The Best Way To Remove Sap And Save Your Clothes With A Minimum Of Fuss

I don’t know about you but I’m really attached to my kit – and I think most outdoor enthusiasts are the same. The gear we carry on our backs, the tents we sleep in and the clothes we wear all carry so many great memories for us and we hate it when anything gets ruined.

It’s a common problem: we’re out in the woods, maybe hiking, maybe in camp, we lean against a tree or sit down on a log and suddenly we see that our favorite clothes are full of tree sap and possibly ruined.

Tree sap won’t come out in the wash and is notoriously difficult to get out if you don’t know how – but fortunately there’s a simple technique using stuff you’ve probably got at home that makes it very easy. Here’s my guide on how to get sap out of clothes.

What You’ll Need

The items you will need are things that you will easily find around your home. For one of the items, solvent, there are many options – I will discuss which ones are best in the relevant section below. You will need the following:

1. Freezer Or Plastic Sandwich Bag Filled With Ice

Ice In A Plastic Bag

2. Blunt Knife Or Spoon

Spoon Fork And Table Knife On The White Background

3. Sticky Tape

Roll Of Sticky Tape Isolated On White

4. Solvent – For example, any of the following can be used:

  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Peanut Butter
  • Cooking Oil
Rubbing Alcohol On White Background

A Bottle Of Rubbing Alcohol

5. Washing Machine And Dryer

Opening Washing Machine On White Background

How To Do It

1. Freeze The Sap To Break/Scrape Out The Worst

You only need to follow this first step if the sap you need to remove is quite a big piece that has oozed into your clothing and congealed. The method is similar to removing gum from clothing. First, you need to freeze the sap to make it hard and brittle so you can break it off.

If the item is small enough to go in a freezer, simply place the item in a freezer and leave for long enough for the sap to freeze. If the item is too large, you can achieve the same effect by placing the ice in a plastic sandwich bag and applying to the item of clothing.

Once the sap is frozen, you can simply crack it so that most of it will come out easily. Once you have gotten most of it out, you can use the spoon or knife to scrape the rest out. If there is still some left in the garment, you can invert the sticky tape and use it to pick up the last remaining pieces.

If your item of clothing is made from delicate fabric, be careful with the scraping or you will damage it. An item of clothing with a hole in it doesn’t look any better than one with a tree sap stain in it!

2. Choose Your Solvent

Many Bottles Of Solvents

The reason that sap doesn’t come out in a normal wash is that it does not dissolve in water. For this reason, you need to use a solvent to break it down before you wash it so when it goes in the washing machine, the water will be able to wash it clean.

Any of the solvents I listed above will work for this but you need to think carefully about which one to choose. Peanut butter or cooking oil will dissolve the sap but you will be left with an oil stain instead. Oil is also particularly difficult to get out so this is not a good choice for visible stains.

Probably the best choice if you have some available is rubbing alcohol as it won’t stain your clothing like oil based solvents. You can also use nail polish remover but you should be careful using this on delicate fabrics as it could also damage the clothing.

If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer is also a good choice.

3. Apply The Solvent

Apply whichever solvent you have chosen to the area of the stain. Work the solvent into the affected area by rubbing with your fingers and by rubbing the fabric together. You will see that the sap begins to break down and will start to disappear.

Keep applying until you see that the stain has disappeared. At this point, I think it is a good idea to leave the item of clothing for about fifteen minutes or so to allow the solvent time to fully break down the sap.

4. Wash The Item Of Clothing And Check

Hand Wash Isolated On White Background

After leaving the solvent to work on the sap, you can machine-wash the garment. You should wash it alone and you should wash it at the highest temperature possible for that item of clothing. If the solvent has done its job, the sap will simply wash away in the hot water and regular detergent.

Once you have washed the item of clothing, you should check carefully that the sap has been completely removed. If it hasn’t been completely removed, simply repeat steps three and four again until it disappears. It is important to make sure it has completely gone before moving to step five.

5. Run The Item Of Clothing Through The Dryer

Clothes Dryer

Once the sap has been completely removed, it is safe to dry the item of clothing. It is very important to make sure the sap is completely out before you put the item of clothing in the dryer as if there is still any left, it may melt and end up in the fibers and will be even harder to remove.

Once you remove your item of clothing, there should be no traces of sap left and you are ready to hit the woods again!

How To Remove Sap From Skin Or Hair

Sticky Sap In Hair

Sticky Tree Sap In Her Hair - Via

I am sometimes asked about the best way to remove sap from skin or hair. Sap can be super-sticky and hard to get off if you get it on your arms. If you get it in your hair, it can be a complete nightmare.

Fortunately, removing sap from skin or hair is even easier than removing it from clothing as it doesn’t matter if you use oil-based solvent – because your skin won’t stain.

This means it is perfectly ok to use something like peanut butter, cooking oil or regular butter as a solvent – although I recommend using hand sanitizer if you have some available just because it’s a bit disgusting rubbing butter or peanut butter in your hair!

Whatever you choose, simply apply the solvent to the skin or hair and wait for it to have its effect. Once you’ve left it there for a while, wash it out normally. If there is still sap on your skin or in your hair, repeat until it’s gone. It’s that easy!


Getting sap out of your clothes really is this simple. The only thing you really need to consider is choosing a solvent that won’t damage delicate fabrics. Before you begin, you might want to try applying a little solvent somewhere that’s not visible just as a test.

Here’s a quick video of somebody just using hand sanitizer to get tree sap out of his pants.

How about you? Do you have any other more unusual techniques for getting rid of sap? What do you think is the best way to get sap out of clothes? I’d love to hear from you as I’m always ready to learn new skills – and if you liked my article, please don’t forget to share!

Julie McClain

Chief editor here at Outdoorzer. I'm an outdoor lover and ever since I was a little girl, I've worked hard to learn all I could from my Dad about Camping, Hiking, RVs and surviving in the woods.

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