Remove Tree Sap from your Car in 5 Easy Steps

A helpful guide on how to remove tree sap from your car’s windows and body without damaging the paint using household products and some that may surprise you.

If you’ve ever parked under a tree on a hot day only to come back and find that your clean car is now covered in sap, pollen, or pine tar then you know how difficult it can be to remove. Sometimes you don’t have time to wash your car right away and the sap only gets worse and begins to crystallize and literally attach itself to your car’s paint.

By Maurice Rodriguez
December 11, 2021

In this article, we will cover 5 easy steps on how to completely remove sap from your car’s finish. We have compiled a list of items you can buy online or you can use commonly found household items to quickly get your car back to its shiny glory.

Materials List:

Microfiber Towel:

Budget Towel: Amazon Basics Blue, White, and Yellow

The microfiber cloth towels from Amazon are perfect for a dirty job like this where you will be using chemicals that could ruin your paint if you re-use the towel before washing it. I would just toss them or only use them on for dirty jobs like cleaning up grease.


  • Cheap but that’s ok since you will have to wash these afterwards
  • 24 pack


  • 90/10 blend – means they are pretty thin

Pro Level Towel: Chemical Guys Professional Grade Premium Towels

These microfiber car cloths were our pick in a review we did HERE on the best microfiber cloths. In short, these towels had a 70/30 polyester blend that was dual-sided with a super soft long side for cleanup jobs and a short pile side for waxing or polishing. It has silk edges for a lint and scratch-free wipe-down.


  • Super Soft 70/30 polyester blend
  • Lint and scratch-free microfiber
  • Silk Edges
  • Dual-sided


  • None we could find


Budget Solution: Isopropyl Alcohol

More than likely you will have some of this in your medicine cabinet. But, the key here is to use rubbing alcohol with an alcohol content greater than 90%. If you use anything else we found that it didn’t work as well and required more elbow grease and patience.

If you don’t have any on hand you can follow the link and buy this 99% rubbing alcohol product.


  • 99% alcohol


  • None we could find

Best Pro Level Product: Chemical Guys Bug & Tar Remover

Chemical Guys Bug and Tar remover is a great product if you have lots of cars with bugs, tar, tree sap, or bird droppings. It’s a pre-wash, meaning it helps loosen up all these nasty guys to make washing easier. This solution is great if you commonly have to deal with sap, or bird droppings because it’s concentrated. All you have to do is dilute a capful in a gallon of water and you are to go.


  • Concentrated – Mix one capful with a gallon of water
  • Pre-Wash – helps loosen bugs, tar, sap, or bird droppings
  • Saves time when washing multiple cars


  • None we could find
Pine sap. The enemy of paint.

Best Natural Alternative: Simple Green

If you are not familiar with Simple Green’s All Purpose Cleaner they have been around since 1975. Simple Green is a biodegradable non-toxic cleaner that is a gentle degreaser that is concentrated and in most applications can be diluted. But, for sap use full strength and let sit for 30 seconds before scrubbing.


  • Biodegradable
  • Non-Toxic
  • Safe on your car’s paint
  • Concentrated – can be diluted and used for many other uses


  • None we could find

Household Items: PURELL Advanced Hand Sanitizer

We found this solution very peculiar but makes sense when you think that most hand sanitizers are made up of mostly isopropyl alcohol. In this case, Purell makes hand sanitizer that is up to 70% alcohol. But, if you have tough spots a higher alcohol content may be needed.


  • Easy to find around the house
  • Pretty inexpensive
  • Works well if you don’t have anything else handy


  • Only 70% alcohol content – may require more elbow grease

Household Items: WD-40

WD-40 is a classic that can be found in just about every home in the U.S. It comes as no surprise to us that this versatile silicone lubricant can also remove bugs, and sap from your car’s paint.


  • Everyone has WD-40 in their house
  • Pretty inexpensive
  • Works well if you don’t have anything else handy


  • None we could find

Non-abrasive Pad or Brush

Best Car Bug Sponge:

VIKING Mesh Bug Cleaning Car Wash Sponge

This microfiber sponge from Viking is made especially for your car’s paint and windows to not scratch the surface but provide you extra scrubbing power to tackle hard spots like bugs, sap, tar, grime, or pine tar. *** REMEMBER – NEVER USE A SCOURING PAD THAT ISN’T MADE FOR CAR PAINT AS IT MAY DULL OR SCRATCH YOUR PAINT. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. ***


  • Microfiber sponge
  • Extra Scrubbing Power
  • Does not scratch paint or windows


  • None we could find

Best Brush Kit Set:

Holikme 20Piece Drill Brush Attachments Set

This brush set by Holikme is the most popular brush set on Amazon. It includes all the attachments you will need to accomplish any scrubbing job around your house. But, remember you are dealing with your car’s paint and I would only use the scrubbing pads on the windows if you have stubborn sap to remove. I would only use the bug sponge on my paint.


