I’m a car freak. I just love those machines! I pet them, and I park them under trees to keep them safe from the harsh weather conditions. That’s why it kills me to see that sticky substance called “sap” on my Range Rover Evogue, and has led me to research how to get sap off my car. I mean, that’s my baby! But we’re not here to talk about my love for cars and hatred for sap, are we? I know you like your cars clean and spotless too, so I’m going to show you a few tricks to getting that monster away from your baby, and avoid tree sap car paint damage.
Before I begin, I’d like you to know that the best way to remove tree sap from a car varies based on the length of time for which the sap has sat on your car and the weather conditions at the time. Sap flourishes more during the hot weather, so if it’s summer and it’s “sapping,” you’ve got to be both vigilant and hardworking. If you’re looking for means to prevent tree sap from getting in contact with your car or smudging your paint in the first place, rather than advice on removing pine sap from cars, this article can help you too. Although I’m here to help those who are having a bad day or becoming ashamed of their cool rides just because some tree released its sap on their baby, and need to know how to remove pine sap from a car I have also included a few tips on avoiding this bad occurrence altogether (as this is arguably the best tree sap remover there is!), as well as removing the stains from your body and clothes.
Tree sap, what’s that?
Now, I’d really love to jump right to it, but there are a few people who have got sap (or pitch) on their machines that don’t even know it is sap. So, to make sure that we are all on the same page before we learn how to remove pitch from a car, why don’t I tell you a little about our opponent? After all, the first step to victory in any battle is knowing and identifying the adversary!
When we bleed, we produce blood, right? Sap is to trees what blood is to humans, but no one really has to harm the tree for it to bleed. Tree sap should not be mistaken for tree resin, which is a tacky, amber-coloured, glue-like substance that exists in trees which fall into the Pinaceae family, such as Fir, Pine, and Cedar. Sap is an almost clear, watery substance.
There are basically two types of sap—Xylem and Phloem. While the former basically conducts watery sap that holds mineral nutrients and eventually dries up the tree to become what people call “heartwood” , the former carries the sugars produced by the tree during photosynthesis downward.
Prevention is better than cure
So, to make sure that you never have to use these removal tips more than once (because that’s no fun!), here are a few very simple things you can do to avoid sap stains on your car:
- Avoid the trees totally. Yeah, you read right. There are garages and shaded areas to park your cars, just let the trees be!
- If you must utilize tree shade while parking, then protect your cars by covering them with a tarpaulin or other car cover. Just make sure it’s the right fabric (a car cover dealer can advise you here).
Generally speaking, the best covers are made of breathable material, to prevent the formation of condensation. Having a soft satin lining will also protect your car from scratches during storage.
The top car cover brands include:
- Rhino Shelter
- 3D Maxpider
- Wax the car regularly! Even though it may not offer total protection, a layer of wax slows down the whole etching process, and the protection it does offer can assist in removing tree sap from your car later without damaging the finish .
After the damage has been done
So, you failed to protect your car from the monstrous sap and feel terrible and careless? Not to worry, it doesn’t make you a careless person! It could have happened to anyone, and fortunately for you, I know just how to remove tree sap from car paint! Here’s what you can do to mitigate or totally wipe out the damage done to your paint finish:
If the stain is a recent one, you’re in luck! Soap and hot water could easily do the trick! High temperature water contributes to the softening of the resin and makes it easier to remove tree sap from your car right off the bodywork. By using soap and hot water, you only wash away the thinnest film that protects the car body along with the resin. The water warms the top layer of the enamel, and the lower layer exfoliates due to a temperature drop at the micro level. This allows you to clean sap off your car with minimal damage.
However, if the sap stain has been sitting for a while and has become tar, you have more work to do, because the steps for how to remove dried tree sap from a car are lengthier. The good news is; difficult does not necessarily mean impossible; it may still be entirely possible, for example, to remove pine tar from your car entirely.
So, let’s get to work!
Methods for removing sap from car
If you think this is weird, here’s a spoiler; it only gets weirder! Hand sanitizers are a very effective and cheap way of getting sap off cars. Just apply a few drops of hand sanitizer on the sap, and gently rub the sap to make it absorb the sanitizer. Next, dry it off with a dry cloth, wash the spot with a wet cloth, and rinse. Though hand sanitizer is a very effective tree sap remover,this doesn’t mean that it cannot strip your car paint, so be careful. Some hand sanitizers can catch fire due to the combustible alcohol in the gel. Furthermore, studies show that hand sanitizers do not pose any risk to the skin, but can have a harmful effect on the body when in contact with delicate areas, especially the eyes. (wikipedia)
Mineral alcohol or alcohol wipes
These are less flammable than turpentine, but it is important to be careful when using them, and to know how to remove tree sap from car paint with them, yet avoid smudging your paint. They work by breaking/dissolving the wax, then cleaning the smudge. You can use them by rubbing lightly on the affected area, though mineral alcohol will need to be applied onto a soft cloth first. After using alcohol, a slight cloudiness may appear on the surface of the car body, but this is easily solved by banal polishing.
This is mostly used for preventing rust or corrosion on metal, but it also serves to deal with grease, sap, and tar stains on paint, including removing pine sap from cars. To use, spray some on a soft Terry Cloth and gently wipe in a circular motion on the affected area, then rinse the area thoroughly. Restore the paint’s shine with a clear coat safe polisher if it gets dull, or use top up polish if it gets damaged. CAUTION: This substance is flammable, and can be harmful if exposed to the skin or respiratory tract for a prolonged period of time. It may also cause dizziness during prolonged contact. (wikipedia)
Turtle wax bug and tar remover
This can go a long way to help remove sap from car paint; and can be purchased at your favourite grocery store or online store (Amazon) from $8. To use, follow these five easy steps:
- Shake very well.
