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.
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 of 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.
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)
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Instead of hand sanitizer, why not just use alcohol directly to remove sticky tree sap or pine pitch?
Answer: Yes, you are correct, but most people have hand sanitizer with them not rubbing alcohol.
Question: What can I use to remove sap and stains off plastic decking ?
Answer: I recommend using rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth. I highly recommend testing it in a small area first just to be sure it doesn't discolor the decking, but I think you'll be ok.
Question: How can I remove rosin/sap from a composite deck?
Answer: Rubbing alcohol should be able to remove rosin/sap from a composite deck, just use it on a soft cloth and try it in an area that's somewhat hidden first.
Question: Can I use sanitizer to remove sap from a gravestone?
Answer: Yes, you can absolutely use hand sanitizer to remove sap from a gravestone. Apply some to a rag and it should come off with no problems.
Question: How do you get sap off a window screen?
Answer: You can use rubbing alcohol with a soft cloth and clean it gently, it may take a few minutes for the alcohol to breakdown the sap but it should work.
Question: What is the best way to get sap off of a vinyl deck?
Answer: Use rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth to gently remove it with slow motions.
Question: I have a metal spotlight under a pine tree, and it’s covered in pine sap that has been there all winter. The sap has hardened and turned white. How do I get it off the spotlight?
Answer: The best way to get it off is to use straight rubbing alcohol with a soft cloth and continuously wipe it until the sap breaks down and comes off.
Question: Will white vinegar work to remove sticky tree sap or pine pitch?
Answer: Probably not.
Question: How do I remove tree sap or pine pitch from an aluminum wheelchair ramp?
Answer: I suggest using rubbing alcohol and a soft rag.
© 2011 Eddie Carrara
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on June 14, 2020:
Thanks for the tip Ben, I'm sure a lot of people will give it a shot :)
Ben J. on June 13, 2020:
Use OxiClean Maximum Strength sprayed on sap, leave it sit a minute and wipe off with soft rag. When all sap is removed, wash with warm water/detergent mix to clean off any residue. It works like a charm!
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on April 23, 2020:
I wouldn't use ice cubes, it will just make a mess, I recommend you use the rubbing alcohol on an area that s not visible like the back of the couch just to be sure the material doesn't have a chemical reaction with the isopropyl. If there is no reaction, use a soft cloth and rub the area lightly with the isopropyl, the sap needs to dissolve and it may take a few minutes while treating the area. Hope this works :)
Wes on April 21, 2020:
we have a 'LAZY BOY" COUCH. Will info. you on removing "pine tree pitch".. will start with freezing the spot with ICE CUBES. THE material is a suade ( synthetic) leather.
Thanks for the 'tips'...
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on November 01, 2019:
Hi Speckled Acres,
I'm no chemist so that question will have to be directed to your Home Brew shop owner lol. I do know that you cannot drink rubbing alcohol
Speckled Acres on October 31, 2019:
Hi what is the difference between Rubbing Alcohol and pure alcohol from a home brew shop?
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on October 02, 2019:
I would use hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol with a small brush, then hose it off with soap and water once the sap is dissolved. Let me know how you make out :)
Keyesneum on October 01, 2019:
So using hand sanitizer will take mesquite sap off my friends red bricks on her back porch?
Alexis Rojas G on August 28, 2019:
How can I remove tree sap from a tent?;thanks a lot.
Dmpreston47@gmail. Com on July 19, 2019:
What can I use to remove pine tar from a sidewalk? Wonder about using muradic acid and water to loosen up then power wash? Thanks. Dennis
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on May 23, 2019:
Did you try cutting a piece of oak to remove the sap?
Simcha evron on May 23, 2019:
How do you remove the pine sap from circular saw blades?
Randy coble on February 03, 2019:
I have been using starting fluid. Don't use it in the house,out side you will not believe how nice it works. Gas works like crap! Don't clean hands while smoking??
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on August 25, 2018:
Let me know if it works Sky :)
Sky00 on August 19, 2018:
Thanks for your article. I have been searching for a solution in removing the tiny brown spots from the trees on my brand new car. The regular car washing soap has removed all tiny spots except for one seems to be stuck there . I will try the rubbing alcohol.
