by Joshua Thomas
Trees provide the perfect shade under the hot summer sun and during the spring weather for both people and vehicles.
But, parking your vehicle under a tree also comes with various problems, because besides having to worry about a hood full of bird poop, you will also have to worry about tree sap.
While a few drops of tree sap on your vehicle will not sound like a big deal and will hardly give you sleepless nights, if left to dry on the vehicle, they can easily become a problem. Tree sap will harden on a car almost like epoxy and over time can ruin the paint.
However, removing tree sap from cars does not take a lot of effort and neither does it require any special skills and in this piece, we explain various ways to do it.
Before jumping into the different ways of removing tree sap from a car, it is important to highlight why you need to remove it to ensure you do not ignore it. And there are different reasons you need to get rid of tree sap.
First, tree sap can damage the car’s paint job since it is acidic. While the damage might not be immediate, over time the tree sap can create etching and even permanent damage to the paint as it reacts with the chemicals in the car paint.
Secondly, tree sap will not just fall on the vehicle's body but can also end up in other places such as the windscreen and windows. With the tree sap on your windshield, visibility can be affected significantly, and hence making the car dangerous to drive. And unlike other kinds of dirt, you cannot clear tree sap from your windscreen by turning on the wipers.
Now that you know why you need to get rid of tree sap, now comes the most important part which is how to remove it. And while there are various ways of doing this, the following are the most effective ways of removing tree sap from the car.
Before you try other more complicated and time-consuming methods of removing tree sap, you should always start with a basic hand wash with hot water and soap.
Hand washing does a much better job than automatic washing as you can focus on the area with the tree sap and use some elbow grease to give it a thorough scrub.
What You Need
Step 1: Park Vehicle under Shade
The first step, which is parking your vehicle under shade looks very obvious, but you should not overlook it as it is as important as the others that will follow.
Parking the vehicle under a shade (but not under a tree) will ensure that the water you are using to clean it will not dry prematurely and leave behind some nasty water stains.
Step 2: Wet the Vehicle
Using the hose or pressure washer wet the vehicle thoroughly to prepare it for cleaning. And here you need to make sure that you get water everywhere to ensure a more thorough clean up.
Step 3: Scrub Vehicle
With the vehicle well rinsed, the next step is to scrub it using a mixture of hot water and soap. Hot water works better than cold water as it melts the tree sap easily and hence making it easier to remove.
Also, make sure that you only scrub the vehicle with something soft like a mitt or sponge because using something too abrasive can ruin the paint.
Step 4: Rinse and Repeat
You should then rinse out the vehicle to remove the soap and any debris that you scrubbed out. And if there is still some sap, repeat the process again and in some cases, you might be forced to use your nails to scratch out the leftover sap.
Step 5: Dry and Wax
The last step is to dry the vehicle well, and here a microfiber cloth will be very useful as it does an amazing job. And once the vehicle is dry enough, you should finish off by applying a protective layer of wax, which also gives it a nice shine.
Products with alcohol like nail polish remover and hand sanitizer are always very handy when dealing with stubborn stains on different surfaces. Now you can add removing tree sap from a car to the things that you can use alcohol and mineral spirits to do.
What You Need
Step 1: Soak Cloth in Alcohol
Start by soaking the soft cloth in the alcohol or mineral spirit until it is dampened thoroughly. And it is vital to make sure that the cloth is clean to ensure you do not transfer dirt or other compounds to the vehicle
Step 2: Apply on the tree Sap
Next, apply the soaked soft cloth directly to the tree sap and leave it to sit for at least 30 minutes. Here you need to be very careful to ensure you do not leave the cloth on the car for too long as alcohol is quite potent and can easily damage the paint.
Step 3: Inspect Sap
After the 30 seconds has elapsed, you need to check whether the tree sap has softened enough for you to rub it off with a cloth. If the sap does not feel pliable enough, you should repeat the 2 steps above while still being keen to ensure you do not overdo anything.
