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3 Ways To Safely Remove Tree Sap From Your Car With Stuff You Already Have At Home

It’s tree sap season. Here is how to get the sticky stuff off your car using products you already have at home without hurting the finish.


Doctors always begin their care with one thought in mind; “First, do no harm.” We like that approach to car care as well. If you have sticky pine sap or tree sap on the finish of your car, please step back from the nail polish remover and WD-40. They can damage the finish of your car. While we are huge fans of WD-40, it is overkill for this job.

Related Story: How To Easily Clean A Tacky Film From Your Vehicle's Windshield

Tree sap is mostly water and sugar. However, if you’ve ever used it to start a fire or as waterproofing, you know there must be something else in there or water would dissolve it. Whatever it is, it isn’t dissolved by Windex and other glass cleaners.

You can buy a product at the auto parts store that will remove tree sap, but it is not necessary. Here are three common household items you can use to remove tree sap that should not cause your car’s finish any distress. That said, it is always wise to try a bit of anything you may put on a finish on an inconspicuous place just to be sure.

Best Results - Tree Sap Removal - Rubbing Alcohol
If you have any rubbing alcohol, A.K.A. isopropyl alcohol, around the house, this is your go-to tree sap removal solvent. We are talking about common alcohol, not some 100-proof stuff. You only need a dilute solution for it to work. Put a bit on a paper towel and dab it on. Gently wipe the sap off. Any rough moves with any solvent can leave a mark. Take your time. Let the solvent do the job, not the paper towel and your elbow grease.

Second Choice - Tree Sap Removal - Hand Sanitizer (with a high concentration of Alcohol)
Hand sanitizers range widely in their ingredients, so this is one to check on a surface that is not conspicuous before you try it on the center of your hood. The ethyl alcohol in hand sanitizer can dissolve tree sap. Use caution, but we have tried this method ourselves on a black car, and it worked and left no damage.

Third Choice - Tree Sap Removal - Margarine or Vegetable Oil
One easy way to remove tree sap from your hands is vegetable oil. We tried it on a car, and it also worked. Of the three, this method worked the least best. Consider this a last resort if you are out of rubbing alcohol and high-alcohol hand sanitizer.

Be aware that many cars have a coating of wax or similar material on the finish from either a hand-wax or a car wash. If you use these methods, the wax or film will be removed. So the spot will look a little dull. Spruce it up (get it?) with a bit of wax, and it should restore the shine

John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. Following his engineering program, John also completed a marketing program at Northeastern University and worked with automotive component manufacturers. In addition to Torque News, John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin

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Maddie (not verified)    December 9, 2020 - 2:13PM

I had sap from a tree. That attracts flies. So they left tiny black dots. And sap marks . I used WD 40 first and that helped with the fly dropping. But not the sap . Someone said Hand Sanitizer. So I did that . And that worked like a charm . On the Sap.

Kevin Ouimet (not verified)    July 5, 2021 - 1:34PM

Thanks. Had some tree sap on my drivers side window. Used some sanitizer & came right off. :) Also for others trying this probably make sure you don't let the sanitizer touch your paint. It'll probably damage it.