How to Remove Tree Sap From a Car

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors  | 

Senior man cleaning car
Tree sap can be easily removed from cars if you follow a few steps. Fuse/Getty Images

When you park your car under a large tree, you might come back to find a spattering of a sticky substance coating the car. Most people refer to this as tree sap, but it's far more likely to be insect honeydew, excreted by aphids in the leaves and branches of the tree. It's composed of sugars and other waste products that pass through the insects' bodies undigested [source: Browh].

Whatever you call this sticky stuff, it's very difficult to remove from your car, and doesn't respond well to a normal soap solution. If you leave it alone it will turn black and be even harder to remove. Here are some things you can use to remove tree sap from your car.

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  • Nail polish remover: Pour some nail polish remover onto a cotton ball and wipe it on the sap. The sap should come right off. After it's removed, wash away any residue with a paste of baking soda and water to be sure the car paint doesn't come off as well. Then wash the car [source: DetailXperts].
  • Mineral spirit: Dampen a soft cloth with mineral spirit (turpentine). Rub the cloth on the sap, and the sap should come off. After it's removed, wash the area well with water to remove any residue.
  • Lighter fluid/rubbing alcohol/bacon grease/WD-40: Place any one of these on the sap and leave it there for a while. It will get to work dissolving the tree sap. When you notice the dissolution, rub off the remaining sap [sources: Browh, WD-40].
  • Commercial car cleaning product: Try cleaning the area with a commercial car cleaning product. These products are available in automotive supply shops.
  • Tar remover: Try applying a bug and tar remover [source: Allen].

Removing tree sap can leave the spot dull, so you may want to polish the area with car wax to bring back its original luster.

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Originally Published: Jul 12, 2011

Remove Tree Sap From Car FAQ

Can rubbing alcohol damage car paint?
Yes. And if you leave it on too long, it will turn black and be even harder to remove.
How do you remove tree sap from a car without damaging the paint?
Tree sap doesn't respond well to a normal soap solution. That's why you have to use ingredients like rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover or mineral spirit to get rid of it.
Does WD 40 Remove pine?
Yes. Place WD 40 on the sap and leave it there for a while. It will get to work dissolving the tree sap. When you notice the dissolution, rub off the remaining sap.
Does rubbing alcohol remove sap from car?
Yes. Similarly, lighter fluid and bacon grease can also remove sap from a car.
What should you do after removing sap from your car?
Removing tree sap can leave the spot dull, so you may want to polish the area with car wax to bring back its original luster.

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