  • Wide assortment of pads and brushes
  • Great for polishing and buffing
  • 20 piece set from soft to hard
  • Attaches to just about any drill


  • None we could find

Car Shampoo:

Chemical Guys Pink Foaming Car Wash

Chemical Guys Mr. Pink Foaming Car Wash is a perfect solution for those looking for a solid weekly car wash soap that is great for a two bucket wash method. This is where you use a soapy bucket with the soap solution and the other with just water to rinse your sponge. This will ensure you don’t scratch your paint if you pick up any debris with you are scrubbing with your sponge.


  • Concentrated formula – Need more suds, add another cap
  • Great for weekly maintenance
  • pH balanced – gentle on your car’s paint
  • No residue
  • Leaves no spots
  • Works in foam cannons
  • Smells like strawberry bubblegum


  • None we could find

Car Spray Wax:

Shine Armor Fortify Quick Coat Wax

Shine Armor Fortify quick coat wax is our favorite spray wax. It’s a 3-in-1 wash, wax, and shine. I take the first part with a grain of salt and actually wash my car before I use this on my car. I don’t want to start waxing my car and find dirt, grime, or rocks that may scratch my paint. I thoroughly clean the clear first especially if it had sap or pine tar. This spray wax is hydrophobic (repels water) and uses a ceramic formula to repel dirt and if you live near a lot of trees, tree sap, and bird droppings. We have both of those in the Pacific Northwest.


  • 3-in-1 Wash, Coat, and Wax
  • Hydrophobic – Repels water
  • Ceramic Coating – Beads water and dirt making cleaning easier
  • Long-lasting shine – up to 4 weeks
  • Smells like grape


  • None we could find
Pretty woman rinsing off the sap

5 Easy Steps To Remove Tree Sap From Your Car

Step 1. Rinse with water. Wash any dirt, grime, bugs, and dust with water first.

Step 2. Wash. Using the two bucket method, where you have car wash soap and car bug and tar remover in one bucket and a straight water bucket for rinsing. First, apply soap to your car using the soap bucket and rinse with the water bucket to remove most of the sap and dirt.

Step 3. Pick a cleaner. If you still have stubborn sap that was not removed with the soap and tar remover you can pick one of the following cleaners to apply directly to sap on your windows or paint. We have found all of these ‘work’ but they have their benefits and drawbacks.

Household Cleaners:

WD-40 – Pine Tree: Most car enthusiasts have a can of WD-40 in their garage. We found that WD-40 does work in our testing. Following the directions from WD-40 they recommend you soak the tree sap for five minutes with a towel on top to let the product soak in. Once removed, please give the are0a quick wash again so as to not damage your clear coat.

Isopropyl Alcohol: Rubbing alcohol can be found in just about any medicine cabinet. Rubbing alcohol will also remove tree sap from your car’s paint. We recommend you use a cotton swab for small areas or apply it to a paper towel and let soak for about 5 minutes on the area with the sap. Wash the area to ensure that all traces of alcohol have been removed.

Hand Sanitizer w/ High Alcohol content: Most hand sanitizers have a maximum alcohol percentage of 70% which means it’s been diluted with other stuff like Aloe or moisturizers. So this method is not our favorite. While this method should work, I would reach for rubbing alcohol or some other cleaner before I experiment with using a hand sanitizer on my car’s finish. If you do use hand sanitizer, wash afterwards.

Natural Cleaner:

Simple Green: We use Simple Green in our house for degreasing in the kitchen, windows, countertops, and bathrooms. We usually diluted it as it is concentrated but if you want to remove tree sap from your car, you will need to spray the area directly from the spray bottle and let sit for 10 minutes using a clean towel. Lay the towel on top of the affected area and then you can gently use a scrubbing pad if the sap is being stubborn. Even though Simple Green is non-toxic and biodegradable, I would wash the car after applying any cleaner to my car’s paint.

Pro Level Cleaner – Less is more

Chemical Guys Bug and Tar Shampoo – If you washed your car with Mr. Pink and the bug and tar remover most of the sap should have been removed. But, for spot treatment, dilute Bug & Tar Remover 6:1 in a spray bottle, spray on the surface, then gently wipe away nasty bugs with a premium microfiber towel. Afterwards, I would give the car another wash to get rid of any residue.

Step 4. Wash, Rinse, and Dry. At this point, if you have removed all the tree sap from your car, you can wash any remaining residue from your car’s paint. Rinse with water and dry using your favorite microfiber towel.

Step 5. Wax. I like to use spray wax because I don’t have time to polish, wax, and buff my car’s paint. If you have the time, and means then good on you. But, if you’re like me you like to get great results quickly without spending an afternoon slaving over your car. We recommend Shine Armors product for a long-lasting shine with minimal effort.


Of all the cleaners and methods we tried, we think Chemical Guys bug and tar remover used with Mr. Pink did most of the sap on the first try. I would think for most car people out there this method will be the most effective. For those that have let the sap dry up (no judgment) you will have to reach for a can of WD-40 or use a concentrated cap of the C.G. bug and tar remover directly and rinse and repeat. Good luck with your cleaning endeavors.

We are all things cars.

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