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How to Get Tar Out of Clothes

Whether you work in construction or are simply re-doing your driveway, getting tar on your clothes is almost inevitable. It can also be quite an inconvenience since tar can not only leave a noticeable dark stain but is also sticky, which makes it even harder to remove. So how do you get tar out of clothes?

Unlike other stains that you may try to remove immediately, it’s best to wait until tar dries to try to remove it so that the stain doesn’t become larger. Once it has dried, you’ll need to scrape off as much tar as possible. Then, use an oil-based product or stain remover to break down and lift the stain from the clothing.

But what exactly is an oil-based product? In this article, I’ll explain what the best oil-based products are for removing tar from clothing and why they work. I’ll also explain how to use them to remove tar from clothing. And if you’ve tracked tar into your home, I’ll also explain how to get tar out of carpet.

How to Get Tar Out of Clothes

Does Tar Come Out of Clothes?

There’s no doubt that tar and similar substances can be some of the most difficult to remove from clothing and fabrics if it gets on them. This is because, in the liquid form, these substances can be quite sticky. But, they’ll also cure and harden differently than other liquids, which can cause them to become stuck in the clothing fibers.

That being said, tar may come out of clothes. However, how much success you’ll have at getting it out completely depends on the steps you take to remove the stain. For most stains, your immediate thought is usually that you should remove the stain as soon as possible, preferably before it dries.

But with tar, you’ll want to wait and let it dry completely before trying to remove it. Trying to remove wet tar, especially through scrubbing, will likely push the tar deeper into the fibers, making the stain worse and even harder to remove. You could end up permanently staining your clothes or even damaging them if you try to remove tar before it has dried.

Will Tar Come Out in the Wash?

It’s not likely that tar will come out entirely in the wash, especially if it has dried. You may have some success if the tar is wet, but even then you’ll still likely be left with a noticeable stain. The reason for this is that tar is an oil-based substance. It’s made using mainly petroleum along with other substances and materials.

You know the saying that oil and water don’t mix. Since tar is oil-based, it won’t come out completely just by using water and detergent in the washing machine. The detergent may break down the stain some. But it likely won’t remove it completely since the detergent is so diluted with water in the machine.

However, if you pre-treat a tar stain, you’ll greatly increase the chances that the tar will come out in the wash. But, you still have to make sure that any pre-treatments you use are effective at removing oily substances. You need something that can work to dissolve the oils in the tar and help to lift the stain out of the fibers. Then, you can wash the clothing and have much better success at removing the stain completely.

How to Get Tar Out of Clothes

How to remove tar from Clothes

Even using the right oil-based products, tar can still be tricky to remove. There’s a certain process that needs to be followed to have the most success. There are also various oil-based products and stain removers that can be used to remove tar. You may have to use more than one, depending on the stain. Here are the steps to follow and some of the best products you can use to get tar out of clothes.

Let the Tar Harden

Remember that the first thing you’ll want to do is let the tar dry before attempting to remove it. You don’t want to try to remove liquid tar and risk spreading the stain. But, it’s also understandable that you don’t want to wait too long to remove it if you’re afraid you won’t get it all out.

If the stain is fresh and you want to speed up the stain removal process, you can make the tar dry faster by rubbing an ice cube over it. This will freeze the stain so that it hardens more quickly. Once the tar has hardened, then you can begin the process of removing it.

Scrape the Tar Away

Once the tar has hardened, the next thing you’ll want to do is use a dull-edge knife or chisel to scrape as much of the tar away as you can. Scraping away the top layer of tar will allow the stain removal product to reach the tar underneath that is embedded into the fibers.

Removing tar from the surface of the clothing is the easy part. The part embedded into the fibers will be the hardest to remove. You’ll want to try to scrape away as much tar as possible. But, be careful even when using a dull edge so you don’t damage the clothing.

Test Your Stain Removal Product

The first two things I just mentioned are crucial for successfully getting the stain out. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to break out the stain removal product of your choice to try to remove the rest of the stain. Below are some products you can use to remove tar from clothes.

But, before using one of them, you want to ensure that it won’t cause further damage to your clothing, such as discoloration. It’s a good idea to test it on a small area of the clothing first to check for any discoloration or damage before proceeding.

To do this:

  1. Apply a little bit of your chosen product to a cotton swab or cotton ball.
  2. Choose an area near the seam or inside the clothing to apply the product.
  3. Wait 5-10 minutes, then check for any damage before proceeding. If there is damage, you may wish to choose a different product.
  4. Note that you can use more than one of the products if one doesn’t seem to be working effectively.

1. WD-40

WD 40The best and most effective way to remove tar and other tough, sticky substances from clothing is to use WD-40. WD-40 is made of mostly petroleum itself but contains other chemicals that give it a different consistency than tar. It’s designed for lubrication, so using it can help lift tar away from your clothing.

Since WD-40 does emit some fumes, you’ll want to use it outside or in a well-ventilated area, if possible. Remember to test it on the clothing first. Then, spray WD-40 directly onto the stain and use a clean rag to rub it in. You should start to see some of the tar come off.

You can repeat the process as much as necessary. But, be aware that WD-40 may also leave an oily stain behind on your clothes if you use too much. You’ll want a commercial stain remover on hand specifically for oil-based stains to remove the WD-40 stain.

2. Paint Thinner

Sunnyside Paint Thinner, Cleaner and Degreaser, Quart, 70132Another great product to use for removing oily stains is paint thinner, which also works for tar. Paint thinner is made of oils and other chemicals that break down tough and sticky stains, such as paint, so it makes sense why you could use it for removing tar. You can use any type of paint thinner, such as turpentine, mineral spirits, etc.

