How to Get Tree Sap Out of Clothes [8 Methods]

Anyone who has spent time adventuring outside has managed to get sap onto them, and wondered how to get tree sap out of clothes. I’m here to get you out of that sticky situation, pun intended, by offering you these 8 methods I found useful.

You probably tried to wash it first, like any other stain, and discovered it’s not that easy. Now you’re here hoping you didn’t ruin your camping clothes forever. Worry not, I got your back, and you don’t even need to by special expensive products for it.

These 8 methods make use of ingredients that are easily acquired by visiting your local grocery store or drug store and will not cost an arm and a leg to buy.

Some of the ingredients that are super effective at lifting that sticky tree goo off your gear are items you can carry with you in the outdoors and are great for a number of uses.

Check out this article about what you should bring on your camping trip, and make sure you have everything. I’ll start with the most common items that can help you get rid of tree sap from clothing.

1. Hand sanitizer

hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is often kept in your backpack while out on a hike or camping. It’s always good to make sure your hands are hygienically clean and ready for mealtimes.

It helps that they are lightweight, easy to carry and convenient to use. Hand sanitizer will easily lift tree sap off of any fabric.

It can be used out on the trail, or it can be applied days later back at home just before the clothing is added to the wash.

This method is great to use while you are not at home if you urgently need to get some sap off your clothes, especially if you have limited clothing for a trip and you are obviously unable to wash something.

1. Add a blob of hand sanitizer to the spot of fabric that has sap on it.

2. Rub the fabric against itself as if you are washing the fabric.

3. Once you open the folds of the clothing after rubbing, the sap should be lifted at the very least, if not gone completely.

4. For good measure, you can add another blob of sanitizers and repeat the rubbing action.

5. The clothing or apparel can now be added to the wash and any traces of tree sap that are left on the item will be removed in the washing process.

2. Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol works by preventing the sap from being able to adhere to the tiny fibers that make up the fabric of clothing. It effectively causes the tree sap to melt off.

Rubbing alcohol is available from most drug stores, and just like hand sanitizer, is easy and safe to use to remove sap from clothing.

This method is effective at home and works for fabrics such as polyester, cotton and fleece.

1. Dribble some rubbing alcohol onto the spot of fabric that has sap on it.

2. Rub the fabric against itself as if you are washing the fabric.

3. Open the folds of the clothing after rubbing to see if the sap has begun to lift.

4. You can add more rubbing alcohol and repeat the rubbing action.

5. The clothing or apparel can now be added to the wash to remove the traces of tree sap that might remain as well as the rubbing alcohol.

3. Laundry detergent

This can be done as part of your pre-wash routine to any clothing items that are washable, and have had an encounter with the dreaded stickiness of tree sap.

This is really only a suitable step to perform at home unless you happen to carry some laundry detergent with you on your hikes.

If you are on an excursion that will require you to wash your clothing, such as if you are staying at a sporting facility of some sort with washing and drying equipment, this step is easy to do and does not take up too much extra time.

Having a clean set of clothes can really lift your levels of comfort during an outdoor trip.

1. The best detergent to use is a powdered non-bleach detergent. Use the laundry detergent to make a thick paste with a little bit of water.

2. Hand apply the paste to each affected spot, ensuring that the spot is thoroughly covered. It helps to lie the clothing out flat to better see the location of each spot and ensure that it is adequately covered.

3. Allow the paste to dry, and then add the clothing to a normal load of washing in the machine. Most of the stain should have been lifted.

4. If a small mark still remains, a follow-up using non-sudsing ammonia can be done. It is always recommended to test the ammonia on a seam or small corner first to ensure that the color will not spoil on that fabric.

4. Thermal Methods

freezer ice cubes

Temperature can play a significant role in many aspects of getting materials to adhere or to stop adhering to other materials. You need to have access to a freezer, or a freezer pack and wax wrap.

It utilizes the power of cold and the means in which to remove sticky tree sap from clothing. This trick can be used at home easily but provided you have access to a freezer or a cold pack, it can be done out on the trail as well.

It is really important to ensure that while the fabric is going into the freezer, the fabric isn’t touching itself. The area with the tree sap is still soft and gooey, and will spread to the unaffected areas it comes into contact with.

1. Place the article of clothing into the freezer. If space is an issue, the clothing can be laid open with wax wrap over the affected area and an ice pack placed over that.

The main idea in this step is to make the tree sap as cold as possible.

2. Leave the cooling process to continue for 2 hours.

3. After 2 hours the tree sap should have solidified and hardened.

4. The hardened tree sap can now be scraped off or peeled away by bending the fabric beneath it and pulling it away.

5. Lighter Fluid

Lighter fluid is easy to get a hold of, inexpensive, and also manages to dissolve the sap off of clothing without causing any damage or further stains to the clothing.

In fact, lighter fluid is a great tool to use to dissolve any greasy stains, including certain types of paint from clothing.

