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How can I Remove Sap from my Car?

By Deborah Ng
Updated May 17, 2024
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Many people choose to park their cars under trees for the benefits of the shade. After all, no one wants to climb into a hot, musty car. While having a cool vehicle is a great perk, when parking under a tree also means that you run the risk of falling victim to natural vandalism coming from those very trees. Tree pollen and the mess left behind by birds are easy to remove, but it's when you end up with cars covered with tree sap that we're presented with a real challenge. Several chemical may help remove sap from your car.

If tree sap is a problem for you, perhaps one or two of these cleaning tips will help:

  • A light duty buffing compound works to soften the sappy area. Try this first and then use one of the methods below to remove it completely.
  • Try rubbing the offending area with WD-40. Spray some on the sap, let it sit for a while, and then wipe off it with a cloth diaper, which will help to eliminate lint. Repeat if necessary.
  • Apply nail polish remover with a cotton ball or swab and rub gently until the sap is removed.
  • Buff lard onto the area with sap and wipe with a lint free cloth, such as a cloth diaper or terrycloth towel.
  • Avon's Skin So Soft bath oil is also said to be an effective sap removal agent. Rub it onto the sticky area and wipe it clean with a cloth.
  • Try dabbing the area with a cotton ball moistened with rubbing alcohol.
  • Remove sap from your automobile by applying bacon grease and wiping it clean.
  • Make a paste of baking soda and water and use to clean your car. Wipe it clean with a damp cloth.
  • Mineral spirits mixed with denatured alcohol will remove sap without ruining your auto's paint job.
  • It may sound funny, but polishing your car with mayonnaise will also help remove any sap.

If any of the above recommendations have you worried about ruining your car's finish, test on a hidden area first. If you're comfortable with what you see, proceed.

Your auto care professional may also have a recommendation to remove tree sap from your car. When using chemicals, be sure to read all product labels carefully and follow the instructions accordingly. The last thing you want to do is ruin your paint job. If using chemicals, be sure to wear gloves and adhere to all safety precautions.

Of course, there's another way to keep your auto sap-free. Try taking care to park it away from trees.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon993333 — On Nov 04, 2015

I tried all the above, with and without success. Most of the time you still see where it was, like the sap damaged the finish. If you live where the temp. changes with the seasons. Wait until the temp. falls to 50 or under, then take a credit card and it pops right off. I am thinking about trying ice in the future on warmer days.

By anon991230 — On Jun 06, 2015

Denatured (wood) alcohol removed dried pine pitch from our Toyotas and did not damage the paint.

By anon947845 — On Apr 27, 2014

Rubbing alcohol worked great!

By anon945405 — On Apr 12, 2014

The best any kind of tree sap remover is acetone. Rub it on with a saturated rag and wipe it off! It will not damage the paint. It's just that simple, folks!

By anon349046 — On Sep 22, 2013

OK, I tried it all! Mayonnaise with baking soda, dryer sheets and hot water. It helped, but I still had egg yolk like spots of cypress sap. You know what did work? A facial buff puff with hand gel! The hand sanitizer had 63 percent alcohol, and the buff puff being gentle enough for my face, I figured why not? My fingers are exhausted, but I got most of the spots off.

By anon336934 — On Jun 01, 2013

I found by accident that leaving the car in the hot sun of a 90-plus degree day made it easier to go chemical free. I went out to try some of the variations listed here, and found that the sap had softened in the sun, so I just used a paper towel and rubbed in small circular motions and it worked! Some I had to do twice and then just used windex to finish it off.

The problem I had was the sap drops that fell on the rubber edge of the door frames and windows. I tried to do less harmful chemical stuff, but it was very stubborn. Then I tried boiling a cup of water put in a thermal cup and took out q-tips and dipped one tip at a time then rubbed it over the spot repeatedly. I had to do that about three times for each spot, but it melted them easily, no scratches and no chemicals. Good luck everyone. No more sap!

