How to Get Tree Sap Off of Your Hands or Car
Some trees drip a lot of sap, particularly those that have been heavily pruned, which is relevant for the typical holiday pine tree (Pinus spp.). Sugar maple trees (Acer saccharum) are known for dripping a lot of sap in the spring, as do dogwoods (Cornus spp.) and many birches (Betula spp.).
While pruning or caring for these trees—or maybe climbing them—it's easy to get their sticky sap on your hands. What is the best way to get sap off your hands?
How to Remove Sap From Hands
While sap can be removed by any product that contains alcohol, you can first try an oil-based product, which is gentler on the hands.
Choose a cooking oil you already have in your pantry, such as canola, coconut or olive oil. Apply the oil directly and rub it in to lift off the sap, or use a cotton pad or ball to apply it. Other oil-based products also work, such as nut butters and hand cream.
Salt, too, is a good option. Just rub it on the sap, and voila!
If you don't want to smell like olives or peanut butter, or you have a lot of sap that other methods are not successful in removing, use an alcohol-based product, such as rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover.
Does hand sanitizer get rid of sap? You bet it does! Just make sure that your hand sanitizer contains alcohol.
How to Remove Sap From a Car
Take quick action when sap drops on surfaces around your home, particularly on a car. Sap can destroy a car's paint job if you don't address it as soon as possible.
However, don't reach for paint thinner to protect a painted surface like a car. Start with the same methods you would use to remove sap from your skin: oils or hand sanitizer. When using hand sanitizer, be sure to wipe it off completely, or it can result in a dull area if your car has been waxed.
There are also commercial products available from automotive parts stores that are designed to remove sap from vehicles.
Another Reason for Sap Drop
Sometimes the sap you see is not really sap oozing from a tree but the result of an insect infestation in the tree's canopy. If you observe a fine mist of sticky substance under a tree, perhaps on your car or the ground underneath, it is likely due to aphids or scale crawlers, both of which are sucking insects.
The "sap" is their excretion, which—depending on the type of tree—might really be tree sap passed through the body of the aphid, or it could be a "honeydew," a sugary substance that is not actually sap but just insect poop. This type of "sap" is easy to wash off hands, cars or anything else because it is mostly sugar. Just wash your hands as usual when you are finished cleaning up.
- Alternatively, try rubbing mayonnaise on your hands and then washing them with plain soap afterwards. The sap should rinse right off.
- Yet another method to get rid of sap on hands is to rub Crisco, bacon grease or any other lard on your hands and then wash them with a grease-cutting dish soap.
- Use a cream-based make-up remover, like cold cream, to remove sap. Wash your hands as usual afterwards.
- All of the above methods of removing sap work by softening the sap enough that regular hand soap or grease-cutting dish soap can easily remove it.
I garden in the Pacific North west, previously Hawaii where I had an avocado orchard. I have a Master Gardeners certificate here in Eugene, Oregon.