Gail on August 05, 2018:
Sat in sap with a brand new pair of pants. I tried lens cleaners, as that's what I had home. It helped only a little. Then we tried an eraser -- also helped a little. Finally, I went to the store and bought hand sanitizer. It was magic!! The sap came out instantly!! THANK YOU!!!
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on May 30, 2018:
Those petroleum's are toxic and not good for your skin. Everything you apply to your skin the body absorbs (eg, The patch for smoking or motion sickness). They may work well but I don't recommend them, get some hand sanitizer, it's safe and it smells good :)
Michele babcock on May 29, 2018:
Gasoline or diesel fuel also works great for getting it off your skin. Most people have a small container of gas in their garage. (I know most people don’t carry it with them.) this works for me because I usually have pine tar on hands and tools after pruning shrubs. Will have to look at hand sanitizer!
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on February 06, 2018:
That's AWESOME!!!!! lol
Rubbing alcohol works really good too :)
Sap hater on February 04, 2018:
Sir, thank you so much. I tried detergent and hot water, and sap remover products and nothing worked. Hand sanitizer worked like magic.
Terry on December 24, 2017:
Tree sap is basically a wax. When you light a wax candle the flame melts the wax. This what you need. A bucket, two squirts of washing up detergent a sponge and BOILING water, a pair of rubber gloves and your garden hose running. Apply the mix give it a good rub and immediately hose it off. Its that easy.
Kylan on December 09, 2017:
I print is that out but it didn't show up on my printer and I couldn't read that much
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on October 19, 2017:
Hope it works Jill. I have had a lot of help with my grammar lately :)
Jill on October 17, 2017:
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
Pamela on October 14, 2017:
How about on red flagstone? Can I use isopropyl alcohol on that? Thank u
kARL eHLERS on October 06, 2017:
lOTS OF SAP IN MY POOL FROM HURRICANE iRMA'S FALLING TREES. aNY SUGGESTIONS??
Betsy on September 30, 2017:
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.
Sue on September 24, 2017:
How to get it off trec decking?
bertha on August 29, 2017:
could I use rubbing alcohol on a marble or granite head stone as it has spruce sap on it.
Joe blow on August 07, 2017:
Another product which works well is WD 40.
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on July 31, 2017:
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 on July 26, 2017:
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.
Kelly on July 26, 2017:
Thanks for the tips! It cleaned bottom of shoes perfectly. Do you have a remedy for getting the tar/pitch off my puppies paws?
pops on June 24, 2017:
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.
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on June 16, 2017:
Try magic eraser.
Betsy on June 14, 2017:
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.
Vue Girl on April 15, 2017:
I have a Saturn Vue with a plastic body. Is this safe on plastic as well as metal car bodies? Thanks for the tips.
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on November 16, 2016:
Keep me posted on how you make out Papa Joe :)
Papa Joe on November 16, 2016:
Will be trying hand sanitizer tomorrow have Pine sap all over my semi truck. Been parking under pine trees up in the moutains uhg.
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on January 28, 2016:
Hey David, it's amazing what hand sanitizer can do lol. Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it :)
David on January 28, 2016:
Thehand sanitizer worked great let sit about 15 minutes came right off hardwood with a dish scrubber
David on January 28, 2016:
will try this hope it works . thank you
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on December 06, 2015:
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.
Bonnie Miller on December 03, 2015:
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!
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on September 14, 2015:
Rubbing alcohol is the best remover Missy. Let me know how you make out, thanks :)
Missy on September 14, 2015:
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!
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on January 30, 2014:
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.
Mariana Takacs on January 30, 2014:
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!
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on June 22, 2013:
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 from Windsor, Connecticut on June 21, 2013:
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!
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on June 15, 2012:
Hi Vera, that's awesome :) Glad I could help, thank you for sharing and voting, I really appreciate it!
Vera Blake on June 15, 2012:
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! :)
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on June 13, 2012:
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.
Staci on June 13, 2012:
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???
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on February 19, 2012:
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.
abuzz on February 19, 2012:
I am SO glad that I found this article!! It worked great!!
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on December 05, 2011:
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 from Central United States of America on December 05, 2011:
Absolutely cool and nifty tip for that sap/tar mess. Thanks for sharing this great helpful info!
Eddie Carrara (author) from New Hampshire on August 29, 2011:
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 on August 28, 2011:
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!