Have you ever come home from hiking or camping and found a big blob of sticky, hardened tree sap clinging to your jeans? Simply tossing your sap-stained clothes into the wash won’t budge this sticky substance. Fortunately, you can easily learn how to get sap out of clothes using basic household products!
Popular methods to get sap out of clothes include applying a solvent like isopropyl alcohol, Goo Gone, WD40, or even hand sanitizer. Quick ways to treat sap stains while outdoors include applying sunscreen or even mayonnaise. Tricks like placing the clothes into the freezer and then scraping the hardened sap away can also work well.
In this article, you will learn what makes sap so sticky. You will find ten quick methods for getting these sticky stains out of clothes. Finally, you will discover tips for how to treat sap stains in nylon, polyester, and black clothing.
- What is Tree Sap and Why Does it Stick to Clothes?
- How to Get Sap Out of Clothes: 10 Methods
- How Do You Remove Dried Tree Sap from Clothes?
- Does Sap Come Out in the Wash?
- How to Get Sap Out of Your Clothes Quickly
- Tips for How to Get Sap Out of:
- How to Get Sap Out of Hair and Dog Hair
What is Tree Sap and Why Does it Stick to Clothes?
Tree sap is a liquid that carries nutrients and sugars through tree trunks and leaves. It functions like blood in the human circulatory system, flowing through a complex system of veins within the plant. Sap has a sticky consistency because it will harden to close up any scrapes or cuts in the plant, just like human blood coagulates to form a scab over a scraped knee.
In slightly more technical terms, tree sap contains two different kinds of liquid: the xylem and the phloem. The xylem holds water and minerals for the tree, and the phloem holds the sugary nutrients created by the tree’s photosynthesis.
The xylem and the phloem together hold a large percentage of water but also nutrients, hormones, minerals, and sugars. Maple trees, for example, contain a famously sweet and tangy sap that can boil down into maple syrup.
Some trees can leak or ooze sap as part of the tree’s natural life cycle. Maple, elm, birch, and honey locust trees all famously bleed sap during certain parts of the year. If you look closely, you can often see blobs of crystallized sap on the trunks of these trees, looking like amber glass.
People often think of pine trees as especially sticky, but pines usually only leak when the tree receives a wound. The trouble is that when sap does escape, it gets caught in the pine needles and can easily brush onto humans passing nearby.
Newly pruned trees or trees with limbs broken off by storms will leak sap. Freshly broken branches on the ground may also have a sticky coating.
Sometimes the sticky stuff on the outside of a tree is a substance called honeydew, which comes from insects that suck moisture out of trees to survive.
Either way, the sap or honeydew will cling to your clothing, harden, and prove very tricky to remove! This is because tree sap contains minerals and nutrients and a larger percentage of sugar and water. This makes it impossible to simply dissolve hardened tree sap in water–you know this first hand if you have ever touched a sap-covered tree and then tried to wash your hands using soap and water!
How to Get Sap Out of Clothes: 10 Methods
Simply throwing tree-sap-stained clothes in the wash will not do the trick, but you can use common household products like rubbing alcohol, vinegar, or WD40 to get sap out of clothes!
1. Rubbing Alcohol
The most popular method for getting sap out of clothes is to soak the sap with isopropyl alcohol, otherwise known as rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is a wonderful solvent to treat many kinds of stains and works quite effectively on sticky sap.
- Set up over a sink or bucket to catch any drips.
- Pour a generous measure of rubbing alcohol over a cotton ball until it is dripping wet.
- Dab the cotton ball on the stain, working from the outside of that area towards its center.
- Let the soaked stain sit for ten minutes.
- As you see the stain begin to flake away or smear onto the cotton ball, switch out and soak a new cotton ball in alcohol.
- Keep going until you no longer see the stain.
- Finally, turn the garment inside out so you can run water from the faucet through the back side of the fabric to rinse the stain away.
2. Without Rubbing Alcohol/Sunscreen
One of the best ways to treat a sap stain in a hurry is to apply a dab or a spritz of sunscreen. This method works great if you discover the stain while hiking or camping, where you do not have easy access to laundry facilities.
- Apply a dab of sunscreen, or spray on enough to soak the fabric lightly if you have a spray-on kind of sunscreen handy.
- Let this sit for five minutes.
- Use a clean paper towel to lightly scrub the sunscreen-coated stain.
- Rinse this area with clean water if possible.
- When you get home, wash the stained clothing in your washing machine.
Vinegar can dissolve many kinds of stains from clothes and works well on most tree sap stains when paired with an ice cube.
- Use tongs to hold an ice cube on top of the stain for several moments until the cube begins to melt away.
- Next, soak a clean white rag in distilled white vinegar. Make sure you do not use apple cider vinegar, as this could stain the clothing even worse!
