Having a car and driving it around is so much fun. Of course, it’s all fun and games until you actually have to park it somewhere. It doesn’t matter whether you live in a big city or a small countryside — finding a decent parking spot is a nightmare.
You drive around for hours and then you see it, the perfect spot under a beautiful pine tree. So, you park your car there and after you come back, there’s tree sap all over your paint and windows. How did it even get there? More importantly, how do you remove it?
If you want to see how to remove tree sap from your car paint and window, stay tuned for the best advice the Internet has to offer. I’m about to share with you all of my favorite cleaning products and the best ways to clean sap off your car.
What Does Sap Do to Your Car Paint?
As soon as tree sap falls on your car, it starts to bond or “glue down” to your car’s surface. Depending on the temperature outside and how long the sap’s been there, it can have different effects on your car.
What you need to know about sap is that it shrinks in heat. So, the longer it’s exposed to heat, the smaller the stain will be. Now you might be thinking “That’s great, isn’t it?” Well, not really.
You see, the more it shrinks, the tougher it’s going to be to get it off. Also, if it stays in the sun for too long, it will bond to your car paint and windows, making it almost impossible to remove.
Not only that, but some cleaning methods might cause it to chip and take off the paint underneath. What’s more, most automated car washes won’t be able to get the job done and you have to do it yourself.
But, there’s no need to worry. I’m about to show you how to clean the sap yourself and not spend a fortune doing it. Let’s dig in.
How to Remove Tree Sap from Your Car Paint?
There are a few ways you can go about removing sap from your car. I’m going to show you how to take it off using some commercial products. Not only that, I’ll give you some tips and tricks on how to use some products you have lying around your house.
Commercial Cleaning Products
First, let’s talk about what you’re going to need to get that sap off your car:
- Microfiber or terry cloth
- Car soap
- Tar, bug, and sap cleaning product
- Spray wax or detailing polish
1. Wash Your Car
Before you can remove the sap, you first need to wash your car. You can find some of my personal favorite car shampoos on my website. Also, make sure you’ve dried your car well before you go in with any cleaning solution.
When you’re cleaning your car, I recommend mixing the car shampoo in some hot water. Of course, it shouldn’t be scorching hot, but it should be warm enough to melt off the sap. If you’re in luck, and the sap hasn’t hardened, this step will be enough to get it off your car paint.
2. Use the Cleaning Products
However, if you weren’t able to take it off with a wash, you need to go in with some cleaning products. You’re going to need some patience with this step. If you have sap only on one spot on your car, that’s great. But, if the pine tree was more unforgiving and you have more spots, it’s going to take some time to get it off.
Take some of the cleaning product and put it on a dry cloth. Then, gently rub the area where the sap is. If you rub too hard, you risk damaging your clear topcoat. You should hold your cloth with the product on the sap for at least 30 seconds.
Once the 30 seconds are up, you can use your nails to gently remove the sap. If it’s extremely stubborn and it won’t come off, you can spray more of your cleaning solution and hold the cloth for another 30 seconds.
Some of my favorite commercial cleaning products are:
- Turtle Wax Power Foam Bug & Tar Remover — Comes in a spray and is really easy to use.
- Griot’s Garage Bug and Smudge — Another spray, great for cleaning sap and bug stains.
- Stoner Car Care Tarminator Tar Sap & Asphalt Remover — It’s safe for paint and chrome, and it can remove all difficult stains.
Whichever product you decide to use, make sure you do a test first. Apply some of the cleaning solution to a small, not-so-visible area of your car. By doing so, you’ll ensure your topcoat or paint don’t get damaged when cleaning.
3. Wax Your Car
Waxing your car is an optional step. However, it will restore that shine to your car and make it look brand new. If you’re not sure how to wax your car properly, you can find everything in this cleaning guide below.
Homemade Cleaning Products
If you don’t want to risk stripping your clear topcoat, you can go with a more natural cleaning solution. The steps are basically the same, I’m just going to show you what some alternatives to heavy-duty cleaning sprays are.
