How to: Get Rid of Tree Sap on Your Car

TreeSap_1r

I like to keep my car clean, all the time, and nothing is more frustrating than finding drops of sticky sap all over your car's windows or paint. My cherished Rally Red 2001 Chevrolet Camaro stands out like a matador in a bull arena filled with pine trees, and I frequently have to remove sap during my weekly car wash.

Sap will not immediately damage a car's paint, but it should not be ignored. After some time, the sap can etch through the paint's clear coat, leading to discoloring and staining.

"The concentration of sap generally varies, so it is difficult to say what the short-term effects would be, but it will certainly cause paint damage if left untreated for a longer period of time," says Leonard Raykinsteen, a paint material engineer at Nissan. "If sap is detected on a vehicle's paint finish, it should be removed in a timely manner. How soon? I don't think anyone can truly define it because it depends on the concentration of the sap as well as the weather conditions. Generally, when it is hot, the effects of tree sap are accelerated."

For years, I've had great results by following the steps below, yet I reached out to our friends at West Loop Auto for a few more tips and tricks on how to properly remove tree sap from your vehicle:

TreeSap_2r

What you need:

  • 2 clean terry cloths or soft towels 
  • Box cutter blade (use on glass only!) 
  • 1 can or bottle of bug and tar remover, or rubbing alcohol 
  • Bucket of water and sponge or wash mitt 
  • Spray wax or quick detailer polish 
  • A bit of elbow grease (muscle) and patience

What to do:

1. Wash and dry your vehicle, creating a clean surface to work on.
2. Find the spot of sap and pour a few drops of the remover solution onto a clean washcloth or terry cloth. I recommend using Turtle Wax's Bug and Tar Remover, available at most convenience and auto-parts stores for under $10. You can also use rubbing alcohol.

TreeSap_3r

3. Set the cloth on top of the desired area and let it sit for at least 30 seconds.
4. Rub the area until the sap is gone. Some tree sap can be extremely cumbersome to remove, so you might need to repeat steps 3 and 4.

TreeSap_4r

5. If the sap is still there, don't be afraid to use your fingernails lightly to scratch some of it off.

TreeSap_5r

6. When your car's paint is free of sap, spray a few mists of quick wax on the paint, polish it off or clean with a detailing cloth, and you're good to go.

TreeSap_6r

Got sap on your windshield or windows?

If it's still fresh and not hardened, refrain from using your windshield wipers, unless you want long, gooey streaks to block your vision.

Steps 1 through 6 above can be followed to rid tree sap from your windows. Just substitute a glass-cleaning product rather than quick wax for the last step.

Another good tip for removing sap from vehicle glass is to use a sharp box cutter blade. I've found this method to be quick and easy, and it works best on hardened sap. This is also a great tool for removing stickers affixed to your windows.

TreeSap_7r

Oftentimes, if my back window has a few spots of fresh sap on it, I'll wait a day or two, then spend a few seconds with a sharp box cutter blade, slowly scraping off the sap. Just be sure to keep it closely flat along the windshield so you don't scratch it.

Do you have any automotive mysteries you'd like us to try to solve? Leave us a comment. 

*While we hope to help you, Cars.com is not responsible for any damage that may occur to your vehicle by following the steps above.

Comments 

Dan

Goo-B-Gone works really well too!

Anonymous Guy

A little hidden secret ... BBQ lighter fluid is a very inexpensive alternative to Goof Off.

We see a lot of tree sap, particularly on those vehicles that get parked under pine trees. We have a simple two step process that removes the sap without harming the paint and puts a fresh coat of wax on as well. I always like to see what others are doing as well. Thanks for posting.

Pat Erickson

When I get sap off the neighbors trees on my Mustang, I get out the bucket with HOT water and soap. I don't like to put anything flamable on my clear coat. You just have to make sure your using enough HOT soapy water and lightly wash the sap away. It may take some time but the results are worth it. Besides, you get some time to spend with your BABY.

Charity

I have a 2006 Eclipse, I wash it regularly, but I have some kind so strange buildup on the windows and mirrors. The buildup looks like water spots. I have used everything I can think of to get it off, nothing seem to work. I have tried lighter fluid, acetone, rubbing alcohol, and vinegar. Do you have any suggestions on what to try next.

sandykins

I had a white Chevy and it got sap all over. I went to the car wash and they told me they would charge me $75 and that there was no guarantee that it would come off. A nice gentlemen at the car wash (customer) told me to use OFF (the bug spray) and that it would remove it quickly. So, I did it. WOW! Thanks guy......

rene

hand sanaticer work the best of all.

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A combination, one-step chemical cleaner and a wax. I am not a fan of these types of products, as they are required to perform two very diverse functions simultaneously.

This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you

Joan

In a cup size spray bottle add 3 oz Isopropyl alcohol 91 percent / 2 1/2 oz denatured alcohol or ethyl alcohol / 1 to 1 1/2 oz ammonia and a 1/2 tsp car wash or perhaps a few drops of dish washing detergent — a surfactant. Let it set a few minutes and wipe off with terry cloth folded in fourths and you will have 8 surfaces, keep turning to a clean surface. It would be a good idea to spray on clean water after sap removal and wipe with another cloth. This is about what is in a $60.00 a gal of professional low voc professional cleaner.

nancy

Just tried the OFF bug spray and it was done immediately. I checked the ingredients...Alcohol was the first ingredient along with Deet and aloe vera. Next time I'm going straight to the alcohol. Much cheaper than even Off bug spray. Thanks!