- Use the vinegar-soaked rag to scrub briskly at the stain. After a few moments, you should begin to see the stain fading. If chunks of sap have hardened onto the cloth, you should see flecks coming away on the cloth.
- If necessary, rinse the cloth and soak it in vinegar again. Then keep scrubbing.
- Rinse the clothing under cool running water when you no longer see the stain.
- Finally, launder the clothes in your washing machine to remove the vinegar smell.
4. Oil and Dawn
Another popular home remedy for tree sap stains in clothes is to apply oil and then Dawn dish soap to the stain. The one caveat to keep in mind with this method is that the oil could also stain some fabric, so test on a hidden section of the garment first, just in case!
- Set up your garment over a sink or bucket.
- Pour a small amount of vegetable oil onto the sap. For most stains, you will need about half a teaspoon. You may need as much as a tablespoon of oil for bigger stains or large blobs.
- Work the oil into the stained area with your fingers or a clean, slightly damp sponge.
- Once you see the sap loosening, scrape away any hardened bits, and then get out the dish soap.
- Squirt a small amount of Dawn dish soap directly onto the stain. You should not need more than a small dab, about a quarter teaspoon.
- Once again, use your fingers or a sponge to work the soap into a lather over the stain.
- Finally, rinse the stain by holding the inside of the fabric beneath running water, allowing the water to carry away any remaining oil and sap.
Turpentine can powerfully dissolve all substances, including hardened paint or crystallized tree sap. The danger is that this very strong substance can also harm some fabric types. For this reason, you also want to use a very small amount of the turpentine and perform a spot test on a hidden section of the clothing.
- First, wear gloves and set up in a well-ventilated area. If possible, go outside or prop open a nearby window.
- Soak a small portion of a clean rag in turpentine.
- Use the wet portion of the rag to blot at the stain. You should see the sap dissolve quickly where it comes into contact with the turps.
- As soon as the stain seems broken up, set aside the turpentine-soaked rag in a safe place and rinse the stained area under running water.
- Finally, wash the garment in your washing machine immediately so that the turpentine does not eat through the fibers in the fabric.
Like vegetable oil, WD40 has a slick, oily quality that will cut through the stickiness of sap. It is also technically a solvent and can work well on stains on polyester fabric in particular!
- Aim the nozzle of the WD40can at the stain and spray liberally, making sure the WD40 soaks through the fabric.
- Let this sit for five to ten minutes.
- Use a clean white rag to blot at the stain, and check to see if the sap comes away on the rag. If so, keep blotting! If not, spray another round of WD40 and try again.
- Once you get all the sap out, apply a dab of dish soap or straight laundry detergent, and use a soft brush to lather that into the stained area.
- Finally, rinse the garment in cold water.
7. Goo GoneCommercial products like Goo Gone or enzyme-based laundry stain removers can also prove effective on tree sap stains.
For most of these products, all you have to do is follow the directions on the package.
As a pro tip, Goo Gone can also easily remove tree sap from a car, sneakers, or backpack.
Just apply a small amount, let it sit for five minutes, and then use a clean wet cloth to wipe it away!
8. Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizer contains a huge percentage of alcohol, so it’s no surprise that this product can also dissolve tree sap stains.
Like the sunscreen method, hand sanitizer offers a great solution for on-the-go sap stains. Maybe you’re out chainsawing a tree in your backyard when you see the sear of sap on your favorite jeans, or perhaps you have gone backpacking and will not get to a washer and dryer for a week! Either way, a quick squirt of hand sanitizer can rescue your clothes from the clinging residue.
- Squirt a dollop of sanitizer directly onto the sap. Rub it enough that you can see the sanitizer covering the whole stain.
- Let it sit for twenty minutes.
- If you have an extra washcloth or rag, dampen it and gently blot at the stain to remove as much as possible.
- Use a water bottle to pour a stream of water over the stain to rinse it away.
It may seem crazy, but you can also use a smear of mayo to budge a stubborn sap stain! This is a great method to keep in mind because you probably always have a jar of mayonnaise in your fridge. Plus, if one of your kids stumbles into a sap-coated tree while out on a family picnic, you probably have mayo in the sandwiches!
- Use a tissue or clean napkin to dab mayo onto the stain.
- Let it sit for three minutes.
- Next, soak another clean napkin or paper towel in water and soak the stain with that.
- Finally, dab at the stain with a wet paper towel.
- If you can, rinse the area with a cupful of water.
- As soon as possible, get the stained garment into the washing machine.
Freezing the sap-stained garment will make the sap brittle and allow you to scrape it away. This method works well if you find a big chunk of sap hardened onto your clothing.
- Start by placing the garment inside a large Ziploc bag to avoid contaminating the food in your freezer.
- Put the bag in the freezer for fifteen minutes to half an hour.
- Take it out and immediately get to work scraping the frozen sap with a butter knife.
- If the sap begins to melt before you can get it all off, re-freeze the garment briefly. This only works with frozen sap!