1. Wash Your Car
Again, you’re going to start off by giving your car a good wash. If you don’t want to use regular car wash soap, there are some homemade alternatives. However, for the sake of your car paint, I’d go with regular car shampoo.
While these alternatives might do a good job of cleaning your car, some of them can also remove shine or even paint from your car. Furthermore, make sure you’re using hot water to wash your car. Also, dry it off completely before you go in with any cleaning products.
2. Alternatives to Commercial Cleaning Products
Take some rubbing alcohol and put it on a cloth. Leave the cloth over the sap for 30 seconds and remove it. Once that’s done, you can use your fingernails to scrape the sap off.
If you don’t have any rubbing alcohol, you can also use hand sanitizer or cooking oil. Since the main ingredient in a hand sanitizer is alcohol, it can work wonders on sap. That being said, make sure you don’t hold it over the sap for too long because it might remove your paint.
Also, you can use cooking oil, especially if the sap is still fresh. Cooking oil doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients and won’t damage your car paint. Pour some over the sap and leave it for a few minutes. Next, wipe it off with your cloth.
Another industry secret is using WD-40 to remove sap from car paint. For those of you who don’t know what it is, WD-40 is a multi-use lubricant. You can use it with rubbing alcohol or on its own.
Simply put some WD-40 on the sap and wait a few minutes for it to loosen up. Then, take a cloth and rub away the excess.
3. Wax Your Car
Once you’ve removed the sap, you can wax your car to give it that beautiful shine again. Just make sure the sap is completely gone, otherwise, it might get stuck even more after waxing.
Removing Tree Sap from Your Windows
Did that annoying pine tree you left your car under also drop some sap on your windows? Don’t worry, it’s nothing to stress about. Removing sap from windows is pretty simple and you’re only going to need a few supplies.
Just remember, whatever you do — don’t turn on your windshield wipers. If you do that, you’re just going to spread that sap all over your windows. Also, you’ll have to put in twice the effort just to take it off.
Wash Your Windows
You can follow the same steps for removing sap off your windows as you did for your car paint. First, give your windows a good wash with some window cleaning solution. If you want, you can also use vinegar to wash them. Just make sure you dilute it first.
Use Rubbing Alcohol
Put some rubbing alcohol on your cloth and start rubbing it for 30 seconds. Again, you can also use WD-40 or any other bug-and-tar solution I’ve mentioned. If the sap still won’t come off, you can just keep rubbing it until it’s completely gone.
Once you’re done rubbing in the solution, you can use a razor blade or box cutters to take the sap off. However, be careful when using something so sharp on your windows. If you want to avoid scratching your windows, make sure to keep the blade flat along the surface.
On a side note, you can also use box cutters or razor blades to remove stickers from your windows. Just make sure you’re going in with a steady hand to avoid leaving any scratches.
Also, I wouldn’t recommend using box cutters or razor blades on your car paint. Doing so will most likely scratch your clear coat or paint.
How to Protect Your Car from Tree Sap
Basically, you’re going to have to give up that perfect parking spot under the tree. If you keep parking under trees, you’re going to get the sap, bugs, and bird droppings on your car. However, if you can’t avoid parking under a tree, you can always use car covers.
By investing in some good car covers, you’ll be able to protect your car, not only from sap and bugs but also sun damage. If you don’t know which cover to buy, you can check out this complete guide on car covers.
One thing to note about buying a car cover is to always make sure you’re buying the right one for your car’s make and model. Most car covers have pretty specific dimensions and you won’t be able to simply throw on any cover onto your car.
The Bottom Line
There you go — a complete guide on removing tree sap from your car paint and windows. While getting sap on your car is annoying, it’s nothing you should stress about too much. Cleaning it off is pretty simple and all you need are a few products.
Not only that but if you don’t want to spend money on a bug-and-tar cleaner, you can always use some things you have lying around your house. Make sure you’ve washed your car and windows before going in with any solution.
Also, take preventive measures. Park your car in a garage to protect it from sap, dust, bugs, and sun damage. Avoid parking under trees, especially pine trees. However, if you absolutely have to park it there, use car covers. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.