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How to Remove Tree Sap From Pretty Much Anything

Tree sap dripping from a tree.
Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock.com

We all love the benefits and beauty of trees, especially at Christmastime. What we don’t love so much is their sap dripping all over everything. When sticky tree sap gets on your car, flooring, or even on you, it can be tough to get out. Luckily, a few common household ingredients can come to the rescue.

Whether you’re dealing with sap stains from a Christmas tree or one that hangs over your parking space, cleaning up tree sap is much simpler than you might think. These easy steps can save your furniture, floors, clothing, car, and even your own skin from sticky, messy tree sap.

Removing Sap from Your Skin

A man loading a Christmas tree on the roof of his car.
sockagphoto/Shutterstock.com

Handling a tree inevitably means you’ll get a bit of sap on your hands. Cleaning them quickly is key to not spreading the sticky mess even further. Fortunately, you probably already have one of the best products for removing sap from your skin in your home: plain old hand sanitizer.

The high alcohol content in hand sanitizer breaks down sap in a skin-safe formula. You don’t need anything fancy or specially formulated either—any common sanitizer, like Purell Prime Defense Advanced, will do. Just rub it in until the sap loosens, and then rinse.

Purell Prime Defense Advanced Hand Sanitizer

Removes sap without being harsh on skin.

Removing Sap from Fabric or Upholstery

Whether it’s a piece of clothing, a Christmas tree skirt, or upholstery, getting sticky sap off of fabric can be a little more frustrating than removing it from your skin. This is especially the case if it dries and hardens before you can treat it. There are still a few things you can try, though.

One option, especially if the sap isn’t quite dry, but is no longer liquid, is to start with the freezer method:

  1. If the sap-stained piece is moveable, put it in the freezer for a couple of hours. If it’s not (like furniture), cover the stain with ice packs and keep rotating so there’s always a fully-frozen pack on top of the stain.
  2. Use a knife or razor blade to gently pry the now-hardened sap off of the fabric as much as possible.

In many cases, this won’t be enough to remove all of the sap. It might get rid of the lumpy bits, but still leave a stain. If that occurs, follow these steps to break down the stain:

  1. Pretreat the stain with either an enzyme-based stain remover or a simple ratio of 1:1 vinegar and tepid-to-warm water. Increase the proportion of vinegar for particularly stubborn stains.
  2. Allow the treatment to sit for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Rinse, and then repeat, if necessary.
  4. Launder in hot water, if possible.
  5. Always air-dry, as stain remnants aren’t always visible on wet clothing or fabric, and machine-drying can make them set deeper if they’re still there.

If you pretreat with a stain remover, make sure it’s one with enzymes, like Zout Triple-Enzyme Formula. It can break down the bonds that make sap stains such a challenge.

Removing Tree Sap From Your Vehicle

Tree sap on a car door.
Aryut Tantisoontornchai/Shutterstock.com

If you’re hauling a Christmas tree on top of your car, there’s a good chance some sticky puddles of sap will be left behind on the exterior. Or, you might simply park under a tree that produces sap, which then drips on your vehicle.

The chemical composition of tree sap is bad news for your car’s exterior. It eats away the clear coating and can eventually damage and discolor the paint.

To avoid a costly refinishing job down the line, handle sap problems as soon as you notice them. It’s time for our old friend, hand sanitizer, to come to the rescue again. Follow these steps to remove sap from your car:

  1. Drip a bit of hand sanitizer gel onto the sticky sap spot, and then let sit for a few seconds.
  2. Wipe away with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel, and then repeat, as needed.
  3. Once the sap is completely gone, rinse and wipe away the spot several times with clear water—otherwise, remnants of the hand sanitizer can eat away at the surface of your car, as well.

Removing Sap from Hardwood Flooring

A Christmas tree and present next to a fireplace.
kryzhov/Shutterstock.com

During the holiday season, there’s always a risk that, despite your best efforts, some sap from your Christmas tree will wind up stuck to your wood flooring. If this happens, though, all it takes is a little elbow grease and a floor cleaner you probably already have.

Follow these steps to remove sap and make your floor as good as new:

  1. Drip a small amount of oil floor soap on the sap spot, and then let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Soak up the soap with a cloth or paper towel.
  3. Gently rub the stain with a soft cleansing brush until the sap loosens.
  4. Wipe down the floor with a damp cloth or sponge until all the oily soap and sap residue is gone.

The key to this is using a cleaner that’s designed for hardwood floors, as many other solutions (like the alcohol-based kind designed for other surfaces) can damage wood. Pick up a reliable wood cleaner, like Murphy Oil Soap Wood Cleaner. It’s formulated specifically to gently clean wooden surfaces without causing any damage.

Murphy Oil Soap Wood Cleaner

A reliable option for cleaning hardwood floors, even when tree sap is involved.


Cleaning sap stains and residue involves just a few common household products, patience, and a gentle touch. Armed with these easy tips, you can still enjoy the trees in your yard or home, without worrying about any stains they might cause.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »

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