Finding a place to park can be hard enough, but if you happen to park under a tree and it drops sap all over your precious paintwork, don’t panic. It might look impossible to remove, but it’s actually quite easy and you won’t have to fork out a lot of money on specialist cleaning products to get the job done.

What is Tree Sap and Why Does It Drop?

It’s important to know your enemy before you try to fight it. Sap is the blood of a tree, carrying minerals, nutrients and energy around in the same way it does within your body. When trees are budding around springtime, or when they have become damaged, the sap leaks out and onto the ground.  

Some trees produce a lot more sap than others (just think about delicious maple syrup) and some saps are much thicker and harder than others. If you want to completely avoid getting sap on your car though, simply pick a parking spot away from any trees at all. 

When’s the Best Time to Remove Tree Sap?

Getting rid of tree sap from your car is time sensitive. The quicker you act, the easier it can be. Tree sap hardens in the sun and bakes on like varnish, trapping dirt, dust and grime in it that can hurt your paint. 

If you notice a fresh blob of sap on your paintwork, rinse the surrounding area with clean water to remove any dust or grit, then gently wash the sap off with warm soapy water. This will only work well if the sap is fresh and hasn’t had a chance to harden and bond to the paintwork.

sap on car

The Best Sap Removing Products

There are literally hundreds of car shampoos, industrial cleaners and home remedies out there that all say they’re the best sap cleaning products available. We’ve seen a lot of them used to different degrees of success, so here’s a list of our favourites:

  • WD-40 – The magic degreaser spray with a thousand uses can be great for working on tree sap. Spray a generous amount on the sap, then leave it to work its magic for at least ten minutes
  • Clay bar – A not-so-well-kept secret in the car detailing world, clay bars are incredible at removing contaminants from your paintwork. A light rubbing with a bit of clay bar can work miracles on all sorts of sap
  • H2O – As simple as it sounds, good old-fashioned clean water is one of the best remedies for light sap removal. A low-pressure spray from a hose can work wonders on sap
  • Isopropyl alcohol – Probably our favourite method for removing those big, hard blobs of sap that have hardened up a bit. The alcohol will break down the sap and make it easier to remove
  • Hand sanitiser – Here’s something you probably have in your car already. If it’s alcohol-based sanitiser, it works in a similar way to isopropyl alcohol that breaks down stubborn sap
  • Peanut butter – That’s right, it’s not simply good on toast with jam, the oils in peanut butter can help to soften dried sap and make it ripe for removal. In fact, most oils can do the job 

WD40

How To Remove Tree Sap from Your Car

Removing fresh or even dried-on sap shouldn’t be an ordeal. With a bit of effort and a few tricks, you can safely say goodbye to sap without damaging your paintwork and leave a finish that’s mean and clean. 

ALWAYS rinse your car before attempting to remove tree sap. The same goes for whenever you wash your car. Don’t be tempted to jump right in with the sap removal products above without rinsing off the dust and grime first. 

The process of wetting the sap should make it easier to remove, and in the cases of light sap coverage, might be the only thing you need to do. Take the time to rinse your car from top to bottom, letting the accumulated dirt and dust run away.

Now you can target any hard chunks of sap that are stuck fast to your paint. You can take your pick of products, but we like using a mixture of WD-40 and clay bar, along with a wooden lollipop stick to gently scrape any stubborn bits away without damaging the finish. 

Once you have tackled the larger blobs of sap, it’s time to pre-wash your car to soften any residue and bits you might have missed. Use a proper car shampoo snow foam here, no washing up liquids allowed. 

The key to really remove any sap and truly clean your car is to try and remove any dirt without touching your paint.

After pre-washing your car, it’s time to rinse again. Don’t use high pressure here, as any grit stuck in the sap can scratch your paint. A good rinse from top to bottom again will do the trick. 

Take a close look at where the sap has been cleaned off if you can still find it. Any stubborn residue can be treated again with sap removing product and rinsed again. 

Now you should wash your whole car with quality car shampoo, following the instructions carefully. The detergent, wax and finishing compounds in the shampoo will help to remove any leftover sap or other dirt. It should also leave a protective layer to help repel further grime. 

rinsing the car

What About Sap on My Windscreen?

Although you don’t have to worry about damaging your paint here, windscreen glass can be scratched unless you’re careful. You can use isopropyl alcohol or WD-40 here but follow it up with glass cleaner or white vinegar to avoid streaks. If you have a steady hand, wait for the sap to harden and scrape it of carefully with a Stanley knife blade.

What NOT To Do

This goes for any time you get hardened sap, dirt, bird droppings or any other stubborn stains on your car’s paint. 

  • Don’t scrub any one spot for too long, because it will damage the paintwork
  • Avoid rubbing in a circular motion, as this can cause wear spots quickly
  • Never scrub sap or other hardened marks on a dry car. Always work wet
  • Don’t use a cloth that’s been dropped on the floor, any grit can scratch your paint
  • Never skip the rinse and pre-wash steps when removing sap from your car
  • Don’t use dishwashing liquid on your car, it can strip the protective wax from the paint

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