How to Clean Sap Off a Car

Tree sap is truly a cleaning project that gets tougher with time. As sap sits on the surface, it hardens and adheres more firmly. The fresher the sap, the easier it will be to remove. Although the technique remains the same, expect to spend more time and effort removing older sap.

You Will Need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • WD-40
  • Soft cloths

Steps to Remove the Sap:

  1. The first step is to soften the sap so that it can be removed. If the sap has been on the car for an extended time, prepare to repeat these first steps and allow more time for the sap to soften.
  2. Moisten a soft cloth well with rubbing alcohol.
  3. Dab the alcohol on to the sap. Reapply as necessary to completely wet the area.
  4. Allow the alcohol time to soak into the sap, adding more alcohol as needed.
  5. Once the sap has softened, apply a generous amount of WD-40 to the area.
  6. Wipe the surface with a clean, soft cloth.
  7. Continue applying WD-40 and wiping with a clean portion of the cloth until the sap is removed.
  8. Once complete, wash the surface with detergent and water as usual to remove any residue.
  9. Rinse the area completely and dry with a soft cloth.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Be sure to keep the portion of cloth wiping the car clean. If bits of sap are rubbed over the surface, you run the risk of reapplying the sap to the surface and/or scratching the paint.
  • If the sap will not soften, nail polish remover can also be used. Be careful, as the polish remover can damage some paints. Remove it with soap and water as soon as possible to prevent any damage.


  1. Glenda says:

    Use WD-40.

  2. Fireball Frank says:

    Rubbing alcohol works well, especially on glass. If used on paint, the area will need to be waxed after cleaning.

  3. M Brown says:

    Take a dryer sheet (Bounce, etc.) moisten and rub… Works wonders!

  4. CindyG says:

    Three words:
    Goo Be Gone! :)

  5. Ken says:

    How to remove bugs from your car and your bumper.

    Take a fabric softening dryer sheet, wet it and rub. It has never affected the paint finish and has removed all types of bugs.

  6. Kevinz says:

    Methyl hydrate. Cheap, easy, and it’s what the pros use, but it does strip off the wax.

  7. Ray says:

    For sap, use very cold water when you wash your car along with your favorite auto wash detergent. Cold water causes the sap to release from the clear coat and wax, and will not wash away the wax. Never use hot water. For stubborn spots, bugs and tar, use Turtle Wax Bug and Tar remover on a microfiber cloth; rub gently; will not harm the clear coat.

  8. Richard says:

    I have used non-acetone fingernail polish remover very successfully this summer. It will remove the wax from the spot you clean so buy a one step waxer in a sprayer. Just spray the spot you cleaned and buff when it is dry.

  9. Don says:


    I’m confused. I have used the polish remover, but gave up without success. Are you saying remove the sap AND the wax together at the same time? As in the sap sticks to the wax and the wax is removed from the surface? Maybe all works different here in Austin, TX.

    “I have used non-acetone fingernail polish remover very successfully this summer. It will remove the wax from the spot you clean so buy a one step waxer in a sprayer. Just spray the spot you cleaned and buff when it is dry.”

  10. Don says:

    Mayonnaise works well and it will not strip the wax or harm the paint.

  11. JRE says:

    Don – You need to rub the fingernail polish remover over the sap until it has all released. You can’t just let it sit and soak. Then wax.

  12. Theatre says:

    The best way I have found that take it off quickly with no residue is hand sanitizer. A little on a clean cloth will do.

  13. Philip says:

    I was cleaning the car the other day when I found big blobs of sap on the roof. First I scraped off as much as I could with my thumb nail but its very sticky and water resistant so in retrospect it would have been better to use a plastic credit card of some type. I didn’t want to use anything harsh or alcohol based like thinners or solvents because they can take the paint off. In the end I chose WD-40 and a soft brush which worked well, the only problem is that you no have to wash the WD-40 off, but if you’re already washing the car then this isn’t a problem

  14. Lessa says:

    Used Mr. Clean Multi cleaner and a rag. Then used a debit card. All done! Oh and having a 19-year-old son to do the work helped a lot! 😉

  15. H. Tailor says:

    OK, I’ve read most of the stuff on the net. I have a black Accord.