Step 4: Wiper Away Sap
Once the tree sap is pliable enough, the next step is to simply wipe it away with a soft cloth. When doing this, you should use a circular motion like how you apply wax, and if need be, you can also pour some hot water to soften the sap further.
Step 5: Clean the Car
Finally, once all the sap is removed, you should clean your vehicle with some hot water and soap, or just wipe down the area that had the tree sap, if you do not feel like washing the entire vehicle.
Scraping off the tree sap, and this is more so once it has hardened on the car is the first solution on many people's minds. And while it comes with the risk of damaging the paint by scratching it, if you are careful enough, this method can still be very effective.
What You Need
Step 1: Loosen Sap
Before you start scraping off sap from your vehicle, you need to first loosen it a bit to make things easier for you. Rubbing alcohol and other things like oil-based lubricants will be perfect for this, but just make sure you do not overdo it as they can damage the paint.
Step 2: Scrape Off Sap
Now grab your razor blade or small utility knife and gently try to scrape off the tree sap from the vehicle. When doing this, you should wiggle the blade under the sap safely and gently which will then make it possible to peel it off.
Step 3: Wipe Down the Vehicle
When most of the tree sap has been removed, you should wipe down the section with rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth to remove debris and any leftover sap that might still be clinging on to the car.
Note: This is one of those last resort methods of removing tree sap given that you can easily damage the car’s paint if you do not do it correctly. Also, it is more ideal for removing sap from things like windows and the windshield than it is for the vehicle’s body.
Baking soda is one of those things that you will find in almost any kitchen. Also, it is among the best DIY cleaning agents as it does an amazing job of cleaning everything from the fridge to your coffee maker. Baking soda can also be very effective in removing tree sap from vehicles.
What You Need
Step 1: Make Baking Soda Paste
Start by making a thick baking soda paste using about 3 parts of the baking soda and 1 part of water. You can adjust this ratio, but the idea here is to ensure the baking soda will be as thick as possible and not runny.
Step 2: Cover the Sap
Now apply the baking soda over the tree sap generously to cover it completely. Spread it around the sap gently to ensure you do not damage the paint. And once the sap is fully covered, you should allow the paste to sit for a while.
Step 3: Pour Boiling Water
Next, pour boiling water over the baking soda covered sap to soften the tree sap further to make it even easier to remove.
Step 4: Wipe Down
Finish by wiping the area with a clean and damp rag to remove the leftover sap and clean up the car. If at this stage there are still some traces of the sap, pouring hot water over the area should loosen it enough to allow you to wipe it off.
Avoid parking your vehicle under trees as this is where it gets the sap, and if you must park under a tree, choose one that does not produce a lot of sap.
Wax your car regularly as this will create a protective layer that will prevent tree sap from sticking.
Use a car cover to protect your vehicle from tree sap and many other substances that can damage it.
Tree sap is one of the most annoying things that can end up clinging on your vehicle's surface because besides being tough to get rid of, it also creates an unsightly look and can ruin the paint.
But as careful as you are, sometimes you might still end up getting some on your vehicle. When this happens, the best idea will be to wipe it off immediately. However, in many instances, you will only notice it once it has dried on the car.
Luckily, there are various ways of removing tree sap from your car, and here we have highlighted some of the easiest and most effective ones. And in the unlikely event that neither of these methods seems to work for you, a professional at your favorite car shop should be able to help you sort out the annoying issue.
About Joshua Thomas
Joshua Thomas just simply loves cars and willing to work on them whenever there's chance... sometimes for free.
He started CarCareTotal back in 2017 from the advices of total strangers who witnessed his amazing skills in car repairs here and there.
His goal with this creation is to help car owners better learn how to maintain and repair their cars; as such, the site would cover alot of areas: troubleshooting, product recommendations, tips & tricks.
Joshua received Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering at San Diego State University.