How To Remove Tree Sap From Your Car (Without Ruining The Paint)

How To Remove Tree Sap From Your Car (Without Ruining The Paint)Few scents are as refreshing as fresh pine, but few sights are as annoying as sap on your car. Not only is this sticky goo challenging to remove, but it could also cause severe damage to your car’s paint job. If you just noticed some sap on your vehicle, then you should immediately use some of the pro removal tips in this article.

If car-approved soap and hot water don't do the trick, use one of these techniques to get tree sap off of your vehicle:

  • Use a cotton ball with non-acetone nail polish remover and wipe with a clean cloth.
  • Spray a little WD-40 and wipe with a microfiber cloth.
  • Pour a bit of rubbing alcohol and clean with a microfiber cloth.
  • Place some tar remover on the tree sap and wipe away.
  • Use a commercial-grade product specifically designed for tree sap.

Want to learn more about zapping that sap? Below, we’ll go over everything you need to know about getting rid of tree sap without damaging your car’s precious paint.

The Best Ways To Remove Tree Sap From Your Car

In this first section, we’ll explain some of the tried-and-true ways to get rid of tree sap. No matter what strategy you use, the earlier you can put it into place, the better off your car’s paint will be.

What Is The Best Tree Sap Remover For Cars?

One of the most respected products for tree sap removal is the Terminator by Stoner Car Care. According to the company, this spray-on product has a MicroActive formula that’s able to remove sap, bug stains, and even baked-in tar.

All you have to do is apply a small amount of the Terminator to your problem area, wait no more than 60 seconds, and wipe away with a microfiber towel. Once the stain is gone, wash the area with plenty of warm water.

Stoner Car Care claims its product has been designed for all car paint surfaces. So, even if you have a chrome vehicle, the Terminator shouldn’t cause significant damage.

Terminator at amazon's site.

If you’re interested in taking a closer look at the Terminator, be sure to check out this Amazon page.

Can Rubbing Alcohol Damage Car Paint?

A dab of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball is another fantastic way to get rid of tree sap. Rub a tiny bit of alcohol around your tree sap and then wash away the goop with a 1:3 mixture of baking soda to warm water.

In higher concentrations, rubbing alcohol could cause a bit of swelling on your car’s surface and could lead to paint discoloration. For this reason, some people like to dilute their alcohol with 50 percent water.

Is WD-40 Safe On Car Paint?

A tiny spritz of WD-40 is one of the preferred ways to get rid of tree sap on your car. Let the spray sit for about one minute, and you shouldn’t have an issue removing the sap with a microfiber towel.

Although we don’t know the exact formula of WD-40, the company admitted it does contain petroleum distillates. This means WD-40 could cause slight oxidation and damage on your car’s surface if you use too much. However, as long as you use a tiny amount of WD-40 and don’t let it sit for over a few minutes, you shouldn’t have major issues using this product.

By the way, you could also use WD-40 to remove bird poo and bugs from your car effectively. For more info, check out these previous VEHQ posts on “How To Get Bird Poop Off Your Car” and “How To Get Bugs Off Your Vehicle.”

Does Vinegar Hurt Car Paint?

Many people assume because vinegar is so acidic, it must cause paint discoloration. Unless you leave the vinegar on your car in the beating sun for a long time, however, it’s unlikely to cause much damage to your car’s paint.

As always, use just a dab of vinegar on the sap and then wipe away with a clean, car-approved towel.

microfiber towel at amazon's page

Anyone looking for a highly reviewed microfiber towel perfect for car use should check out this Amazon page.

Will Dawn Hurt My Car?

You should never use dishwashing soaps like Dawn on your car. Remember, these soaps weren’t designed for use on vehicles, so they tend to be a bit too abrasive on paint. It’s for this reason certain companies make car-approved soaps that take into account a car’s sensitive wax and paint layers.

Chemical Guys’ car-approved Citrus Wash & Gloss at amazon's page

Check out the popular Chemical Guys’ car-approved Citrus Wash & Gloss now available on Amazon.

Will Nail Polish Remover Damage Car Paint?

Nail polish remover is one of the most potent methods to get rid of tree sap. While this method is extremely powerful, it’s also the most likely to cause discoloration on your car’s paint.

For a gentler clean, some people recommend using non-acetone nail polish to remove tree sap. Whether you use this less abrasive nail polish or not, it’s a good idea to douse the affected area with warm water and soap afterward.

Other Common Issues With Tree Sap Removal

Now that you know how to remove sap from your car let’s go over a few terrific tree sap tips. Below, we’ll fill you in on sap-prone trees, the sappiest times of the year, and strategies to get sap off your skin.

What Are The Sappiest Trees?

While every tree has some sap, there are a few varieties with more robust sap production. Unsurprisingly, all maple trees produce the most sap, so be extra careful when parking near them. Other tree families that have higher than average sap include walnut and birch.

If you want to plant the “least sappy” tree near your home, then you should consider the English oak. Another tree that doesn’t usually produce a lot of sap is the Japanese snowdrop.

What’s The Sappiest Time Of Year?


The chances you'll see sap flowing from your trees is far higher in the spring and summer. As you might’ve guessed, warmer temperatures help lubricate sap in the tree, which means it will flow out easier from any injury sites.

It’s also more likely bugs will invade trees and puncture holes during these seasons. Keep in mind that many aphids eat tree sap and excrete a similarly sticky substance known as honeydew. Get your trees checked out if you suspect infections or bug infestations.

How Do You Remove Tree Sap From Your Skin?

Sometimes soap and hot water can’t get rid of sap on your skin. When you need a little extra assistance, the best thing to do is use a bit of rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball to loosen the sap.

Another trick you could use is to mix a bit of toothpaste on the sap and let it sit for a few minutes. Afterward, wash your hands with warm water and soap.

Of course, you could also use a bit of WD-40, as we listed above. Please only use a tiny amount of WD-40 and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly a few seconds after applying the substance.

How Do You Get Rid Of Sap In Your Hair?

As you could imagine, it’s incredibly annoying to get tree sap all tangled up in your hair. Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to get you out of this sticky situation.

Interestingly, many people report success using peanut butter to get rid of sap. All you have to do is rub a bit of smooth peanut butter into the affected area and use a hairdryer to loosen the sap further. You’ll be amazed how easily the sap falls away as you comb and wash your hair.

If the peanut butter method doesn’t work for some reason, then you could substitute it with either olive oil or mayonnaise.

Zap That Sap As Fast As You Can

How To Remove Tree Sap From Your Car (Without Ruining The Paint)

Just like with bird poo or insect stains, it’s critical you clean tree sap on your car ASAP. This is especially true if you live in a sunny area because all that heat could “bake” the sap into your car’s paint. As long as you use one of the strategies listed above, however, you shouldn’t experience any difficulties getting rid of this irritating substance.

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