How to Remove Tree Sap With Vinegar
White or distilled vinegar is a miracle tree sap remover. Unlike balsamic, sherry, rice or champagne vinegars, plain white vinegar is created in a lab under a fermentation process that doubles the amount of acid present in the solution and makes it a potent acidic cleaner.
Vinegar diluted with water repels ants when sprayed on window sills or doorways. It gives floors, cupboards and paneling the shine that makes them look like new, and it dissolves stains.
The ability to remove tree sap from clothes, windows and gardening tools or any affected area is enough reason to keep a bottle of vinegar in your home toolbox.
What Is Tree Sap?
Some call it the blood of a tree, others refer to sap as the tree’s tears. While maple trees are the most prolific sap producers, other trees, such as the white walnut (Juglans cinerea), black walnut ((Juglans nigra), heartnut (Juglans ailantifolia) and the English walnut (Juglans regia) are among other trees that produce a lot of sap.
Sap: From Starch to Sucrose
During the summer and fall, sap-producing trees stop growing and begin storing excess starches, according to The University of Maine. While trees are dormant during the winter, the sap stores as starch.
As spring moves in, the starch converts to sucrose, according to The Cornell Sun, although the sucrose concentration varies among species. Pressure is built, and by the time spring is in full swing, the sucrose, or sap, is ready to expel.
Sap Can Reveal a Tree in Stress
While doctors test blood for indications of ill health in humans, a tree's sap can reveal the status of a tree's health. Sap leaking onto the tree's bark can mean the tree is damaged, or disease or pests are affecting the tree's health.
An arborist can determine the cause of the leaking sap and remediate, so that the sap can continue as food for the tree during its growth period, according to Front Range Arborists.
What Is Vinegar?
Check the labels on the bottles of white vinegar in your grocery store shelves. If they say “distilled,” it means the white vinegar contains 5 percent acid and 95 percent water, making it weaker than even some sodas on the market, according to Consumer Reports.
Cleaning vinegar marketed specifically for cleaning uses ups the acidic level to 6, but both work to remove sap from a multitude of surfaces.
The process of producing vinegar is called fermentation. Vinegar usually has a pH of 2.4.
Removing Tree Sap With Vinegar
Whether the sap has attached itself to your clothes, windows or tools, it can be removed using a vinegar solution. Other remedies such as olive oil, ice cubes, mineral spirits, acetone or nail polish remover are also effective, but may be destructive to surfaces. Vinegar and some elbow grease work just as well.
To clean tree sap from clothes made of washable fabrics, the University of Illinois recommends soaking the fabric in a solution of:
- warm water
- 1/2 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing soap
- 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
After rinsing, sponge in circular motions with rubbing alcohol or dab with a cotton ball, then soak again for 30 minutes in a solution of warm water and an enzyme presoak product. Launder in chlorine or oxygen bleach to get the leftover sap stains out of the fabric.
Car Windshields . . . But Not the Car!
To get sap off a glass car window, try running the vehicle through a car wash first. When dry, fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and soak the sap for five to 10 minutes.
To prevent streaking, use a microfiber cloth or any soft cloth to lift the sap from the windshield instead of paper towels. Be sure you are using a clean cloth that is free of grime.
A box cutter blade or razor blade comes in handy for stubborn leftovers.
Avoid using vinegar on your car's exterior. While some internet sources claim that vinegar is a good option for removing sap from cars, most experts agree that vinegar may harm the car's paint.
Do not use vinegar to remove sap from the car’s paint. You may damage the finish. A good car wax is ideal for creating a barrier from future sap drips and even bird droppings.
The best solution, however, is to park away from sap-producing trees.
Cleaning Gardening Tools
If your gardening tools have accumulated rust or picked up sap from pruning trees, they can be cleaned by soaking the tools in a vinegar-soaked rag and leaving them in it overnight, according to Northern Gardener.
The acid lifts the rust and sap. After rinsing the tools off, use a brush and baking soda to remove any stubborn sap. The vinegar and baking soda create a balance to prevent corrosion.
Vinegar leaves a pungent odor behind after use. Add lemon wedges to the vinegar/water sprayer to neutralize the odor. The smell should dissolve within minutes.
- Bob Vila: How to Remove Tree Sap From Anything and Everything
- University of Maine: How to Tap Maple Trees and Make Maple Syrup
- 9 Things You Should Never Clean With Vinegar
- University of Illinois Extension: Stain Solutions
- Minnesota State Horticultural Society: How to Clean Your Garden Tools
- Cornell Sun: The Science of Maple Syrup from Tree to Pancake Stack
- The Tree Center: What is tree sap?
- Front Range Arborists: That is Tree Sap?
- PLoS One: Collection and Chemical Composition of Phloem Sap from Citrus sinensis L. Osbeck (Sweet Orange)
Jann enjoys learning about and growing little gardens on her patio. When she walks in the morning, her phone app connects her to unfamiliar flora. Unusual specimens, such as yellow watermelon and pink pineapple fascinate her and are the next inhabitants of her planter boxes.