) Glad I could help, thank you for sharing and voting, I really appreciate it!

    • profile image

      Vera Blake 5 years ago

      Eddie - Your write-up is well done - I voted! I am "pinning" this on my Pinterest site to boot! Thank you for saving my L. L. Bean nylon winter coat! :)

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Staci, Thanks for the tips on my grammar issues, I'm a mechanic by trade not a writer, I only write to help people with problems they need answers to. I will work on fixing the the article errors asap. Do you know where I can buy some of that writing polish? Most of my other articles probably need it as well :) Glad I could help, take care.

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      Staci 5 years ago

      I appreciate your info, however you wrote an essay talking about the "product" before you got to the point. Please eliminate some of the chit chat ok? And also, in order to look like a literate blogger, please correct your grammar. You are = you're! Not YOUR as you have it everywhere on this post. Thanks for the tip. Just needs a little writing polish to make it more efficient???

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hey abuzz,

      That's great, I'm glad I could help :) It's amazing, we all carry around with us that little bottle of hand sanitizer and we have no idea it works on pine sap/tar. I do a lot of hiking, and when we get back back to the car, we can clean off all the sticky stuff easily. Thanks for the comment, take care.

    • profile image

      abuzz 5 years ago

      I am SO glad that I found this article!! It worked great!!

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hey frogyfish, You hoppin hub today? Thanks!!! My mom actually call me one day to tell me she used purll hand sanitize on her hands to remove the pine sap after working in her yard, lol! Too funny :)

    • frogyfish profile image

      frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

      Absolutely cool and nifty tip for that sap/tar mess. Thanks for sharing this great helpful info!

    • eddiecarrara profile image
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      Eddie Carrara 6 years ago from New Hampshire

      It really works moonfairy! keeping those little towel packages for cleaning your glasses in your glove box is a good way to remove sap from your hands as well, anything with an alcohol base. Glad I could help :)

    • moonfairy profile image

      moonfairy 6 years ago

      I just discovered that my car is loaded with globs of sap when I gave it a thorough cleaning last weekend. I tried goo-gone to no avail..so thanks for the great advice...I'll try it!