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Parking under a tree can help keep your car cool and protected from the sun, but it also means tree sap can fall on your vehicle more easily. Tree sap can damage your car’s paint, especially when it dries up. When this happens, it’s important to act fast. Get sap off your car as soon as possible so it doesn’t strip away your car’s paint.

How To Get Tree Sap Off Car

Bringing your car to a professional cleaning service is the best solution, but it isn’t always an option in most scenarios. Luckily, there are different ways you can get sap off your car by yourself.

Hand Wash Your Car

When it comes to getting tree sap off your car, washing it by hand is usually the fastest way. First, you’ll need to park your car away from the sun. Heat can cause the sap and water to dry up, which will make it harder to clean your car. Next, gather the following materials:

  • Buckets of hot water
  • A hose or power washer
  • Car wash soap
  • Sponges
  • Microfiber cloths

Wash your entire car with soap and water. Washing the entire car will help you separate sap stains from other dirt on your vehicle. If you’re using a power washer, use a wider nozzle so it doesn’t damage your car’s paint.

It should be easier to spot the sap stains now, so it’s time to use a little elbow grease. Scrub each spot gently with soap and a clean sponge. Hot water can help soften the dry sap, so use it for any stubborn stains. Repeat the process until all the stains are gone before drying your car with a microfiber towel.

tree sap on a car door
Sap is a concentration of oils, resin, and terpenes, and getting sap all over your car is not good for your paint.

Use Commercial Cleaners

There are plenty of products that are designed to remove tree sap and other stubborn stains from your car. Some popular brands include Turtle Wax Bug and Tar Remover, Goo Gone, and Goof Off. If you have any of these at home, then you can use them to remove sap stains.

First, gather the following materials:

  • Commercial cleaner
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Hose or power washer
  • Hot water

Apply the cleaner on the microfiber cloth. Place the cloth over the stain, allowing it to soak for 30 seconds before wiping the sap off gently. Rinse it off with water using a hose or a clean, damp cloth. Repeat the process until all the stains are gone.

Keep in mind that the process can vary depending on which product you’re using, so be sure to check the instructions on the packaging.

Use Home Remedies

If you don’t want to buy commercial cleaning products, you don’t have to worry. In fact, you’d be surprised by what gets sap off a car. There are several home remedies you can try, and you can use them on their own or with each other.

Rubbing Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol or denatured alcohol can help get rid of stubborn sap stains. First, take a microfiber cloth or cotton ball, and wet it with alcohol. Too much alcohol can damage your paint, so be careful to only add a few drops.

Then, place it on the dried sap, and leave it there for at least 30 seconds. Agitate the sap by gently scrubbing the area until the stain comes off. Repeat the process for other stains, and then rinse your car with a clean rag after.

Hand Sanitizer

If you don’t have any alcohol at home, you can use hand sanitizer instead. The process is similar to alcohol. Wet a cotton ball with hand sanitizer, and soak the stain for at least 30 seconds before scrubbing the area clean. Again, be careful not to use too much since hand sanitizer does also have alcohol, which can damage your paint job.

Cooking Oil

You can also use cooking oil from your kitchen to remove sap from your car. First, soak the sap with cooking oil. You can also take a cloth wet with hot water and place it on top to help soften the stain. After five minutes, wipe away the stain until it comes off. Once the stains come off, give your car a good wash with hot water and soap.

While oil-based solutions are great at removing dried stains, they might not work as well on wet sap. Luckily, there are other options you can try out if the sap is still wet.


If you have a can of WD-40 at home, then you can use that too. First, shake the can, and spray the product all over the stains. Place a wet cloth, paper towel, or cling wrap on the area to let the product seep into the stains. After five minutes, gently rub the stain with the cloth until the stain disappears. Finally, wash your car with hot water and soap.

Plastic Razor Blade

If some stains still remain even after trying the steps above, then you might need to scrape them off. You can use a razor blade to scrape off the sap on your hood and windows.

A metal blade can scratch your car, so be sure to use a plastic one.

man wiping car with microfiber cloth
Whichever method you choose to remove sap from your car, be sure to polish and wax your car after washing it so your car can have a fresh layer of protection.

Polishing and Waxing

Whichever method you choose, be sure to polish and wax your car after washing it so your car can have a fresh layer of protection.

What Is Sap?

During spring, trees produce a sticky substance called sap. Sap is a concentration of oils, resin, and terpenes. Terpenes are the bio-active molecules that make sap so sticky. Not all trees produce thick, sticky sap, but it’s best not to take your chances. Getting sap all over your car is not good for your paint.

Why You Need To Get Rid of Sap Immediately

Small drops of fresh sap isn’t going to ruin your car right away. However, it’s best not to let it dry up. Once sap dries up, it turns hard and adheres to your paint. It becomes hard to get off without scraping off a layer of your paint.

Resin and terpene make up turpentine, which is an active ingredient in most paint thinners. This means sap is like a concentrated paint thinner. If you don’t want your car paint to crack, you’ll have to clean the sap off your car as soon as possible.

About The Authors
Lisa Conant, Automotive Features Reviewer at
Reviewed By Lisa Conant

Automotive Features Reviewer at

Lisa Conant grew up in Canada around a solid contingency of gear heads and DIY motor enthusiasts. She is an eclectic writer with a varied repertoire in the automotive industry, including research pieces with a focus on daily drivers and recreational vehicles. Lisa has written for Car Bibles and The Drive.

CarParts Research Team
Written By Research Team

Automotive and Tech Writers

The Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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