How to Safely Get Tree Sap Off Your Car

You have just bought your first car, parked it outside your house in a nice shady spot, only to find that it’s now covered in tree sap. Getting it off your car will likely be a chore, more than you would normally face with regular stains.

While it might seem a minor annoyance at first, tree sap also poses a threat to your car’s paint job. In most cases, sap will not come off with a simple wash. Luckily, you do not need particularly expensive or rare products to take care of tree sap, it can usually be handled with items that are likely already in your home.

Cleaning tree sap with household products

Many regular household cleaning products are effective at removing tree sap from your car, but many of these can potentially damage your car’s paint job in the process. Some have highly acidic properties and may affect more than just the sap. They might cause discoloration, peeling, or more severe damage when used.

The first thing to do when you find a product you want to use is test it. Test on parts of your car that are not visible. Whichever cleaning product you decide to use, first apply it to a hidden area and watch to see the way the paint is affected.

There are four common household items that could be used to clean off the sap from your car; isopropyl alcohol, hand sanitizer, WD-40 solvent, and mineral spirit. Each of these have differing levels of effectiveness, and a specific way they should be applied.

Hand sanitizer is surprisingly effective at removing tree sap from cars. It should be applied directly to the sap; sprayed, dripped or poured. After this is done, give it a little time to work its magic. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Once time is up, use a clean piece of cloth to rub at the spot.

The sanitizer is a dissolving agent and so the tree sap will usually come off as you rub it. Afterwards, you can use water to rinse off any residue.

Sometimes, however, hand sanitizer will not be enough to get the job done. When this happens, try WD-40 solvent. This works in the same general manner as hand sanitizer. The application process is also the same, spray the WD-40 solvent on the sap, give it some time, then wipe it off with a piece of cloth. If neither of these are working it may be time to rty something else.

An effective option is isopropyl alcohol. This is a type of rubbing alcohol that is well known for its usage as a cleaning agent. It can dissolve a wide range of polar compounds and leaves little to no trace afterwards. When applying isopropyl alcohol, you need to be quick because it evaporates rapidly. In this case, the isopropyl should be poured directly onto a piece of cloth. This cloth should then be used to wipe off the tree sap. The isopropyl will dissolve the alcohol upon contact and your car should be clean in no time.

Mineral spirit should be a last resort. It should only be used if you do not possess any of the above items or if they have so far been ineffective.

Mineral spirit is common and used as paint thinner. It should be used only in small amounts to minimize the risk of it damaging your car’s paint job. A small amount of the mineral spirit should be poured onto a piece of cloth. This cloth should then be used to clean the tree sap. This should be done gently and cautiously. The mineral spirit will dissolve the sap upon contract.

Cleaning tree sap with commercial removers

Commercial products are likely the best option for removing tree sap from your car. They are specially formulated for this purpose and are likely to be more effective than household items. These products will also have been rigorously tested to ensure they cause as little damage as possible to cars and their paintjobs.

Each commercial cleaning product will have its own specific method of application, and this will be detailed on the sticker covering the product. Follow these instructions exactly, and hopefully you will soon be sap free.

Tips for Cleaning Off Tree Sap

  1. A simple wash might be all you need

sap will not always be that difficult to remove from your car. Before attempting any of these methods, it is important to first give your car a regular wash, in some cases this will be all that is required. If this works, you do not have to do any of these other steps. When washing your car, use warm water, a good detergent and a clean cloth.

  1. Do not try to simply scrub it off

There is sometimes a temptation for you to attempt to scrub or scratch off the tree sap when you find it. This is rarely a good idea, especially when it has had some time to dry. Trying to scratch or scrub it off without the aid of a cleaning agent means you are likely to damage the paint job.

  1. Avoid using dirty washcloths or rags

A dirty washcloth might get the tree sap off your vehicle, but it will also likely replace it with its own stains. At any stage of cleaning, you should endeavour to use a clean wash cloth.

  1. Ensure the products you use will not permanently damage your paint job

Some cleaning products are very toxic and will damage your car’s paint on contact. To avoid this, it is important to first test them on a part of the car that is hidden. This testing will help you discover if the agent you are using is suitable or not.

Avoiding Tree Sap

Once your car is all cleaned up, it is best to not have to go through this again. One method is to avoid parking your car for extended periods near trees that produce excess sap.

Most trees do not produce a high enough quantity of sap to harm your car. However, there are some trees that are well known for their ability to produce sap. One of these is the maple tree, which is popular for its part in the production of maple syrup. This tree produces excess sap and should be avoided whenever possible. The same goes for the birch tree and the elm tree.

You could also park away from trees all together. If you can, park your car in a garage or a place that is covered. Tree sap is not the only way a tree might damage your car’s paint job. Bird droppings are another common way cars are damaged when they are parked near trees for extended periods.

Trees, leaves, and sand are other common ways cars get stained when they are near trees for too long. If you are unable to avoid trees altogether, your best option is to get some sort of car covering to protect your car during these periods.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.