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The Easiest Way To Remove Tree Sap From Your Car’s Paint or Windshield

Tree sap is a very difficult thing to remove from your car’s paint or glass. If you have tree sap on your car, put down the WD40 and use this simple and safer method you already have at home.


Tree sap is extra gooey and abundant this year after a long, wet spring and summer. The white pines are showering our cars with a sticky mess. If you have already tried window cleaners like WIndex or Glass Plus, you know that it won't do any good. The tree sap is immune to water and glass cleaners. In fact, it just makes the problem worse by smearing the tree sap over a greater area. The good news is that removing tree sap is easy, and all you need is in your medicine cabinet.

Image of rubber gloves by John GorehamGrab Some Disposable Nitrile Gloves
Before you begin, if you have any disposable gloves, put on a pair. We like nitrile best. Tree sap is harder to remove from skin than glass or paint, and you want to make this job as easy as possible. Gloves help make sure you don’t end up all sticky. 

Best For Tree Sap Removal - Isopropyl Alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol is the best of all available tree sap removal fluids. Best of all, we have found it to be safe, simple to use, and it is extremely inexpensive. The particular brand doesn’t matter. Purchase whatever is cheapest. 

Try Isopropyl Alcohol Wipes
If you already have some isopropyl alcohol in your medicine cabinet at home, using some on a paper towel will work. However, we have recently started to buy alcohol wipes in plastic cleaner bottles we like best. The particular wipe cloth is more robust than paper towels and works better than paper towels. Either works, but if you wan to keep the stuff handy, the wipe dispenser is easy to store in a garage or car trunk.

How to Remove Tree Sap from a Windshield With Isopropyl Alcohol
The trick to the easiest removal of tree sap is to dab, not rub. Use the dampened cloth soaked with isopropyl alcohol and dab at the tree sap spot. Let it do its job for a few seconds. Be gentle and try to lift the tree sap away rather than rub at it. A few applications works best. One quick wipe will not do the job well.

You may find that the tree sap turns white and smears a bit after your last dab at it. Use one last clean cloth with the alcohol and wipe gently. Then, use your glass cleaner to polish up all of your glass. Hey, while you’re at it, do the inside of your glass, too. Always use a clean paper towel when cleaning glass inside or out. Never use a paper towel that has been accidentally dropped on the ground. Be generous with the glass cleaner. Make the surface very wet. Do one good cleaning and then repeat with a clean cloth for the best results. 

How to Remove Tree Sap From Paint With Isopropyl Alcohol
If your car has tree sap on a place that is highly visible, say the center of your hood, Try the alcohol first on a less conspicuous area. Make certain there is no damage done by the alcohol. We have never seen alcohol damage paint, but it is always wise to test a spot you don’t see first. 

Use a soaked cloth to dab at the tree sap a few times. Don’t rub! Rubbing can cause paint scratches and abrasions to the clear coat. Remember, there may be dirt or fine sand on the paint you cannot see. Be gentle, and take your time. If you rub hard at the tree sap, you may damage the paint. Following the removal of the sap, you will have removed any wax you may have applied as well, so re-waxing may be wise. 

Your Car Is Coated With Tree Sap From a Storm - Call the Pros
If you have a wind storm and find your car has dozens of tree sap spots, it may be wise to have a detailer help you. They can use fluids to remove the sap and then give your car a professional cleaning and waxing. Pros know how to remove any contaminant and then bring your finish back to like-new. 

Other fluids will remove tree sap, but they may damage your vehicle. We have used alcohol with much success after a Lexus dealer showed us how quick, easy, and effective it is. One last warning - don’t try to rub the sap off of your paint!

Image by John Goreham.

John Goreham is an experienced New England Motor Press Association member and expert vehicle tester. John completed an engineering program with a focus on electric vehicles, followed by two decades of work in high-tech, biopharma, and the automotive supply chain before becoming a news contributor. In addition to his eleven years of work at Torque News, John has published thousands of articles and reviews at American news outlets. He is known for offering unfiltered opinions on vehicle topics. You can follow John on Twitter, and connect with him at Linkedin.