How to Get Tree Sap Off a Car – Will Goo Gone Work?

Updated: | Author: Steve Freling | Affiliate links may be present.

The issues with tree sap on a car are an all too familiar issue for car owners who frequently park in areas with a lot of foliage. There is a large tree overhanging half of my driveway and during the summer months, it is a constant battle to keep my car sap free and non-sticky.

While sap isn’t inherently bad to a car’s paint job, it can cause problems when it comes to removing the tree sap because some solutions can be rather aggressive. Fortunately, there are paint-friendly options to remove tree sap that won’t damage your car.

Why is Sap Such a Problem?

Tree sap has natural sugars in it that not only cause it to be sticky but forms a hard “candy-like” shell once it has dried. For this reason, it is far easier to remove sap when it’s wet as opposed to when it has had time to dry and harden.

Pine, birch, and maple trees all produce some form of sap so if these trees are endemic to your area you can take a few precautions to lessen the potential of sap exposure.

Simple things such as being mindful of where you park your car and keeping overhung tree limbs trimmed can save you the headache of needing to remove any tree, or at least have to deal with it less often.

The Issue with Tree Sap

The biggest problem when it comes to tree sap on your car is that if you let it sit for a long time, it will shrink as it dries and could pull up some paint. But note that this will usually happen only if you neglect to clean it for a long time.

It is water soluble, so if it rains or gets wet by a sprinkler it can help lengthen the drying or shrinking process.

Sap doesn’t usually damage your car so much as sap removal. Some online methods will recommend you wet the sap and take a razor blade underneath it to remove it. While this can remove the sap if it is done correctly, many inexperienced car owners can easily dig the blade in too far and cause scratches.

Also, the overuse of abrasive cleaners to try and scrub away the tree sap can result in a dulled, damaged area of paint. So unless you want to repaint after sap removal, I would recommend you take a more gentle approach.

There are plenty of cleaners that can melt away that sap without needing to scrub or scratch your car.

Products for Sap Removal

The key to how to remove sap from your car without damaging the paint is to use certain products that will soak it, rewet it, and weaken that sticky bond.

WD40

Everyone’s favorite all-purpose lubricant, WD40, is an excellent choice for removing dried sap. It is essentially a penetrating oil that will give you the slip you need to wipe off the sap easily.

Using the handy spray nozzle, give the tree sap a thorough soak and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Afterwards, take a wet washcloth (preferably soaked in hot water) and lay it over the area, allowing it to sit for another 5 minutes.

Then gently start rubbing the area until the tree sap is gone. You may need to repeat these steps a few more times.

After all of the sap is removed, be sure to wash the area very well with warm water and soap. WD40 will naturally attract small bits of dirt and debris that will stick to it if it is not removed.

Rubbing Alcohol

Another great product that you probably already have on hand is isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol. This will help to slowly dissolve the dried sap, making it easier to wipe away.

Note that this method requires you to work quickly because allowing rubbing alcohol to sit too long can strip away the clear coat on your car.

Get yourself two rags: one soaked in rubbing alcohol and one soaked in plain warm water. Lay the alcohol rag over the sap and gently press into the area for about 30 seconds to a minute.

Remove the alcohol rag and lay the warm water soaked rag over the area and press again for another 30 seconds to a minute. After this, you should be able to feel the sap start to soften.

Alternate between the alcohol rag and the water rag, doing this process for about 5 minutes. When you’re done, the sap should peel off or be able to be rubbed off easily. Once it is all gone, make sure to thoroughly rinse the area so no rubbing alcohol is left sitting on your paint.

Nail Polish Remover

This works in a way similar to rubbing alcohol in that it will start to moisten and degrade the tree sap, making it easier to remove. The process for using nail polish remover (acetone) is the same as well, but so are the potential problems.

Just like before, don’t allow it to sit on your car for too long and make sure you rinse it very well when you are finished.

Baking Soda

If you have no other products on hand, baking soda can work in a pinch. Make a paste with baking soda and water and very gently rub it on the sap, doing your best to avoid the surrounding paint.

Let it sit for a few minutes before you attempt to agitate the spot. You can pour hot water over it as well before you go in with a warm, wet rag to completely remove the sap. When you scrub, scrub gently.

Because baking soda is abrasive, it can cause scratches in the paint and the clear coat if you are too aggressive in your cleaning.

Goo Gone

Goo Gone is well known for helping to get rid of a variety of sticky substances. It’s one of my personal favorites for getting rid of that annoying residue left over after you remove a sticker from something.

The company makes a formula specific for removing gunk from cars without doing any damage to your paint. It is actually a go-to for many professional auto-detailers to get rid of tar which is known to be especially difficult to remove.

It’s another penetrating oil mixture that will get down into the tree sap and help you to soften it then agitate it until it is removed. Simply spray it on, let it sit, and start working away at the sap. You can even invest in a plastic scraper to help lift the corners of the sap & make it easier to peel off.

Removing Sap From Your Windshield

When you’re trying to get sap off your car hood or trunk, the biggest concern is messing up the paint. This is why I mentioned avoiding using a razor blade in these areas and investing in a plastic scraper instead.

Well if the sap is on your windshield or any windows, it’s completely okay to use a razor blade in these areas. Pick your cleaner of choice, allow it to sit, and then gently scrape a metal blade across the sap to lift it up.

The biggest concern here is protecting your own hands so that you don’t cut yourself in the process. It’s a good idea to get a guarded blade or even a box cutter.

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About Steve Freling

Steve has worked for more than 20 years as an automotive mechanic, and later run his own repair shop for both cars and motorcycles. He's a maintenance freak, and generally pretty good at troubleshooting!

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