By anon283285 — On Aug 03, 2012

I had very old, hardened sap on my car. I dabbed a cotton ball with alcohol, let it sit on the sap spot for one minute and it came right off. Awesome!

By anon269917 — On May 20, 2012

Rubbing alcohol is better than fabric softener. There was a relatively thick deposit of dried pine sap on the rear window of my vehicle.

Based on the above suggestions, I tried a wet fabric softener sheet, which appeared to loosen the surface sap, but I was impatient. So I tried rubbing alcohol and soaked a small piece of paper towel with rubbing alcohol, let it sit, and then scrubbed the area with the paper towel. Quickly re(di)solved the problem! The key is to let the alcohol soak in, which is harder to accomplish with a cotton ball or other applicator.

By anon215026 — On Sep 16, 2011

Super hot water and the dryer sheets did the trick - and did not damage the finish. I did need to wash my car really well, though.

By anon208477 — On Aug 23, 2011

The hot water worked great on my Audi. I used hot water from the water cooler with faster results than the fab soft.

By anon178590 — On May 21, 2011

I just used a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol, two actually to avoid the rubbing in of the dirt. Anyway it took me all of three minutes to get the sap off. It's been dried up on my car for about a year. Thanks for the advice!

By anon170263 — On Apr 25, 2011

Dampened fabric softener sheets: GREAT!! Bought a new top-of-the-line Ford F-150. Within one week it was covered with tree sap droplets as if a paint sprayer had been turned on it. No joke. It was awful. I was devastated and figured I'd have to pay top dollar for a professional buff and wax job.

Decided to give the fabric softener a try. I was stunned. Not only did it remove the tree sap, but it removed all bugs and tar from a 1000 mile trip. Easy? Extremely. Simply wet the surface, wipe with the damp fabric softener sheets, and rinse off. You don't have to scrub or wipe hard. However, do not let it dry or it will be slightly more difficult to wash off! It even left a thin film similar to wax. Of course, that film can easily be removed by wiping with a separate wet towel and rinsing.

I will never, ever buy another car wash product again. The fabric softener sheets beats anything I've ever used in 30+ years of car ownership. You have got to try this. It is not a gimmick. Ii truly does work. The question for me is why this isn't already widely known?

By anon165396 — On Apr 04, 2011

Tried several recommended tree sap solvents with poor results. I had foil packets of lens cleaner in my car, and decided to try one. Problem solved! The tiny lens wipes (brand name: Wipe'n Clear) broke down the stubborn sap immediately, and were gentle on the finish.

By anon156120 — On Feb 25, 2011

Baby wipes worked great on the brown tree sap stains on the roof of my silver ford.

By anon126232 — On Nov 11, 2010

Whoever came up with removing sap with fabric softener is a genius.

By anon121900 — On Oct 25, 2010

I have a thick tree sap on my ford contour. I used a fabric softener sheet (with room temperature water) just to try. It turned out to be an awesome tree sap cleaner! I am going to do a thorough job tomorrow!

By anon119675 — On Oct 19, 2010

The nail polish destroyed the paint in my car!

By anon117452 — On Oct 10, 2010

The one thing that most people forget is that after removing sap, claying and waxing the vehicle you still might see light spots on the vehicle which might need some light buffing work done to correct the paint depending on how deep the sap is in the clear coat and since all vehicles don't have the same amount of clear coat. For example, a honda accord might have three layers of clear coat and a fabric softener with hot water works wonders but a cadillac cts with two layers of clear coat might not have the same outcome. I hope this information was helpful. --Derrick

By anon106058 — On Aug 23, 2010

Baking soda mixture with water worked great on the paint but not on the window. I am going to try the fabric softener sheet since it seemed to work for others. Thanks for the tips!

By anon100606 — On Jul 30, 2010

Mayonnaise worked for me. Just rub it in for two to four minutes and rinse with warm water.

By anon83715 — On May 12, 2010

Pure gum turpentine removes tree sap from a car finish. This is based on the principle that "like dissolves like."

To remove bugs from a car finish use "Simple Green" (available in a pump spray bottle).

