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How To Remove Tree Sap From Your Car Safely... Without Damaging The Paint!

There are many great things to look forward to when spring blooms. However, one thing I never look forward to is sap on my car. It seems that even when I don’t park under a tree, my car still gets covered in sap.

It doesn’t matter if it’s sap from pine trees, palm trees, pecan trees, or sycamore trees - it’s still a frustration we need to address. Removing sap from your car doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does need to be removed quickly. The longer it sits, the harder it is to remove. Read this article to make sure you understand the steps you need to take to remove sap properly and easily.

It Helps To Start With A Basic Wash

The first step is to completely wash your car. This is a valuable step that you shouldn’t skip. In general, it’s good practice not to let anything like tree sap or other residue sit on your car for days, as when you leave things like this on your car, it can damage the paint over time.

Much of it can simply be removed with soap and warm water. When you wash your car thoroughly, it can remove dirt, grime, and sediment from it. If you attempt to remove sap from your car before you wash it, you could grind lingering dirt particles into the paint.

Removing Tree Sap From Paint

While removing tree sap from the pain of your car usually isn’t difficult, you may have to apply some pressure to the area to remove the sap. As soon as you see sap on your car, you should work to remove it as quickly as possible. Sap is always easier to remove when you first see it.

You have to be careful if the sap is baked on from the sun. If it is, applying too much pressure could cause scratches by moving around the hard sap material.

Here’s how to remove tree sap the right way.

What You'll Need

  • Soapy water
  • A good bug/tar remover. You can also use rubbing alcohol if you do not have one.
  • WD40 is also safe to use. It will need to sit on the car for 5 minutes. WD40 may remove the wax from the car, but won’t damage the finish. It can also be used on plastic and rubber parts without destroying them like many other chemicals.
  • Soft towels, ideally microfiber
  • Torque Detail Ceramic Shine or Mirror Shine

Before We Start, Understand This

It’s always best to wash your car before and after you use any products to remove sap. There are many products available to remove sap, some of which can also remove the protectants on your paint. Wax is one of those protectants.

You shouldn’t use liberal amounts of tar remover - only use as much as you actually need. Using your muscles is a better option than applying more remover. After you remove the sap and wash your car, it’s best to apply a protective coat of wax.

How To Remove Tree Sap: The Process

The steps to follow to remove tree sap from your car are simple:

  1. Wash your car with warm soapy water.
  2. Pour sap remover (or isopropyl alcohol) onto a microfiber towel.
  3. Put the towel with remover on it on the sap on your car and let it sit for 30 seconds.
  4. Rub the area until the sap is gone. Depending on how stubborn the sap is, you may have to repeat this step several times.
  5. Wash the car again.
  6. Completely dry your car or allow it to air dry.
  7. Wax the car with a product like Ceramic Shine. This type of wax product works best when bonding to the clear coat.
  8. Focus on one section at a time, spray a small amount of Ceramic Shine on your car. Make sure to use only a small amount. You do not want to use too much spray.
  9. Using a microfiber towel that is clean, work Ceramic Shine into the surface of the car. It is important to use clean towels.
  10. Using a different clean microfiber towel, buff the surface where you put the Ceramic Shine until the polish looks the way you want.
  11. The wax must cure. It should sit for 6 to 12 hours in a cool, covered, and dry place.
  12. Reapply as needed.

Removing Tree Sap From Your Windshield

The steps to remove tree sap from your car are likewise very simple:

  1. Wash your car with warm soapy water.
  2. Pour sap remover (or alcohol) onto a microfiber towel.
  3. Put the towel with remover on it on the sap on your car and let it sit for 30 seconds.
  4. Rub the area until the sap is gone. Depending on how stubborn the sap is, you may have to repeat this step several times. If the sap is really difficult to remove, you can use a razor blade to gently scrape the sap off the windshield.
  5. Wash the windows and then use Windex (ammonia-free) on them. You can use many other glass cleaners as well.

Tips For Removing Hardened Tree Sap That Has Been Sitting For A Long Time

After sap has been sitting on your car for a little bit, it becomes hardened and almost baked onto your car. However, there are some items you can use to remove the sap even once it has created a hard layer on your car.

Bacon grease, WD40, or lighter fluid are common household solutions to this type of mess. No matter which of these you decide to use, you’ll need to let them sit on the spot for a while. You should let the product sit on the sap until you see the sap begin to disappear. Once it starts to disappear, you can use a soft cloth to wipe it away.

If you have pine sap on your car, it may take a little more effort to remove because it’s so sticky. A great remover for pine sap is acetone nail polish remover. The acetone is key to breaking up the sticky sap. Soak a cotton ball with nail polish remover and rub away the sap in circular motions. Once you’ve completely rubbed all the sap away, make a paste of one cup of baking soda and three cups of hot water. Applying this paste to the area of the car with a washcloth where you used the nail polish remover will clean it. However, you should still wash your car as normal even after cleaning it with the baking soda paste.

Video demonstrating removing tree sap with bacon grease.

Don't Have The Ingredients We Mentioned Earlier? Here Are Several Other Easy Home Remedies

If you don’t want to go out and purchase a sap removing product that you’re not confident will work on your car, there are several options you can make easily at home.

Throughout this article, we mentioned that WD40, bacon grease, and nail polish remover are great options that you can use to remove sap from your car. If you don’t have any of those on hand, there are several other items you may have around the house that can help clean sap off your car.

Mineral spirits are a great option to remove sap from your car. These are oil-based solvents such as paint thinners that you probably have sitting around in your garage. You can soak a towel with paint thinner and use it to remove the sap from your car.

Hand sanitizer is another item that you probably have around the house, and perhaps even in your car, that can remove sap. The key ingredient, isopropyl alcohol, breaks down the sap and removes it. However, you want to be careful with this one. It shouldn’t remove the paint from your car, but it might, so try it on a small area first and only use as much as you need.

You Need a Car Wax. We've Got You Covered.
Ceramic Shine by Torque Detail

"My car is slick as glass!! I put the Ceramic Shine on my Corvette Stingray and it is very slick and shiny. I should have purchased it sooner." - Charlie F.


Parking under a tree has some major disadvantages such as tree sap, bird droppings, and pollen. There are a number of products available to help remove annoying tree sap. Many work best when you remove the sap immediately.

There are other options available if you don’t want to give up the shade of a tree but hate dealing with the sap. You could consider parking your car under a collapsible carport. This structure under which you can park your car offers shade and protection from the elements. Some materials are stronger than others and have a canopy, making it look like a tent. The best part is that although some assembly is required, they’re usually very easy to assemble and set up.

No matter which option you choose, make sure you protect your car from sap as best you can. If you have to leave your car exposed to the elements, address any sap or dirt immediately.

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