The Only Methods You Need to Remove Tree Sap From Your Car

I've been the proud owner of three cars throughout my lifetime. With each car, I was eager to make sure it not only ran well but looked great on the inside and outside. Unfortunately, I found I was destined to deal with the never-ending battle, due to less than desirable parking spaces, of birds dropping bombs and trees seeming to join their bird tenants in their battle against my motorized children.

While a cycle through an automatic car wash can remove most if not all of the bird droppings, these car washes do little to nothing for tree sap removal. If you’re not aware of the different methods of how to remove tree sap from your car, you may be tempted to pick away at the sap which can chip and ruin your paint job.

Resist that urge and let’s take a look at safe ways to remove tree sap and keep your car looking great.

How to remove the sap

The best way to remove tree sap from your car is to wash off the tree sap as soon as you notice it. Sometimes a quick rinse with a high powered sprayer and some very hot water is all that’s needed. Putting off this simple cleaning will result in the sap hardening on your car. If you can address the issue as soon as you see the sap on your car, the removal process will be significantly easier.

1. Rinse/Wash

Before reaching for products formulated for tree sap removal, try giving your car a good wash first. Make sure to use the hottest water possible to help break the sap down and make it easier to remove. You can begin by rinsing your car with a sprayer but you will need to use hot soapy water if the rinse doesn’t remove all the sap.

As you work the hot soapy water into the sap, remember to rinse your cloth frequently to prevent spreading the sap back onto your car. After you've rinsed your car thoroughly and confirmed that all the sap has been removed, it’s time to finish by drying your car and waxing it. If you find that washing your car didn’t remove all the sap, skip drying and waxing and move on to the next steps listed below.

2. Use a Product to Remove the Sap

Using a product specially formulated to remove tree sap can be applied after you’ve washed your car. Both specialty products and products you may have lying around your house are used in a similar fashion for removing tree sap.

With specialty products, you’ll want to put the formula on a clean cloth, place it over the affected spot, and allow it to soak in for about thirty seconds (follow the instructions on the bottle). After thirty seconds the sap should begin to break down. Rub the cleaning cloth in a circular motion to lift the sap from the car surface. Start with gentle controlled motions so that you don’t smear the softened sap further on your car.

Alternatively, once the sap has softened, you can try to use your fingernail to lift it away, although scratching is not advised as it can damage your paint. Some products require a longer soak time, so pay attention to the instructions on the product container. It may be necessary to repeat the process again if all of the sap doesn’t come off after the first application.

3. Rinse Well

Now that your car is finally free of tree sap, you’ll want to give it a good rinsing or two. Depending on the products you used to dissolve the sap, you may also want to wash again with soap before giving a final rinse. This makes sure there is no residue left over before you continue to the final step.

4. Wax

Once your car has been rinsed well, finish by drying and waxing. All of the washing will have removed any wax coating you had, so you’ll want to re-apply it.

Car Safe Products to Remove the Sap

There are plenty of commercial products on the market that specialize in removing tree sap from cars. Not all commercial products are created equal as some are not formulated to use on all surfaces. Here are a few of the top tree sap removers available. As with any cleaning solution, pay attention to the specific guidelines suggested on each product.

Stoner Car Care Tarminator Bug, Tar, Sap, and Grease Remover

Turtle Wax Bug & Tar Remover

Goof Off Professional Strength Remover

Home Products You Can Use to Remove the Sap

If you’re in a pinch, you may already have something in your home that can be used to remove tree sap from your car. Some of these products will require rinsing after use. And don’t be afraid to try multiple suggestions on this list if one doesn’t work for you.

Hand Sanitizer: Put a little hand sanitizer on the sap and allow it to soak for a few minutes. Use a cloth to rub the sap away.

Rubbing Alcohol: Put some rubbing alcohol on a cloth and place it on the sap. Allow it to soak into the sap, then rub until the sap is gone. Don’t leave rubbing alcohol on sap for a long period of time.

Cooking or Mineral Oil: Put the oil directly onto the sap and allow it to soak for several minutes. Once the oil has broken down the sap, you can use your cleaning cloth to rub it away.

Nail Polish Remover: Put some nail polish remover on a cloth and place it on the sap. After a few seconds, wipe the sap off with your cloth. Make sure to clean the area after the sap is removed to ensure that no nail polish residue remains. I know this sounds crazy, since nail polish remover is designed to remove paint...but your paint has a special coating that should protect it from the nail polish remover. However, if your paint is compromised in any way, you may want to stay away from this option.

And make sure to rinse your car after applying this, or any sap remover to your vehicle.

WD-40: Spray the solution on the sap and allow to soak in for several minutes. Rub off the sap with a cleaning cloth. Clean the area with soap and water after the sap is removed.

Turpentine: Apply some turpentine on a cloth and rub it on the sap. This should be enough to remove the sap. This method will also require you to rinse the area where the product was used.


There are many safe ways to remove that annoying sap. As you can see, removing tree sap from your car doesn’t have to damage your exterior. Now that you know how to do it safely, don’t put off giving your car a thorough cleaning by removing tree sap.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know. To recap here is how to remove tree sap from your car step by step. Once you adopt these steps to your car washing routine, you’ll never have to worry about sap again.

Steps to remember:

  • Wash (hot soapy water)

  • Rinse well

  • Apply a commercial sap remover or home product

  • Rise well again

  • Dry

  • Wax