How to Remove Tree Sap From Car Without Damaging Paint?

Written by

Bruce Sonnier


Marcus Dutton

how to remove tree sap from car without damaging paint

Tree sap on a car is a big problem. Not only can they be unsightly and hamper visibility when driving, but they can also be challenging to remove and damaging to paintwork if not removed immediately. Another concern is the possibility of scratching the paintwork in the cleaning process.

If there’s tree sap on your car, keep calm and follow these steps on how to remove tree sap from car without damaging paint, which involves car washing, soaking and agitating tree sap, and re-washing and waxing. You can follow this tutorial to tackle the problem carefully.


What You Will Need to Follow This Tutorial


There are different options for cleaners for removing tree sap from car. You can use whatever you have available or use a commercial cleaner to remove tree sap.

  • Car Washing and Waxing Materials – You’re going to do some car washing and waxing in the cleaning process, so prepare the things you usually use for car washing and waxing.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol – Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol can effectively get tree sap off car.
  • Microfiber Cloths – Microfiber cloths are required to scrub the tree sap or wipe off the residue in the cleaning process. You will also need one when cleaning the windshield and windows with white vinegar.
  • Hand Sanitizer – Since it contains alcohol, it can be used as a substitute for alcohol.
  • Cotton Balls – Some cotton balls would be needed for applying cleaner and scrubbing the tree sap, particularly if you’re going to use hand sanitizer on the paintwork, rubbing alcohol on the windshield and windows, and nail polish remover for removing pine sap.
  • WD40 – WD40 is a multi-purpose product that can also be used to remove tree sap from a car.
  • Cling Film or Large Paper Towel – You need to use either of these for covering the affected areas sprayed with WD40 to let it work on the tree sap.
  • Commercial Tree Sap Remover – There are commercial cleaners specially made to remove tree sap available in auto shops.
  • Soft Bristled Brush or Non-Abrasive Scrub Brush – When cleaning with a commercial sap cleaner, either could be used for gently agitating the sap.
  • Vinegar – It is for removing tree sap from the windshield and windows.
  • Box Cutter Blade is used to scrape very hard tree sap from the windshield and windows. But don’t use it on the paintwork, as it can scratch the paint.
  • Hot Water – When the tree sap on your car has become hard to remove, you will need hot water to soften them.
  • Nail Polish Remover – If it’s very sticky pine sap you’re dealing with, nail polish remover would be the solution. The acetone in the nail polish remover is the key ingredient for breaking up the pine sap.
  • Baking Soda – You need to mix this with hot water to create a paste for cleaning the area where nail polish remover was used.

Step by Step Instructions


There are only a few steps to get sap off your car without ruining the paint. But they will depend on what cleaner you will use as well as exactly what kind of sap you will be dealing with. So just find the steps for whatever circumstance you have.

Step 1: Start With Washing the Car

The best way to get sap off car is first to give the car a wash.

By car washing before removing sap, you would better see where all the sap is, as all the dirt and debris is cleaned out. Or doing so may even get rid of the sap already.

But if some sap remains, there would still be more cleaning for you to do. Having the car washed allows you to clean off sap without any particles that may get in the way and scratch or damage its exterior.

Step 2: Soak and Agitate the Tree Sap


It’d be easier to inspect for tree sap with the dirt and debris out of the way. Locate the affected areas and once you’ve found them, prepare for the soaking and agitating.

1. On the Paintwork

There are many cleaner options for cleaning tree sap off the paintwork. You may use any of the options that you have available, or you can buy a commercial sap remover. See how you can clean sap with the different cleaners below:

  • Use Rubbing Alcohol – Apply a few drops of rubbing alcohol on a microfiber cloth. Place the cloth on top of the tree sap and leave it there for at least 30 seconds.
  • Then gently agitate the surface until the sap has dissipated.
  • You may have to repeat the soaking and scrubbing if necessary. But you shouldn’t apply too much alcohol, as it might damage the paintwork. Applying more elbow grease than alcohol would be much safer.
  • If there is some good left on the surface, you can gently scratch them with your fingernail. Or a much safer option would be to scrub the sap residues with a multi-purpose brush.
  • Use a Hand Sanitizer – Without alcohol, you can use hand sanitizer to take off tree sap from car instead. Soak a cotton ball with hand sanitizer. Then agitate the tree sap with the hand sanitizer-soaked cotton ball to remove them.
  • Use WD40 – Shake the can well and liberally spray WD40 on the affected areas. Then you would let it work on the tree sap for about five minutes with a cling film or large paper towel covering the affected areas. Afterward, wipe away the residue and WD40 from the surface.
  • Use Commercial Cleaner – If you choose to use a commercial cleaner for tree sap, follow the instructions for the product. But usually, you would apply it on a cloth, place the cloth with the solution on the affected areas for 30 seconds, then gently scrub the sap.
  • Afterward, you would rinse the affected areas or wipe them off with a damp cloth.

2. On the Windshield and Windows

Cleaning tree sap off the windshield and windows is relatively easier, as you won’t have to move cautiously to not damage the paint. Below are the different ways you can clean sap off the windshield and windows:

  • Use Rubbing Alcohol – Soak a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol, and place the cotton ball on the tree sap for about 5-10 minutes. Afterward, rub the alcohol-soaked cotton ball on the sap. Then wipe the affected areas with a clean cotton ball.
  • Use White Vinegar – Spray an adequate amount of vinegar on the affected areas. Let the vinegar sit on them for five to seven minutes. Afterward, wipe the affected areas.
  • Optional: Box Cutter Blade – If the tree sap on the windshield or windows has caked up and got stuck on, you may also gently scrape them off using a box cutter blade.

Step 3: Treat extra stubborn tree sap and pine sap

For stubborn, hardened tree sap on your car, you would need the reinforcement of hot water to remove hardened tree sap from car.

Hot water will soften the sap and make wiping them off easier. Dampen a microfiber cloth with hot water, apply alcohol on it, and scrub the affected areas.

Pine sap is very sticky. When you’re going to remove pine sap from car, you will need to use nail polish remover and exert a bit of elbow grease. Take a cotton ball, soak it with nail polish remover, and rub the affected areas in circular motions.

Once all the pine sap is removed, you will also have to create a baking soda and water paste to clean the areas where nail polish was used. Create the paste by combining a cup of baking soda and three cups of hot water, apply it to a cloth, and clean off the residue with it.

Step 4: Re-Wash and Wax the Car


After cleaning off the tree sap, you will need to give your car another wash to eliminate any residues.

Finish off the cleaning process by applying wax for a new layer of protection for your car.


The key to how to remove tree sap from car without damaging paint is to do it cautiously to avoid any damages. You have to be careful even with the cleaner. You should scrub the paintwork and scrape the windshield and windows gently. Also, keep in mind to wash your car before and after and to apply wax.

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