Written by Grove Collaborative

How to get sap out of clothes & hair

Last Updated: September 7, 2021


Does tree sap have you in a sticky bind? Learn how to remove stubborn tree sap from just about everything from clothes to fur with these tips from Grove.

Whether you’re a bonafide tree hugger or a casual nature appreciator, sap is no laughing matter when you find it on your clothes — or worse, in your hair.


Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to get sap out of your favorite pullover or extract it from your tresses.

What is tree sap, and why is it so sticky?

Sap is a watery fluid found in certain plants or trees. Tree sap is full of nutrients, and when new buds start to grow out in the springtime, it carries energy to the tree’s branches.


Sap contains two main substances called xylem and phloem. Xylem carries water and minerals from the roots of the tree to its top. Phloem is the thick, sugary stuff created by photosynthesis that transports food to the whole tree and makes sap so sticky.


Sap adheres to just about anything it comes in contact with, and it takes more than machine washing and shampooing to get it out of your clothes and hair.

How do you remove sticky sap with household supplies?

Fortunately, removing sap from whatever it’s stuck to might be as simple as rummaging through your cabinets, so before you panic and toss your clothes into the washer in the hopes of a miracle — don’t!


The heat from your washer and dryer can make tree sap even more difficult to remove. And we’ve also figured out how to get sap out of hair too!

What will dissolve pine tree sap?

Several common household items that you may already have on hand can quickly dissolve pine sap on almost anything:


  • Hand sanitizer: To get tree sap off your skin, rub some hand sanitizer on the spot until the sap comes loose, then rinse thoroughly.
  • Grease-cutting natural dish soap: A couple drops of dish soap is also just as effective.
  • Nail polish remover: To remove sap from your vehicle (or other solid, durable surface,) soak a cotton ball or round with nail polish remover, and slowly dab the sap to dissolve it away. Rinse it off with a solution of baking soda and hot water, then wash your car as usual.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Rubbing alcohol is commonly used to remove tree sap from clothes and hair. A powerful solvent, rubbing alcohol breaks up and dissolves sticky sap. Soak a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol, and dab away at the sap to dissolve it. Repeat the process until the sap is gone.

Want to see rubbing alcohol in action against sap? Check out this video!

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Does vinegar remove sap?

If you’re into natural cleaning, chances are you’ve used vinegar to clean a ton of surfaces in your home.


Many DIY gurus swear by the combination of ice cubes and vinegar to remove stubborn sap from clothes:


  1. Place an ice cube over the sap until it freezes.
  2. Scrape off the frozen sap with a dull knife.
  3. Dip a clean rag in white vinegar, and rub the stained area until it’s no longer visible.
  4. Wash the item as usual.

More natural ways to remove sap without rubbing alcohol

Searching for more natural ways to tackle those different sap stains? If using harsh-smelling rubbing alcohol isn’t your thing, we totally get it! Fortunately, a variety of natural products are just as effective at curing your sappy blues! Use these tips to get rid of sap on pretty-much anything.

Removing tree sap from...

Clothes

While rubbing alcohol is the fastest and easiest way to remove tree sap from clothes, the oils in peanut butter or cooking oil, like olive oil, can also break down sap, believe it or not!


Use a dull knife to scrape off as much sap as possible. Apply a small amount of peanut butter or cooking oil to the sappy spots, and work it in with your fingers or a clean rag.


Pre-treat the stains with your favorite natural laundry detergent, then wash your clothes as usual in the washing machine.

Upholstery

Fill a plastic bag with ice, and place it over the stain until the sap completely freezes. Use a dull knife to scrape off as much sap as possible.


Mix a couple teaspoons of natural dish soap or laundry detergent with a cup of hot water. Work the mixture into the stain with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Wait five minutes, then wipe the upholstery clean with a dry cloth. Repeat the process until the stain is gone.

Hair

Removing tree sap from hair is similar to the process of removing it from clothes.

Simply apply peanut butter to the sap, use a hair dryer to soften it, comb it out of your hair, then shampoo as usual. Finish with your favorite deep conditioner to keep your hair looking shiny and glamorous!

Shoes

Place smaller solid items covered in sap, like your shoes or hat, in a plastic bag and put the bag in the freezer for a few hours.


When the sap is frozen solid, use a butter knife to remove it. If traces of sap remain, use oil or peanut butter.

Grove Tip

How to get sap out of dog hair

When Fido gets into a sticky mess, use one of his favorite flavors to get rid of sap!


Work peanut butter into his hair until the sap is gone, then give him a bath using your go-to dog shampoo.

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