- After you get the whole blob off, you may still see a residue staining the fabric. Apply a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and let this sit for ten minutes.
- Finally, rinse the stain under running water, and then go ahead and launder the garment as usual.
How Do You Remove Dried Tree Sap from Clothes?
The best way to remove dried tree sap from clothes is to use the rubbing alcohol method to dissolve the hardened sap. You may also find that the freezer method works well, especially for a large portion of dried sap.
In general, a chemical solvent like alcohol or Goo Gone will give you the best chance of success on old, hardened sap stains. You can also try the turpentine method, especially for difficult old stains!
Does Sap Come Out in the Wash?
Most kinds of tree sap do not come from clothing in the washing machine. The heat in your washing machine and dryer could make the stain much worse and transfer sticky sap to other clothing in a load of laundry!
The exception to this rule is that you can sometimes wash sap stains out of clothes in your washing machine if you properly apply enzyme-based stain removers to the area first. These commercial products can break down the sap, which will then disintegrate into the water.
How to Get Sap Out of Your Clothes Quickly
The best way to get sap out of your clothes quickly is to use rubbing alcohol. This should dissolve the sap within ten or fifteen minutes and allow you to blot the stain mostly clean, after which you can rinse away any residue in your sink.
The best way to treat a sap stain while out in nature is to use hand sanitizer or sunscreen. You can also use an oily product like vegetable oil or mayo, but you will want to treat this with soap as quickly as possible following the oil.
Tips for How to Get Sap Out of:
Now that you know the best methods for getting sap out of clothes check out these tips for handling special types of clothing.
The best way to get sap out of nylon clothes, backpacks, or even a tent made out of nylon is to use rubbing alcohol. This is quite important because you do not want to use anything oily or greasy on nylon. Nylon fabric has a fully synthetic makeup and can hold onto oil stains stubbornly.
If the regular rubbing alcohol method does not fully remove sap from nylon clothing, try soaking the area in alcohol and then using a soft brush to scrub the stain. Finally, rinse the whole thing under running water.
You can often use rubbing alcohol to get sap out of polyester clothing. Like nylon, polyester is fully synthetic, so avoid using vegetable oil, mayo, peanut butter, or oily.
In a weird contrast, many cleaning experts swear by using WD40 on polyester. Make sure you spot-test this product on a hidden seam before trying it, but you may find WD40 the perfect way to grease that sap right out of your polyester clothing!
The best way to get sap out of black clothes is to use the sunscreen method. You can try using the rubbing alcohol method, but alcohol and other strong solvents will likely bleed away some of the black dye from the garment. Even vinegar, which works more gently, may cause the dye to bleed.
Long story short, the safest way to handle sap on black clothing is a no-solvent technique. Try sunscreen or the freezer approach and scrape away as much sap as possible after it freezes.
The best way to get sap out of your jeans is to use the rubbing alcohol method unless you have colored or black jeans. In that case, try the freezer method or an enzyme-based commercial stain remover.
Most of the time, simply wiping an alcohol-dampened cloth over the sap will loosen the sap from your jeans.
How to Get Sap Out of Hair and Dog Hair
The best way to get tree sap out of hair or dog hair is to use an oil soak followed by a gentle wash with shampoo or dish soap.
Dogs often pick up all kinds of substances in their fur while running around in your backyard or the woods. One key thing to remember while treating tree sap that clung to your dog’s fur is that you must use only safe, nontoxic substances. Dogs like to lick everything, so you do not want to put a dangerous substance into their fur!
The good news is that you can safely soak the sticky fur in vegetable oil or peanut butter. Let it sit for ten minutes, and then use a damp cloth to wipe away as much as possible. Next, give your dog a bath and gently shampoo this section to remove the grease.
Getting sap out of your hair can go more quickly because you don’t have to worry about anyone licking at it! Just dampen a clean cloth with rubbing alcohol and gently wipe at the sap. Once it softens, go ahead and use a squirt of shampoo to lather up that chunk of hair. FInally, rinse it out in warm water.
Alternatively, you can also use vegetable oil on human hair for gentle sap removal. This method works well on children especially.
Using vegetable oil, shortening, or mayo is also one of the best ways to get tree sap off your hands. Just rub in the grease and then lather up with a good squirt of dish soap to clean away all the stickiness!
You can get sap out of clothes using several handy household products like rubbing alcohol, vinegar, vegetable oil, or even mayonnaise! The sap contains sugars and minerals that feel very sticky ad can crystallize and harden in fabric. The best way to get it out of clothes is to use either a solvent that can break down the sap or an oil-based product that can loosen it from the fabric fibers.
If you run into a sticky sap situation while outdoors, you can also use quick fixes like treating the stain with hand sanitizer or sunscreen. It’s always a good idea to spot-test any stain remover on a hidden section of the garment to make sure you do not cause the dye to bleed or create a new stain as you work.