How to Remove Tar from Clothing


Joe asked: How do I remove tar from clothing? While crossing a railroad bridge, I leaned over the edge and got tar on my slacks. The tar was seeping out of the cracks in the wood rail on the bridge. It was a hot day.

Sticky, gooey tar sticks to clothing like gum clings to hair. To remove the tar, it requires lubricating it with some type of oil to help it release from the fabric fibers. Follow these guidelines to safely and effectively remove tar from your clothing.

You Will Need:

  • Ice cubes
  • Spoon or dull knife
  • Lubricants (choose one):
    • WD-40
    • Lard
    • Bacon grease
    • Vegetable oil
    • Peanut butter
    • Goo Gone
    • Goof Off
  • Soft cloths
  • Laundry detergent

Steps to Remove the Tar:

  1. For large areas with tar, it is best to scrape away as much as possible. Harden the tar with ice and then use a spoon or dull knife to scrape it away.
  2. The residue left in the fabric will need some lubrication to be removed. Lay a soft cloth under the stain to absorb any excess lubricant.
  3. Choose a lubricant from the list above.
  4. Blot it onto the stained area with a soft cloth. You will want to moisten the stain completely with the lubricant.
  5. Scrub the area gently with a cloth or blot with pressure to work the lubricant into the stain.
  6. Allow it to set for a little while before washing as normal.
  7. Do not dry the clothing until you are sure the stain is removed. If placed in the dryer, the tar will melt and transfer to the walls of the dryer. This will then spread to other pieces of clothing, making a larger mess.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • There are bug and tar removers available in any automotive department. These will remove the tar, but be sure to test a small area first to make sure there is no damage to the fabric.
  • If the tar cannot be removed, have it professionally cleaned.


  1. Terebowest says:

    Thank you so much for this tip. I got tar on the back of my wool cardigan. :-( I used baby oil to blot pretty much all of it out, and the washer did the rest. Woohooooo! :-)

  2. Don says:

    Thanks, did above steps, but used the Orange Mechanic Hand Cleaner stuff, and my expensive shirt is now spotless! :-)

  3. Jim says:

    Brilliant! I used WD-40 and a soft toothbrush to massage the oil in. The tar pretty much came off BEFORE I put the shirt in the wash. Thanks guys!

  4. Annalisa says:

    How on God’s green earth do I get tar out of my t-shirt? Thank you. Do I use any of the methods above? Thank you so very much. <3

  5. Kristi says:

    Thank you so much! Brand new capris and helped someone change a tire on the highway; used De-Solv-it, best stuff ever. It didn’t leave a greasy ring or anything.

  6. Eva says:

    Thanks for this! I’ll try it right away on my white dress. It was a hot day in France and I got asphalt all over my dress thanks to my dog that I took in my lap.

  7. Louise says:

    What if your not sure it’s tar? But other than that, thanks.

  8. Barbara says:

    Thanks for the idea of the oil. I had a quilt that got some tar on it. I used coconut oil with a Q-Tip, dabbing to loosen the tar. Then I scratched off the tar with my nail. I then got a spot remover solution and put that on the spot to make sure that the oil wouldn’t stay on. Finally I put some laundry soap on the fabric and rinsed it. And…voila…perfect! :)

  9. Surinder says:

    Kerosene oil or paint thinner also works effectively.

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