Changing seasons may be something beautiful, but it comes with its own problems. One of them is tree sap. Many trees ooze sap during changing seasons; some may end up on your car and then harden. Once it hardens, removing it can be a pain, and over rigorous cleaning may just harm the paint on your car. So how to get tree sap off a car?
You may use agents that melt or soften sap from the paint surface. Alcoholic materials such as rubbing alcohol (Isopropyl Alcohol) or hand sanitizer work well to melt and dissolve sap. WD-40 and margarine/vegetable oil work by emulsifying the sap and softening it for easier removal.
This article will discuss methods you can take to remove sap from your car paint and possible options you can take if all the methods fail.
What Is In A Tree Sap?
Tree sap usually contains water, sugar, hormones, and mineral elements dissolved within it. Tree sap usually oozes out from the tree due to rising internal pressure, temperature changes, or diseases.
You may equate tree sap to human blood. It carries water, nutrients, hormones, and many natural minerals a tree needs to thrive.
There are two types of sap, the xylem, and the phloem. Xylem flows from the root to the branches and flows through the channels that are renewed every year. When you cut a tree, you may see rings on the tree stump – these rings are the xylem channels.
The phloem is the one we encounter more. Phloem is the sticky, sugary stuff from photosynthesis, giving the tree energy and nourishment to grow. Maple syrup is some of the most famous phloem sap we consume as food.
However, trees also produce sap when they are sick or injured. Sap can flow up to cover holes or damage marks made by humans or animals, and sap can trap parasites and their eggs as they harden.
How To Remove Tree Sap Off Car?
Tree sap is best removed before they become dry and hardened. If not, removal will require stronger chemicals that help to melt, dissolve or soften the sap. Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) and hand sanitizer is a good option, as well as using WD-40 or vegetable oil to emulsify and soften the sap before removal.
Removing tree sap from a car can be a frustrating experience because regular removal does not work well. On top of that, you are worried about applying excessive force, as you do not want to damage your car paint.
Fortunately, there are ways to remove tree sap, and it does not require you to spend much money.
These methods use everyday household items and come with the principle of ‘first, do no harm.’ This means even if these methods do not work for you, chances are they will not damage your car paint.
Rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol is probably the strongest chemical we have on the list, and you should know that it is powerful. The key here is to give the alcohol time to do its job and not rely too much on your elbow grease as it may damage your car paint.
Another point to note with rubbing alcohol is you just need regular rubbing alcohol, not those 100% alcohol liquid. 100% may be too strong, damaging the clear coat on your car paint.
Start by putting some alcohol on a paper towel, and dab it on the sap. You may also squirt some onto the sap if a turkey baster is lying around. Leave it for a few minutes.
Apply the alcohol another time, but this time once applied, slowly wipe it off. Harder sap can be scratched off using an ice cream stick. Ice-cream sticks are made of wood, which is hard enough to scratch away softened sap but not too hard that it may scratch your car paint.
You may add another layer of alcohol to the car paint one final time for an excellent final wipe down. This would remove all the sap residue on the car paint.
Sometimes, if you notice tree sap that is still not hardened, you want to remove it quickly. If you do not have any rubbing alcohol with you, then you may have hand sanitizer.
Hand sanitizer also contains alcohol and may be used similarly to rubbing alcohol. However, not all hand sanitizers contain alcohol, as some may use non-alcohol disinfectants, such as benzalkonium chloride. Sanitizer with that ingredient may not work well with tree sap.
Another thing is that hand sanitizers tend to have less alcohol than rubbing alcohol, meaning they may not be as effective. Be prepared to apply and scrub multiple times to remove all tree sap.
Start by squeezing some hand sanitizer on a paper towel, and apply the solution to the tree sap. Wait for a few minutes before rubbing. Use a wooden ice cream spoon to scratch the tree sap, as they are sturdy enough to rub tree sap away but not leave marks on the car paint. Wipe down with a paper towel.
You may need to repeat this dab, rub, and wipe process multiple times to remove the tree sap altogether.
WD-40 is a beneficial anti-rust oil that helps to lubricate metal surfaces. But many do not know it is also a good tree sap remover from cars.
Instead of melting and dissolving tree sap like alcohol, WD-40 penetrates into the tree sap and somehow emulsifies it. As a result, the tree sap becomes soft and easier to remove.
First, start by spraying a generous amount of WD-40 on the sap, and give it a few minutes to work. Feel free to spray in more if needed. Then pick up a wooden ice cream stick and rub at the tree sap.
You should notice the general softening of the tree sap. Wipe down any residue with a paper towel, and repeat the spraying, rubbing, and wiping process until all tree sap is removed.
Margarine or Vegetable Oil
Another method to use may be to use margarine or vegetable oil. People commonly use margarine or vegetable oil on sensitive areas such as skin or coatings on their pets to remove tree sap.
If margarine or vegetable oil is good enough for the skin, it should also be good enough for your car paint.
However, it is essential to mention that this may be the least effective method since it is also the least invasive. Suppose you are very concerned about your car paint. In that case, you can start removal with margarine or vegetable oils before progressing into harsher chemicals.
To start, dab some margarine or vegetable oil on the tree sap, and let it sit for a few minutes to work into the tree sap.
Then agitate the oil into the tree sap by rubbing it with your finger in the up-down, or left-right motion. Avoid circling motion as it may introduce visible swirls on your car paint.
You may also use wooden ice cream sticks to rub further if necessary. Continue the process until all sap is removed from your car paint.
What If All Else Fails?
The methods above should be able to remove the tree sap from your car. If, in the rare event that it fails, or you prefer not to do anything that may ruin your car paint, you may consider professional help.
A car detailer should have a more clinical way of removing tree sap. You may call them and see if you can arrange an appointment to visit their shop. They may use specialized solutions to help remove tree sap, which may be less hazardous to your car paint.
Some car detailers also may be able to visit your place to perform tree sap removal as well. This may come with additional charges since the detailer has to travel to you. Confirm this before arranging the visit.