How To Remove Tree Sap From Your Car

Tree sap that falls on your car and dries can be difficult to remove and can cause damage to the car. Find out how to remove it properly from your car before it's too late!

Have you ever felt as if the harder you try to keep your car clean, the more likely it is to get dirty?

While eliminating a bit of dirt is as straightforward as running it through a wash, determining how to erase tree resin from your car is another tale.

First, you’ll need to clean the exterior to remove any debris that might cause scratches. Apply a small amount of hand sanitizer to the affected area, wait a few seconds, and wipe clean using a microfiber cloth. Finish by waxing the area to restore the clearcoat to full strength.

Thankfully, in this guide, we will explain the process in more detail.

But first, we will review what tree sap is and why it is harmful when left alone.

Let’s jump into it!

Table of ContentsShow

What Is Tree Sap And How Does It Affect My Car?

tree sap

Trees create sap to carry nutrients, minerals, and sugars throughout the trunk and branches. Initially, tree sap is excreted out in a somewhat “honey-like” consistency.

However, once it dries, it becomes hard, and if it happens to drip onto your car and dry, it’s remarkably difficult to remove.

There are two main reasons it’s crucial to remove tree sap in a timely fashion. The first is that it looks terrible, adding a rough texture that detracts from the overall shine of the exterior surface.

The second reason is that tree sap is very acidic, which can eat away at the clearcoat and damage the paint underneath.

The key is to eliminate tree sap before it causes any damage. Luckily, we’ll talk about how to accomplish that in the upcoming section.

The Secret To Removing Tree Sap From Your Car? Hand-Sanitizer

hand sanitizer in bottles

There is an endless number of specialty products, all claiming to be the end-all solution for removing tree sap. Each features a proprietary blend of chemicals and cleaners designed to break down and soften tree sap so it can be easily wiped away.

However, we’ve found (through much trial and error) that most of these products have only a minimal effect on actually removing tree sap from a car. The same goes for home remedies, such as WD-40, mayonnaise, or peanut butter.

If you’re going to be slathering your car with a random substance, we’d like to suggest one that actually works – hand sanitizer. The secret is the ethyl alcohol, which quickly breaks down tree sap, allowing you to easily wipe it away.

You can also use straight isopropyl alcohol, but we’ve found that it dries too quickly. Hand sanitizer usually has a gel-like substance, like aloe vera, which makes it much easier to wipe without drying up.

We’ve also found that hand sanitizer is only minimally harmful to your clear coat. For this reason, you want to ensure you’re somewhat gentle when using it. We suggest wiping with light pressure instead of “scrubbing.”

We also recommend applying a layer of wax afterward to restore your clearcoat to full strength.

Steps For Removing Tree Sap From Your Car

car under tres

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2x Microfiber cloths
  • 1x Bottle of hand sanitizer
  • 1x Bucket of water
  • 1x Sponge
  • 1x Bottle of spray wax
  • 1x Jug of automotive specialty soap

Step #1 – Wash Your Car To Remove Debris

car wash

First, you’ll want to wash your car to remove any debris that might cause scratches. You can hand-wash it yourself using an automotive specialty soap, a sponge, and a bucket. Or, run it through a laser wash.

Step #2 – Apply Hand-Sanitizer To the Affected Area And Wipe Clean

man wiping and looking at car spots

Once the surface is dry, apply a small amount of hand sanitizer to the area. You don’t want to let it sit for too long, or you’ll risk harming your clear coat, so it’s best to focus on one spot at a time. Let it sit for 3-5 seconds, and gently wipe it clean with a microfiber cloth.

Depending on how much sap there is. Be sure to fold your cloth over, so you’re wiping it with the clean side. Not doing so increases the chance of creating swirl marks.

Step #3 – Apply A Coat Of Wax To The Area

man wiping off car spots

After taking off the sap, make sure your clearcoat is not damaged. Apply wax to enhance and toughen the surface. Our recommendation is spray wax that can deliver a shiny finish. Furthermore, it helps prevent your car from getting scratched.

You can pick up a bottle of spray wax at a local automotive supply store for between $15-$30. Application is easy, which usually consists of spraying, letting it dry for a few minutes, and then buffing it clean with a microfiber cloth.

Final Thoughts

Removing tree sap from your car is a pain if you don’t know how, and it’s harmful to your paint if you ignore it.

Instead of wasting hours scrubbing away at it, finish the job in a fraction of the time by following the 3-step process outlined here.

You Might Love These

how to get smoke smell out of car
How To Get Smoke Smell Out Of Your Car
Joshua Barrett

Josh Barrett is a writer hailing from the great state of Alaska. While describing himself in the third person is not his forte, writing about any and all things automotive – is. After 13+ years hustling in the exciting world of car sales, he took off to travel the world with his dog Teemo.