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Tree Sap Removal – The Car Wash Method

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Tree sap residue can be downright devastating on your car’s exterior if not taken care of quickly and efficiently. In this post, we’re breaking down some DIY techniques for tree sap removal inspired by your local car wash! From choosing the right equipment to wash and scrub techniques akin to how a car wash professional does it, we’ve got the answers to all your queries! Read on to know more.

This blog has been updated on May 24, 2021.

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The Effects of Tree Sap on Your Car

It’s incredibly quick to detect the impact of tree sap on your car’s exterior —it’s quite noticeable in most situations. Typically, the sap binds and adheres to the surface of your car much like glue does (in fact, tree sap has been utilized as an adhesive in the past). Tree sap stains generally present themselves as translucent or red-tinted bumps on the surface of your vehicle. This happens most often when people sometimes park their cars under trees to take advantage of the shelter and shade they provide.


Pine sap in particular can be extra sticky and problematic. Sap drips onto the car, which solidifies under the heat of the sun to form a hard, resin-like material. This eats away at your car’s clear coat and color, and we highly recommend you take care of it as soon as you spot the problem. Car wash professionals are able to make quick work of these tree sap stains, thanks to the methods we’re exploring in this post.

Tackling Tree Sap Stains – Must-Have Cleaning Products

Here are some of the most efficient tools and products available in the market today that make cleaning tree sap stains a breeze.

Stoner Car Care Tarminator Bug, Sap, Grease, and Tar Remover

This spray utilizes the patented MicroActive cleaning technology to easily remove and dissolve tree sap (under 30 seconds) as well as bugs, tar, and grease on the surface of your vehicle. What’s more, this cleaning product has also specifically been designed for use on chrome-plated and painted surfaces, without resulting in minimal scratches.

Turtle Wax Bug & Tar Remover

This spray-on foam absolutely clings to large areas and performs well to dissolve not just sap but also tar and bugs. It acts as a pre-wash or spot cleaner and is formulated to be fully streak-free. It sprays like a foam, which becomes a mist that can easily be rubbed or cleaned away, leaving a shimmering, smooth surface with no traces of any dirt or grime.

Swan 99% Isopropyl Alcohol

Many car wash professionals claim that copious amounts of isopropyl alcohol do a great job of clearing up tree sap and other organic stains. It’s easily available and doesn’t require much know-how or technique to apply on and clean off.


Removing Tree Sap – The Car Wash Method

People are going to suggest a number of ways to scrub the tree sap off your vehicle. But read on, since we’re giving you what we think is the right way to do it.


Round up your supplies

You’re going to need the following materials, so make sure you have them all before you begin cleaning:

  • Soft, clean towels or terry cloths
  • A box cutter blade (only for use on glass surfaces — for instance, on your car windows)
  • Sap removal agent (such as bug and tar remover) or isopropyl alcohol
  • A bucket of water
  • Sponge or Wash Mitt
  • Quick detailing polish or spray-on wax

Wash and dry your car as you would normally

Using soap and warm water to clean the exterior of your vehicle, then dry it off thoroughly. If you’re fortunate enough to have not to let the sap harden, you may even be able to extract the sap during this step of the cleaning process. What’s more, washing your car gives you a chance to give the car a look around and locate all the spots where tree sap has accumulated.

Identify the sap stains

As mentioned earlier, the sap spots can be recognized as hardened, transparent, or reddish raised patches. If the sap has been on for a while, it may have begun to eat into your car’s paint job and clear coat. Severe cases of tree sap stains extend the area of decay and are typical of the long-term existence of hardened sap.

Apply sap remover (or isopropyl alcohol) to the affected areas

Apply a few drops of sap remover solution (such as Bug and Tar Remover) or rubbing alcohol onto a clean washcloth or terrycloth. Once you leave the solution on the stain to cure for a bit, begin to gently wipe the sap away. Be sure to do this carefully, as the sap can scatter across the surface of your vehicle, causing more severe issues. For more stubborn stains, you could continuously soak the affected area, and rub it away (this may take a while) before you get rid of it all.

Extract the sap from your windshield and windows

If the sap is on your car’s windshield or windows, keep in mind to not turn on the wipers when fresh sap is involved. All this will end up doing is spread the sap thinly over the windshield surface, making for a more difficult cleaning process. A box cutter will come in handy to extract the toughest bits of sap from glass surfaces. Be cautious, however, as a slip or a swipe can leave permanent scratches.

Apply the finishing touches

When you’ve got all the sap off your car’s surface and windshield, spray wax onto the exterior and scrub it off using a detailing cloth. This will leave the car looking impeccable with a perfect finish.

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