- Spray on the affected area at a distance of about 7 inches from the car.
- Leave to sit for about 90 seconds.
- Wipe with a microfiber hand towel or other soft cloth until it’s clean.Ensure you use a clean part of the cloth, because if the removed sap gets on the car again, you're back to step one.
- Buff the surface lightly to give it a clean finish.
This is the general name for cleaning products specially made for removing tar (coal tar) stains, but it is relevant here because it can remove glue residue, and that includes tree sap. Some well-known tar removers include Turtle Wax Bug and Tar Remover (mentioned above), and Autoglym Intensive Tar Remover. The steps for how to remove tree sap from car paintwork are as stated above, but ensure to scrub thoroughly, because tar removers also leave residues. Some people use credit cards to scrape it off, but this could harm the paint we're trying to protect.
This literally means to ‘do no work’, and the name could also apply here, as most people see it as ‘miracle remover’. One good product that falls within the category of excellent sap removers is the “Goof Off FG650 Miracle Remover”, but please be aware that Goof Off is very strong, and any mistake could ruin your paint. While most people spray it directly on the car and wipe off after a few minutes (effective, but dangerous), it is safer to spray it onto a soft cloth and use it to wipe off the sap stain. It can be purchased from online stores (Amazon) from $4.
Baking soda solution
If you don’t have the means for more pricey solutions but are still wondering what takes sap off cars that you might have access to, a mixture of baking soda and water can do the trick.We all know that baking soda is really harsh, so don’t be too generous with the quantity or the length of time it sits. Rinse off well with water.
Using a clay bar to clean the machine
If you’ve reached this far in the list and are still wondering how to get pine sap off your car paint, a clay bar may be the answer. Use soapy water or a clay bar lubricating solution before using clay on the car. Once it’s wet, rub the clay pad forwards and backwards on the affected area. Apply light pressure until the surface feels smooth and the sap doesn’t catch on the paint surface anymore, and rinse with clean water. For best results, lightly spray water on the car while using the clay bar.
Remove the resin from car glass with a razor blade
If it happens to land on your glass, then you may be wondering how to remove tree sap from a windshield. You could use a razor to scrape it off, but be extra careful to avoid getting yourself injured and/or scarring the glass surface. If this method works for you, try to use it to remove tree sap from car windows too!
Believe it or not, fat could remove sap from your car.
Olive oil also works for this trick. Dab a small quantity of oil on the affected area, and let the sap soak in it for a few minutes. Next, wash off with soap and warm water. This is one method that will teach you how to remove pine sap from car paint with absolutely no damage to it!
Removing resin from leather and clothing
Cars are not the only things that get attacked by sap; our clothes and leather products suffer this too! Though they won’t help with how to remove tree sap from a car, I have a few tricks that can solve that:
Removing tar from the body
This can be achieved by applying any of the following tips:
- Apply toothpaste, leave for 2 to 3 minutes, and wash off with warm water and soap.
- Scrub the area with peanut butter, and rinse off with soap and water.
- You can use mayonnaise! This works perfectly, but you’ll have to work to get the mayonnaise off your body too. Trust me, it’s worth it.
- Apply a few tablespoons of olive oil to the hands or other affected part of the skin and wash off with liquid soap and water after a few minutes.
- Hand disinfectants that contain alcohols will also cope with this problem and clean the surface of the skin from wood tar.
Freezing things to get the sap off
Did you know that if sap gets on your clothing, toys, handbags, belt, or any other items, you can just freeze them to get the sap off? Yeah! Unbelievably, it’s true! If the object is too big to fit in your freezer, just cover the affected area with an ice pack or some wax paper topped with ice cubes. Once the stain has frozen solid, wriggle a butter knife under it and carefully lift it from the cloth or other material.
Alternatively, use the butter knife or a similar object to crack the brittle sap into pieces and then scrape it away. If there's any residue of sap or resin, just pre-treat the affected spot with a mixture of warm water and vinegar and then throw your clothes into the washing machine. The detergent and water will restore them to an almost new condition.
1) Do not use hard or abrasive items
No one wants to solve a problem by creating another problem, and being rough is far from the best way to remove sap from your car. Just follow the most “user-friendly” tip you can find above to solve your sap issues. There’s no need to get too aggressive, your paint (or glass, if following the tip for how to remove sap from a car window) might suck in more of the harshness than you intend, and by extension, your pockets will too.
2) Be aware of the effects of prolonged contact of the resin with the paint on the car.
It’s general knowledge that tree sap and paint jobs are arch-enemies, and that finding the best way to remove pine sap from a car can be a very difficult process. It is therefore very wrong to ignore the existence of a sap or resin stain on our cars. As a matter of fact, the best time to get the stains off is when they have just dropped, because at this point, soap and water can solve it, and you don’t have to worry about how to get tree sap off your car once it has dried and is more resistant.
Leaving the sap there could cause a stain so bad that your car’s aesthetic value diminishes noticeably, and that would mean getting a paint job, whereas knowing how to remove pine sap from cars before this occurs would avoid it. Nobody likes to be pressured into spending money, especially not when the expenditure could have been avoided or mitigated.
Please note that the methods provided above are to be followed as alternatives severally, not jointly. Basically, if you use Turtle Wax, you don’t necessarily need to apply Goof Off, as one method is usually sufficient. According to our test results, it’s best to get rid of the resin with the help of alcohol-containing products. If the tar doesn’t come off totally, leave for some time and then try it again. After all, we want our paint to stay after the tar leaves, don’t we?
All the best!