How To Remove Tree Sap From Your Car

Have you ever felt as if the harder you try to keep your car clean, the more likely it is to get dirty? While getting rid of a bit of dirt is as simple as running it through a wash, figuring out how to remove tree sap from your car is another story.

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 article, we’ll explain the process more in detail. But first, we’ll review what exactly tree sap is and why it’s harmful when left alone.

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

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 on to 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 trick is to remove tree sap before it causes any harm. Thankfully, we’ll discuss how to do so in the next section.

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

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 that 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 using 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 in it, like aloe vera, which makes it much easier to wipe with without it drying up.

We’ve also found that hand-sanitizer is only minimally harmful to your clearcoat. For this reason, you want to make sure 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

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

First, you’ll want to wash your car to remove any debris that might cause scratches. You can either 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

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 clearcoat, so it’s best to focus on one spot at a time. Let it sit for 3-5 seconds, and gently wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.

Depending on how much sap there is. Be sure to fold your cloth over so that 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

Once you’ve removed all the sap, you’ll want to ensure your clearcoat has not been weakened by applying a layer of wax. We suggest using a spray wax, which will restore and strengthen the surface and leave with it with a glossy finish. Additionally, spray wax will also help protect your car from scratches.

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 our 3-step process.

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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.