How to Remove Sticky Tree Sap or Pine Pitch From Almost Anything
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.)
Questions & Answers
Instead of hand sanitizer, why not just use alcohol directly to remove sticky tree sap or pine pitch?
Yes, you are correct, but most people have hand sanitizer with them not rubbing alcohol.
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?
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.
What is the best way to get sap off of a vinyl deck?
Use rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth to gently remove it with slow motions.
© 2011 Eddie Carrara