Lisa

What color paint will show sap the least? Buying new car and the parking space I own is beneath some branches. I can only conntrol them so much.
Thanks

We're a window tinting service provider in Texas, so we see a lot of tree sap. Best advice would be to always park away from trees, especially in the Fall! Rubbing alcohol is the way to go if it's on the body of the car itself, but be careful not to use too much or you'll wear away the finish or paint. If it's on the window you can simply use a water bottle and an exacto knife or scraper to get it off.

Hi there,

Thanks for posting this article. I had previously tried the bug & tar remover method with only limited success. Today I had four different spots, two were hardened and would not come off totally with B&T-R, the other two were newer and still gooey. I tired the "high alcohol" approach this time and used hand sanitzer. WOW! That is about as close to magic as I've ever seen.

Method used on my 2006 Mustang:

1. Clean the surface of dirt and dust first with water and/or soapy solution. You can spot clean too to save time.

2. Then pump one or two blobs of sanitizer on the spot.

3. Wait about 10 seconds then use your finger or thumb to rub (with some mild pressure)on the spot.

It may take 20-30 rubs for the hardened variety of sap but the gooey version came off and disolved nearly immediately.

Impressive & fast results!

4. I sprayed some quick detailer on the spots and wiped them down after I was done to protect the clear coat because the sanitizer removes the wax completely.

Upon close inspection of the surfaces there was zero damage to the paint (no etching) under the hardened sap after a few months left un-treated.

Try it on your car & good luck!

Tom

Mick

I was clearing my property of trees, and I was using a chipper to get rid of the branches and, at one point, the 'nozzle' that was ejecting the chips covered my car. There were hundreds of tiny spots on the hood and roof. I tried all sorts of things, but my wife had some 'DuckBrand" adhesive remover under the sink. I used that by applying with a sponge, and then scraping with a piece of plastic. It worked! After taking the car through the car wash and applying a coat of wax, it is as good (smooth)as new.

@Tom S.
What brand of hand sanitizer did you use?

i can buy new car.... recomended for you

Very nice blog to read and to get inform i like it very much and impressed from it you know that you are so beautiful about your work so keep it up

Patrick

Lighter fluid.

Brenda Bartenbaker

Cutter ( bug spray) works great!

Jennifer

Do NOT use rubbing alcohol on your car it removes the paint, I just di this and am cursing the person who said you could use it.

carrie

my boyfriend is trying to telle that thr mae tree i park under is the readon for all the dap that covered my car in the coue hrs he had it. ive parked there for yrs andits never hsppened before. could my maple b producing sn unusual amout of sap. it was so nad i couldnt see out the windshield

rob

You cannot use your fingernails.
That is bad advice.
I've used my fingernail and it only scratches the paint and leave a mark that has to be buffed out.
Perhaps the person who advised using your fingernail for sap has bitten his
Fingernails down to nothing.
It's absurd to use use fingernail.
What a moronic way to try and remove sap.
Real sap is the one who does it that way.

flamama

isopropyl alcohol worked great on my Urban Titanium 2013 Honda Civic!

BT

Believe it or not windex works great!!

Susie H

I just used Windex and it did a splendid job. I sprayed it on the bigger ones and rubbed with a wet rag. I had to use my fingernail to get the last bit off. Then I used a wax spray to finish it off. Worked great!

Chris Jones

Does not matter if its sap or droppings from aphids .......California Clay Bar will remove anything and chances are your paint needs cleaning anyways....so its a no brainer.

maggie

rag with witch hazel!!!

drugstore $6.00 bottle was enough for the entire car which had been sitting under a tree for 3 months!!!

amazing....wipes right off!!

Tony

Isn't it amazing that someone can remove the sap with a spray of "Off Bug Spray" or with a little dab of rubbing alcohol, or even a bit of "Fantastic"... and others, even after reading those quick and easy ways, will still insist on a belabored difficult scientific way to get the same result. Further, someone even states that using your fingernail is moronic....

If you scratch your car paint trying to remove sap with your fingernail, then either your paintjob sux or you have a screwdriver for a fingernail.

alfred e newman

Don't use your fingernail as this article suggests to remove anything from your cars finish. I did this to my last car to remove tar spots, and it left permanent scratches. I had to have it refinished. Here's a little advice. Don't follow the advice of any of these online advice sites. They are mostly written by people who know nothing about what they are writing about.

alan

I used goo off to no avail...Rubbing alcohol worked like a charm (in a cool shady spot) very cheap and it works

Eharp

thanks to sandykins who's post I read and decided to try the OFF bug spray. It works like a charm....thank u. To everyone else, don't waste your money OFF is the way to go

vince O

Use orange citrus degreaser and a toilet scrubber. Comes out easy clean with rag

Emily

Hand sanitizer got sap off my window in just a few minutes. No issues.

trace

Trace brake fluid best method

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