Remove Sap From Clothes With Our Guide


So there you are, sitting on a log or leaning against a tree while admiring the scenic views from your campsite. You decide to get up so you can start preparing whatever meal you brought for your backpacking or camping adventure when suddenly, you feel something sticky in your hiking pants or jacket. Tree sap! Now your favorite outdoor gear is smeared with this sticky substance and possibly ruined! What to do now? Although it can be very, very challenging to remove sap from clothes, it is not at all impossible.

Removing tree sap from your hiking clothes, your tent, or even your sleeping bag is very important. Not only will they leave stains and ruin the look of your favorite hardshell jacket (or hiking pants as the case may be), but because it is a sticky substance, it will attract additional dirt and soil thus making your clothes dirtier. Unlike mud or another type of dirt that may find themselves on your clothes, tree sap simply won’t come off with regular washing and can be notoriously difficult to get out. However, this simple technique on how to remove sap from clothing and using stuff that you most likely already have at home can help.

1. Gather Your Supplies

This tree sap removal technique does not require any specialized cleaning agents and utilizes items that you will easily find around your house. With regards to the cleaning solvent, there are quite a few options available, and again you probably already have them lying in your home so no need to rush to the grocery store. So to begin, you will need the following items:

  • A freezer or a plastic bag filled with ice
  • A blunt knife or butter knife
  • A sticky tape or duct tape
  • A cleaning solvent like rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, or other similar items
  • Washing Machine and dryer

Once you have all the items at hand, you can now proceed to the next step.

2. Freeze the Sap

Whether the stain consists of a few solid tree sap drops or smeared all over the fabric, you first need to harden the sap before you can remove it from your clothes. The idea here is pretty much the same as that of removing gum from clothing. You need to freeze the tree sap first to make it hard and brittle so you can break it off.

If the item in question is small enough, you can probably put it inside a freezer and leave it there for an hour or two. That should be long enough to let the sap freeze. If after them the sap is still soft or gooey, place the item back in the freezer until the sap is completely frozen. If the item is too large for your freezer, you can put several ice cubes in a plastic bag and place the bag on top of the tree sap until it hardens.

3. Scrape the Sap Out of the Clothes

Once the tree sap is hard enough, bend the fabric to break or crack the frozen sap. At this point, the larger and more solid parts of the stain should come off easily. Once you have gotten most of the loose debris out, place your clothes on the table or any flat surface. Then, using a blunt knife, scrape the remaining sap out of the clothes.

It is recommended to use a blunt knife when doing this to avoid slicing through your clothes’ fabric. But even then, you still need to be careful. A torn pant or jacket, even if it’s patched or sewn, won’t look any better than one with a tree sap stain in it.

Once you’ve scraped the remaining bits off, use sticky tape or duct tape to pick up the remaining dust. Again, be careful when doing this so that you don’t leave any sticky adhesive on the fabric.

4. Choose Your Solvent


The main reason why tree sap won’t come off with regular washing like mud or any other type of stain is that tree sap does not dissolve in water. That said, you will need to use some type of cleaning solvent to break it down before washing it.

As was mentioned above, you can use rubbing alcohol or nail polish as your cleaning solvent. It is not recommended to use anything stronger since this can lead to bleaching and leave a large patch of white on your clothes. It is also not recommended to use oil-based solvents because even if they can effectively dissolve tree sap, they can also leave behind an oil stain which is also particularly difficult to get out. All in all, rubbing alcohol and nail polish is the better option since they won’t stain your clothing like oil-based solvents.

5. Apply the Solvent

Once you’re decided on the type of cleaning solvent to use, put a few drops of it onto the stained area. Work the solvent by rubbing it onto the fabric with your fingers and by rubbing the fabric together. At this point, you should see the remaining tree sap beginning to break down and start disappearing.

Repeat this process as many times as necessary until you see that the stain has disappeared. After that, leave the clothing to air dry for a few minutes or so to let the solvent fully break down the remaining tree sap.

6. Wash the Clothing and Check

After the solvent has dried, you can now wash the garment with water and regular detergent. It seems that washing it by hand is a better idea since this will allow you to focus on the stain and apply as much force as is acceptable until the stain is completely gone.

If you don’t like the idea of hand-washing, you can also wash the stained clothes in the washing machine. However, you’ll have to wash it alone and not mix it with your other laundry. Also, you should wash it at the highest temperature possible as recommended by the manufacturer. If you did step five properly and the solvent has done its job, the sap will simply wash away in the hot water and regular detergent.

After you have washed the clothing, take it out and check it carefully if there are any tree sap stains left. If there are any go back and repeat step five until the remaining stain is completely gone. It is very important to make sure that all signs of the tree sap are gone before moving to the next step.

7. Run the Clothing through the Dryer

Once you’re satisfied that all the sap has been removed, it is safe to dry your clothes in the dryer. As mentioned earlier, it is important to make sure that all the sap has been removed before drying the clothes as if there is still any left, it may melt and end up in the fibers making it harder to remove.

Removing Tree Sap from ‘Dry Clean Only’ Clothes

Most of the clothes you’ll be wearing during your hiking or backpacking trip usually don’t fall under the ‘Dry Clean Only’ type of clothes. But let’s just say that maybe you decided to take a walk in the park after a long day at work and sat down on a bench under a tree musing about your career path or perhaps planning your backpacking adventure for the weekend (or whatever you like to think about after work).

And then it happened. Drops of tree sap from the branches above start falling onto your suit. Or maybe the sap has already fallen onto the bench and you unknowingly (you were busy thinking, remember?) sat on or leaned back against it. In any case, the tree sap got onto your suit and now you need to get rid of it before it’s ruined.

Unfortunately, the method mentioned above won’t work for your suit or any other type of garment or fabric labeled as ‘Dry Clean Only’. That said, you’ll need to bring your stained clothes to a professional dry cleaner. Aside from knowing exactly how to remove sap from clothing, they also have the equipment and cleaning agents necessary to effectively complete the task. When you do visit a professional dry cleaner, be sure to point out the spot where the tree sap is present.

There are also DIY dry cleaning kits available which you can buy and use at home. But you have to be careful when using such products since improper use may lead to damage to the fabric. Thus, spend some time reading the product label for instructions before using the kit, and be sure to follow the instructions as well to avoid ruining your clothes.

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Going outdoors, whether it’s a short hiking trip or multi-day camping adventure, is tantamount to dirty clothes. Out in the wilderness, there are plenty of things that can leave dirt and stains on your clothes, from mud to grass and, not to be forgotten, of course, tree sap. Among all the types of dirt that can stick to your clothes, tree sap is one of the most difficult to remove. Hopefully, though the above tips about how to remove sap from clothes can help make the process easier for you. By following them properly and with a little patience, there should be no traces of sap left on your favorite hiking or camping clothes. Then, you should be ready to hit the outdoors once again without fear of tree sap ruining your favorite outdoor attire.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!