    1. Stay away from baking soda as it will scratch the paint and coating. Don’t do it; it doesn’t work. What a mistake that was!

    2. WD-40 and similar products have isopropyl alcohol. Just get the pure stuff from the drug store.

    3. Stay away from acetone-based stuff – it will damage the paint and clear coat.

    4. Butter doesn’t work and is messy. So is mayo, and veg oil also doesn’t work.

    5. Don’t scratch it as it will take off the clear coat with the sap.

    Just get a bottle of methyl hydrate and wipe it off, then wash and wax. Good as new!

  16. Stevel says:

    I have a Jeep Commander and my wife a Jeep Liberty. On our property, all we have is pine trees like you wouldn’t believe, and with that brings SAP all over both vehicles. I searched online and found this website and read about the wet dryer sheets that would take the sap off. I have spray bug and tar remover that really doesn’t do a great job like they say so I tried the dryer sheets. I couldn’t believe my eyes; I took it off with out very much rubbing. So for all of you non-believers, try it and you will see how well it works.

  17. Steph says:

    Just had my car cleaned. Got home and noticed sap still there. This worked perfectly. Baby oil on a cotton ball. Rub in a circular motion. I then wiped the area clean with a Bounty paper towel. Sap was still there, only thinner. I then took a dryer sheet and did the same circular motion. Off came the sap, but left a dull residue. I then took another paper towel with a little liquid soap on it, cleaned the area, and with a dry paper towel wiped clean. Viola!!! Thanks for the hints above, but had to use a three step process. Good luck, hope this works for you!!!

  18. Chris says:

    DO NOT use dryer sheets. They WILL scratch your car. You can use a rag with a tip of it dipped with gasoline. It removes sap and the love bugs.

  19. Kaelyn says:

    I have a BMW and was scared to try it, but gasoline did an amazing job and didn’t scratch my paint or take the finish off!

  20. Jason says:

    Thanks a bunch for the advice, M Brown! The Bounce worked wonders, and didn’t spoil my paint!

  21. Pete says:

    Moistened Bounce worked fine on my Lexus.

  22. Me says:

    I was worried about sap on my new car… I was told to use hand sanitizer…and guess what; it worked… And very fast… Some of it was really dried on… So I suggest you use it… 😉

  23. Marie says:

    A Bounce sheet worked on my Lexus for bugs and sap.

  24. Gail says:

    So far, the dryer sheet and bug and tar remover spray have not worked for me in getting the hardened sap off of my black SUV. I may have to resort to trying the gasoline, but I hope it won’t be too harsh on the paint.

  25. Tim says:

    I have to say I have a 2014 Kia Sorrento and just had a car wash and the spots were still all over. I was annoyed because I thought that the spots would come off in the wash. Surprise to me when they didn’t. I used the hand sanitizer and a soft rag and: beautiful. My paint was fine and the spots are gone. Thank you to all of you that had that brilliant idea. I am sharing it with everyone!

  26. Janek says:

    Well I tried all of the above and none of them worked. The seeds that were the culprits are from an ornamental peppercorn tree; I have no idea what the botanical name is. Finally, I tried a bathroom tile cleaner (cream) and with a little sweat, it looks good as new. The cream must act as a rubbing compound.

  27. JCR says:

    Goo Gone works great! Have a 2014 pearl black Audi. Saw some white spots, which turned out to be dried pine sap. Used Goo Gone with cotton makeup pads and it worked with a bit of elbow grease. Let it soak awhile. Washed car after. Saw a few spots that need to be done over, but all-in-all, it didn’t hurt the paint and it looks great!

  28. Andrew says:

    Drier sheets and water worked amazingly well, with little effort, on my car that had been previously waxed. Used lots of water and finished with a car soap wash with cold water and soap. Will now re-wax.

  29. Tony says:

    I park my white car next a to a desert willow and I always get sap on the hood and door. I use hand sanitizer with a soft cloth and it works wonders without damaging your paint. The older sap is harder to remove, but if you let the sanitizer solution soak in, then use your finger nail, it will come off. Try it.

  30. Leslie says:

    Verified: using hand sanitizer sparingly with a soft cloth took away the month-old tree sap on my car.

  31. Dick says:

    Hand sanatizer works great. Put some on the spots, leave for about an hour, and rub it off.

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