How to Remove Sap from your Car without Damaging your Paint Job

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Abbey Orzech
Updated on Apr 15, 2022 · 3 min read
Removing sap from your car can be done with just a few household items and doesn’t mean you have to ruin your paint job. 
Spring is here and so is sap. This sticky liquid often makes its way onto our vehicles just to harden there, making removal a bit more difficult and risky. You don’t want to scratch or damage the paint of your car, but the longer you let the sap sit there the harder it will be to remove. 
As soon as you can, you’ll want to eliminate those stubborn sticky spots, so
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is here to offer the best cleaning tips and tricks to get rid of the sap without sacrificing your paint job. We’ll go through what materials you may need, many of which you can find at home, and how they can be used to remove sap on your car. 
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What you’ll need to remove tree sap from your car

Many of these items used to remove sap can be found around your home, but you also may want to enlist the help of a local car wash or automotive shop. To rid your car’s exterior of tree droppings, you’ll need:
  • Car washing and waxing materials or a local car wash that can do both 
  • Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) is an effective sap remover 
  • Hand sanitizer contains alcohol and thus can work instead of isopropyl
  • WD40. This spray is multi-purpose and is probably in your garage already 
  • Nail polish remover with acetone is the best opponent for the particularly sticky pine sap. It is important to note, however, that this option can damage your paint if used on its own, so you’ll need to follow it up with a cleaning paste of baking soda and hot water 
  • Bacon grease can also be an effective household item in the fight against sap. Just grease up the problem area, let it sit a while, then wipe it clean with a soft cloth
  • White vinegar is a good tool to use on your windshield and windows
  • Baking soda and hot water to ally the nail polish remover. One cup baking soda to three cups hot water—apply the paste to a soft cloth and wipe the area clean 
  • Microfiber cloths are a soft-scrub option that can be used to scrub the sap directly, clean your windshield and windows, and remove any residue 
  • Cotton balls are another effective soft surface that can be used to scrub, apply, or remove residue
  • Cling wrap or paper towels to cover the WD40 spray and let it work its magic before wiping it away 
  • Non-abrasive brush to gently scrub at stubborn sap
  • (optional) Commercial tree sap remover is specially formulated to remove tree sap. You can find commercial tree sap remover at your local auto store 
  • (optional) Box cutter blade is only to be used on your windshield or windows to gently scrape sap away, but you’ll want to be extra careful in handling the blade and making sure you don’t scratch the glass surface
You’ll want to remove the tree sap from your car as quickly as you can to avoid damage to your paint job. Luckily, you probably already have the means to do it. 

How to remove tree sap from your car

Once you have armed yourself with nail polish remover or bacon grease (or both), it’s time to get to business. Removing sap from your car can be a relatively quick and painless process. Here’s how: 
  • Pre-wash your car to remove as much of the sap and other debris as you can. This will help you identify problem areas more easily and also remove dirt that you might have rubbed into the paint during the removal process 
  • Soak a soft cloth in warm water and apply to the sap-covered area to try to soften hardened sap 

On paint 

  • Soak a microfiber cloth in rubbing alcohol and apply it to the sap, leaving it on the area for 30 seconds. Gently scrub the area with a cloth, soft brush, or your fingernail to lift the sap, using more pressure as needed rather than more alcohol which could take off the paint. Repeat if necessary 
  • Soak a cotton ball in hand sanitizer containing alcohol, and gently scrub at the tree sap 
  • Generously coat the sapped area in WD40 and cover with cling wrap or paper towel. Let that sit for a minute and then remove the residue with a damp cloth 
  • Follow the instructions on the commercial tree sap remover. Generally, you apply the cleaner to a cloth, soak the area for 30 seconds, and then gently scrub clean. Once the sap is removed, wipe the area with a damp cloth or rinse it with water 

On windshields and windows 

  • Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and leave it on the sap spot for five to ten minutes, letting the area soak. Gently scrub the sap with the cotton ball or soft cloth, and then remove the residue with a clean cotton ball 
  • Spray a generous amount of white vinegar on the affected area. Let it sit for five to seven minutes before wiping it clean with a cloth 
  • (optional) Scrape softened sap away with a box cutter blade but be careful when handling it not to cut yourself or scratch the glass. 
For the particularly sticky sap of pine trees or just very stubborn sap, 
  • Soak a soft cloth in hot water and apply to the area to soften the sap
  • Coat a cloth or cotton ball in nail polish remover with acetone and gently scrub at the sap. Once you remove the sap, immediately clean the area with a solution of one cup baking soda to three cups hot water to remove any left-over nail polish remover that could damage your paint job. Wipe the area clean with a damp cloth or rinse with water after the baking soda solution 
After you’ve successfully removed all the sap in your sights, you’ll want to re-wash the car to ensure any product residue is gone and follow up the wash with a protective coat of wax—the wax on your car may have gotten removed along with the sap. 
Removing tree sap from your car can be easy, and you likely already have the effective products in your home. Just be sure to be gentle while scrubbing and end the process with another wash and wax of your vehicle. 

Does car insurance cover sap damage?

Most insurance policies will not cover sap damage because tree sap dripping onto your vehicle is generally considered to be a foreseeable, thus preventable, event. To
avoid tree sap damage
, you can try to park your car away from trees, use a car cover, wax your car regularly, and follow the tips in this article to remove any sap that finds its way to your vehicle. 
For other kinds of vehicle damage like vandalism or fender-benders, you’ll want to make sure you have the best insurance coverage for your budget.
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