It is easy to use and relatively safe, provided you keep away from an open flame during the cleaning process.

The lighter fluid should not harm most fabrics and simply evaporate from the clothing fairly quickly. An alternative to this with the same technique is using gasoline.

1. Apply the lighter fluid to the spot of fabric that has sap on it. It is safe to soak the fabric quite well for better penetration.

2. The sap should slowly begin to free itself from the fabric.

3. For good measure, you can add another dab to the fabric and add the whole lot into the washing.

4. The clothing or apparel can now be added to the wash and any traces of tree sap that are left on the item will be removed in the washing process.

6. Sunscreen

sunscreen

Another handy item that most active outdoors people often keep on their person is sunscreen. It can be used to remove sticky substances like tree sap or even bubblegum from clothing.

The best type of sunscreen to use is the type that sprays onto the skin.

1. Spray the sunscreen onto the sap that is stuck on the clothing.

2. Give the clothing a good rub over the area where the sap and the sunscreen are.

3. Once the sunscreen has been rubbed in, the article of clothing can be laundered in the machine.

7. Peanut Butter and Other Oily Products

Any item that contains oil, or feels greasy and slick will probably help to break the grip on fabric that sticky tree sap has.

The unfortunate element about this point is that most oily substances will leave a residue of their own on fabric, which makes the entire exercise feel completely pointless.

However, fabrics and items made using waterproof material may benefit from this technique, as the oil is not able to settle onto it very successfully.

The other downside to the process of rubbing oil or peanut butter onto a raincoat or waterproof material is that it is a little bit less hygienic and clean that some of the previous points.

However, if you are in a situation where you urgently need a way to lift the sap off of clothing that is made from waterproof material, any oil, mayonnaise or peanut butter can be used.

1. Add a blob of peanut butter, mayo or dribble some oil to the spot of fabric that has sap on it.

2. Rub the fabric against itself as if you are washing the fabric.

3. The area will naturally appear to be dirty and covered with the food product.

4. Once the food product is washed off, the tree sap should wash off with it.

5. For good measure, you can add more of the oily substance and repeat the rubbing action.

6. The clothing or apparel must now be added to the wash for hygiene reasons, and hopefully, all food and tree sap residues on the item will be removed in the washing process.

8. Vinegar

Vinegar can remove tree sap effectively. Although vinegar doesn’t usually stain clothes, it is acidic, so you shouldn’t pour it directly onto clothing without first diluting it.

1. Mix 1/2 cup of vinegar with a cup of water.

2. Pour a bit of this mix over the tree sap area and let i t sit for a few minutes.

3. Rub the area to remove the sap with a cloth.

4. Putting into the washing machine to remove the smell of vinegar and any tree sap residue.

More About Tree Sap

More about tree sap

Oozing sap on trees is most common in warmer temperatures, as increased pressure built up inside a tree can result in sap oozing out through small crevices and damage points.

So to any hikers going out in the summer time or early spring, that is the season to watch out for tree sap.

While this fluid may be an annoyance, it is actually crucial to the survival of the tree. It is a mixture of sugar, water, tree hormones, and mineral and nutrients that the plant or tree needs to move from the soil to the rest of it in order to be nourished.

Tree sap is as valuable as blood is for us, an essential carrier system for all the vital parts that need to be distributed around the body.

How do you remove dried tree sap from clothing?

You can remove dried tree sap from your clothing with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer. They can break down sap quite reliably.

Rub them into the fabric with an old toothbrush or a rag and let it sit for 15 minutes or so. Then you can wash it with regular detergent and the hottest wash cycle the garment’s care label recommends.

Make sure you add them to your backpack, and check out my checklist for items to bring on a hike, to make sure you’re not missing important stuff.

Conclusion

Tree sap can cling to any surface, even human skin can easily be a victim of the sticky and impossible gluey nature of tree sap.

A few useful tips to keep in mind while trying out these techniques, is to ensure that the clothing is never exposed to warm temperatures, like what you would expect from a dryer.

The warmer temperatures can cause the sap to liquefy a little and start to run onto other areas of the clothing, or even onto other clothes that are also in the dryer.

An item of clothing that has sap on it should be kept in a packet separate from other clothing until it can be dealt with.

Do you have clothing items with tree sap on? You have been marked with the signature of the outdoors! Tell us where you got it, and how you managed to remove it from your gear in the comment section which you will find at the bottom of this article!

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4 thoughts on “How to Get Tree Sap Out of Clothes [8 Methods]”

  1. What a very helpful article Jessica! I really love how you give out useful tips. I have experienced this problem so I can attest that hand sanitizer really works. Luckily, I always bring one with me whenever I go. I have never heard of the lighter fluid technique though, so I am curious.

    Reply
  2. Wow! I never knew that peanut butter can be used for tree saps. Although, just like what you have mentioned, it will surely leave residue on the fabric. So, I think the best ones to use are hand sanitizers and detergents. I will surely bookmark this just in case. Thanks!

    Reply

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