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Removing tree sap from clothing is nothing less than sticky!

If you have a love of the great outdoors and love hiking or gardening, you’re sure to have been hit with some tree sap once or twice. Tree sap is a sticky, gooey mess that can be a tough to remove substance no matter where it landed.

If it gets into your clothes, you may be worried about the sap damaging the clothing beyond repair. You want to do your best to remove the sap before it dries, but that isn’t always ideal if you are in the middle of a forest on a hike.

If you are in the woods, and you do get tree sap on your clothing, look around for something like a flat, unsharpened surface to help you remove as much of the sap as you can. Do your best to scrape off as much of the excess as you can without pressing or grinding the sap into the fibers, since that will make further cleaning more difficult.

Tree sap can take some time to remove, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. When you can’t remove it immediately, and you need to rely on what you have in the home, follow these cleaning methods to remove tree sap from your clothing.

Removing tree sap from your clothing

If you don’t have anything handy to get the excess sap off, or you don’t want to risk further damage to your clothing, you will want to begin any cleaning method by putting your clothing in the freezer to harden the sap. This puts the tree sap into a much easier state to deal with because it will become rigid and easier to pry out of the fabric.

Once the sap is hardened, use a butter knife to scrape the glob of sap off your clothing. Be sure to be gentle as you do not want to damage or cut a hole through your clothes.

How to clean tree sap using rubbing alcohol

For this method, you will need to gather:

To use this cleaning method.

  1. Dampen a cotton ball or the toothbrush and gently rub the sap stain with the rubbing alcohol
  2. The rubbing alcohol usually quickly fades the stain, but you may continue to rub it until it is gone.
  3. Run your clothes through the wash as you usually would. If the stain is still visible, repeat all steps.
    Bonus tip: Rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer is effective at getting sap off of your skin and hair as well. Follow up with a shower to wash the sap completely off.

How to remove tree sap using stain removers

If you have a household stain remover handy, these can be pretty effective at removing sap from your clothes. To clean using a stain remover, you will need the following:

  • Butter Knife
  • Clean Cloth
  • Toothbrush
  • Hot Water

To clean using stain removers:

  1. Begin by using the butter knife to scrape as much of the excess sap off as possible. Be sure to be gentle and careful not to tear your clothing.
  2. Take the stain remover and either apply it to a clean cloth to transfer to the stain or apply the stain remover directly to the stain on your clothing.
  3. Take the toothbrush and begin to work the stain remover into the sap stain gently.
  4. Let the substance sit on the sap stain and allow it to saturate for at least 20 minutes.
  5. You can usually throw the clothing directly in the washing machine, but read the directions on your stain remover. If you need to rinse the stain remover before throwing it in the wash, do so in a sink or a bathtub.
  6. Repeat these steps if the stain remover did not altogether remove all the sap. It usually just means it did not saturate for long enough.

To clean using powdered detergents:

You can use a powdered detergent on sap stains by creating a paste.

  1. Use water and the nonbleach detergent and mix in a small bowl until the past forms.
  2. Spread the paste onto the sap stain and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Using a damp cloth, wipe the paste from your clothing and allow the fabric to air dry.

Alternative tree sap cleaning methods

Just like when you get gum stuck in your hair, peanut butter or cooking oils can be an effective way to remove tough sap from your clothing. All your need to do is lather the cooking oil or the peanut butter directly on the tree sap to loosen and break it up. Using a clean cloth, wipe the spreads from the clothing and repeat if necessary.

Peanut butter and cooking oil do leave oil stains behind on your clothing. To combat the oil stains, spread a gentle dish soap directly on the stain and sit for 20 minutes. Then follow up with a regular wash through the laundry machine.

If your clothing is made from leather, you might want to try the peanut butter or oil method to avoid damaging your leather garments.

Some people use bug spray or WD-40 to loosen and remove the sap from clothing. Simply spray directly onto the sap and let sit for 20 minutes. Remove the excess sap using a dry clean cloth and run through the wash as you usually would.

When running your clothing through the wash after trying any of these methods to remove the sap, if you are able to (based on the material), run your clothing through a laundry cycle using hot water. Hot water works better to remove tough stains. Be sure to read your clothing’s cleaning recommendations before trying this.

Always be prepared!

An effective way to be prepared for potential sappy situations is to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer and a clean towel on you. Use the hand sanitizer immediately upon noticing the tree sap when you are out hiking to break it down quickly, making it easier to clean up when you arrive home.

If you love the outdoors and could use some additional tips to help keep your outdoor supplies clean, you might find our How to Clean a Canvas Backpack guide helpful.