Depending on the paint thinner you use, you may also wish to use it outside due to fumes. Just apply a small amount of product onto a rag and use it to blot and rub the stain. Repeat as necessary until you’ve removed as much of the stain as possible.

3. Goo Gone

Goo Gone Adhesive Remover - 8 Ounce - Surface Safe Adhesive Remover Safely Removes Stickers Labels Decals Residue Tape Chewing Gum Grease TarAnother product that is designed for removing sticky substances is Goo Gone. Goo Gone is also made primarily of petroleum and other oils. It is a liquid that comes in a normal or spray bottle.

This product works best if you only have a small tar stain or you can use it after using another product.

It doesn’t release too many hazardous fumes, so you can use it indoors. Depending on what type of Goo Gone you choose, you can either spray it onto the stain or apply some to a rag. Then, blot and rub the stain with a rag until you’ve removed as much tar as possible.

Repeat with more Goo Gone or another product as needed.

4. Acetone/Nail Polish Remover

No products found.Acetone is another paint thinner that can be found as a standalone product or as the main ingredient in nail polish remover. You can use either straight acetone or nail polish remover to remove tar from clothing. However, straight acetone can damage certain fabrics, so this is one that you’ll want to be sure that you test out first.

After testing the product on the clothing:

  1. Pour either straight acetone or nail polish remover directly onto the stain.
  2. Let it soak the stain for a few minutes.
  3. Use a clean rag to blot and scrub the stain to remove the tar.
  4. Repeat as necessary.

5. Cooking Oil/Grease

Cooking oil or leftover grease from bacon, lard, etc., may not be the most effective at removing the stain completely. But it can help lubricate the stain some so that the tar can be removed easier with other products. Either pour cooking oil onto the stain or apply some bacon grease or lard to the stain and rub it in. Let the oil or grease soak on the stain for a few minutes.

You’ll need to follow up with another product or commercial oil stain remover to remove the tar and any oily stains left by the cooking oil or grease. You can use any of the above products according to the instructions. If you use a commercial stain remover instead, follow the directions on the packaging.

6. Degreasing Cleaner

Oil Eater Original 1 Gallon Cleaner, Degreaser - Dissolve Grease Oil and Heavy-Duty Stains – Professional StrengthAnother great option is to use a degreasing cleaner such as those used in the automotive or other industries where greasy and oily substances are commonplace. Examples include Fast Orange, GoJo, Mean Green, etc. These products are designed to break down oil and grease; some are even used frequently as stain removers.

It’s important to note that these cleaners come in many different forms depending on which brand you buy. Some come in detergent form, others in general liquid form, and some come in spray bottles. No matter which forms the product comes in; you can use them in the same way.

Just spray or apply the product directly to the stain. Give the product time to soak into the clothing. Then, use a clean rag to blot and rub the stain. You can even use a soft-bristled brush for a little more abrasiveness, as none of these products should damage your clothes when used properly.

7. Oil Stain Remover

Rust-Oleum Krud Kutter OG32 Oil Grabber Oil Stain Remover, 32-OunceAfter using one of the following products, it may be necessary to apply an oil stain remover product to the clothing before washing it. Even if you remove the tar, products such as WD-40, cooking oil, etc., can leave behind an oily stain on your clothing. These stains can be a little less unsightly but still unwanted after you worked so hard to remove the tar stain.

There are various types of commercial oil stain removers on the market, coming in spray, liquid, and powder forms. Each product may have different instructions as to how to use it. So, just apply the product according to the packaging instructions and let it sit for a specified time. Remember that these products are specially formulated to remove oily stains, so they should work in most cases as long as they are used properly.

Wash the Clothing

After removing tar and any subsequent oil stain from the clothing as much as possible, it’s time to wash the clothing. When washing tar-stained clothing, it’s best to use a heavy-duty or degreasing laundry detergent. Fast Orange Laundry Detergent is a good one to use, but there are others.

You’ll also want to use the hottest water setting that the clothing can handle. If unsure, check the care tag inside the clothing to find this information. If your washing machine has a heavy soil cycle, it won’t hurt to use it.

Check the clothing after washing it before putting it in the dryer. If the stain doesn’t come out after washing, repeat the stain removal process. Do not put the clothing in the dryer until the stain is removed; this can permanently set the stain.

How to Get Tar Out of Carpet

Another object that can get tar on it is your carpet. It can get tracked in on your shoes, especially if you’ve just re-paved your driveway. Getting tar out of carpet is a little different since you can’t just remove your carpet and wash it. But, it’s still possible to remove tar as long as you’re careful and work diligently.

When removing tar from carpet, you’ll again want to first wait on the tar to harden (or speed the process up with ice cubes). Then, scrape off as much as possible using a knife with a dull edge or a scraper. Spray some WD-40 (open a window or turn on a fan) onto the stain and rub it in.

You can also apply Goo Gone or acetone to the carpet as well. Just remember to do a spot test with whatever product you’re going to use so that you can check for damage first. Apply some dish soap to the carpet to remove the product. Rinse the area with water and allow it to dry.


Getting tar on your clothing is unfortunate, but it can be removed with some elbow grease. Unlike other stains, you’ll want to wait on the tar to harden before trying to remove it. Then, use an oil-based or degreasing product to break down the stain before washing the clothing. Hopefully, the stain will be gone. If you found this article helpful, share it with others, and feel free to leave a comment as well. Thanks for reading!