By anon81579 — On May 02, 2010

finger nail polish remover works great, even on one year old dried up sap.

By anon78558 — On Apr 19, 2010

tree sap is terrible stuff for your car's paint. If you park near trees put a car cover on your car. I got one from empire covers. they're light weight, snug fitting, and keep the car a good 60 degrees cooler.

By anon75713 — On Apr 07, 2010

and to keep it off, get a car cover for your ride, they're cheap and you can always throw it on. I like mine from empire covers.

By cheapoldcars — On Apr 06, 2010

I came to this tip because my puppy had tree sap all over his fur. I rubbed peanut butter on my puppy's fur and then washed it off with water The sap was gone.

Thanks for sharing such a helpful information!

By anon75095 — On Apr 05, 2010

WD40 didn't work. Dampened dryer sheet worked fabulously! Thanks for the tip.

By anon66639 — On Feb 20, 2010

I got all the sap off but the sap was on the car too long and etched into the paint.

By anon63098 — On Jan 30, 2010

I've had dried sap on my car for the better part of a year now. I just went outside with my fabric softener and a cup full of hot water. It took less than 10 minutes to remove all of the spots. Thanks for the suggestion!

By anon63048 — On Jan 30, 2010

I really appreciated all the suggestions! I am going to try some of them. Thank you so much!

By anon43661 — On Aug 31, 2009

I used simple carpet cleaner and those tree residues went in zap!

By anon43083 — On Aug 25, 2009

I just used nail polish remover and it worked fine but now I'm going to get some wax on the spots just to baby it a little.

By anon42735 — On Aug 23, 2009

Regarding the post about removing sap from the windsheild, the wet fabric sheet did an excellent job on all the windows too. Just wipe and rinse.

By anon42734 — On Aug 23, 2009

The post about the dampened fabric softener sheet was right on the money! My wife and I just did this to our entire car. It took a lot of sheets but did an amazing job. It swirled the sap without damaging the paint and it rinsed right off.

By anon42636 — On Aug 22, 2009


I tried some of the recommendations above- mayonnaise, rubbing compound, WD 40 all did not work. Never fear -- fingernail polish remover worked like magic!!

By anon42188 — On Aug 19, 2009

Go to advance auto get some clay bar. i used it today. takes the tops of tar right off.

By anon39346 — On Jul 31, 2009

I used a dampened fabric softener sheet. wring out water first. You can use it to take off bugs and sap. No residue, no damage to paint or clear coat, no nasty smell and no need to go buy something new. I had it right in the laundry room

By anon38149 — On Jul 24, 2009

Use a razor blade paint scraper to remove hard sap spots from a windshield

By anon37679 — On Jul 21, 2009

I tried numerous things to remove pine say from my vehicles. I was using a wax type cleaner but it was slow going, tried a little mineral spirits to no avail, I was using a hand sanitizer wipe to clean my hands and thought it couldn't be that easy! The wipe took the sap right off!!

By anon31919 — On May 13, 2009

I got the sap off with just very hot water from the tap. I got the tip from the person who used boiling water.

By anon26240 — On Feb 10, 2009

I read somewhere that sap is water based, so it can simple be removed with water. However, the problem is that water out of a hose won't work because it's too cold so you would need too much to make it work.

The solution is to boil the water so it agitates the molecules in the sap. So all you have to do is use boiling water to remove the sap. If you don't have a grill with a burner to boil the water or your kitchen isn't near your garage it may not work very well.

By anon17904 — On Sep 10, 2008

Good day everyone

i own a honda fit blue. parked it under a tree and got it covered with tree sap.. used rubbing alcohol on it, removed the sap but left sappy residue which needs to be also washed off.. and the best part is.. it has ruined some of my clear coat... rubbing alcohol sucks!

By anon15630 — On Jul 17, 2008

Can the above also be used for a windshield? I've tried rubbing alcohol, a mixture of white vinegar and water - it hasn't worked. Any other suggestions?

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