Camping & Hiking

How to get Sap out of Clothes Without Destroying Them

Nothing clears your mind more like setting off on a good hike in the mountains. Wondrous things can happen when you spend a little time with nature.

But it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Like when you find sticky patches of tree sap all over your brand new clothes.

Removing a sap stain can turn into countless hours of washing if not done properly, not to mention the risk of damaging your clothes. Believe me, I’ve been there!

I’m going to show you some super easy ways to get rid of that yucky tree sap from your clothes.

How to Get Tree Sap Out of Clothes?

It can be rather hard to remove tree sap and/or pitch from clothing because it adheres to your clothes fabric when it dries up. It’s recommended to scrape the sap off your skin or clothes while it is still sticky.

You can use an unsharpened knife or spoon to scratch off the excess goo from your clothes. Then you can drench a handkerchief or cotton ball with alcohol, and coat the stained areas until they are no longer visible.

Different Cleaning Methods

cleaning methods for getting sap out of clothes

It’s pretty likely that you don’t have the items handy when you taint your clothes with sap, and therefore you must wait until you’re home in order to clean it. A stubborn stain still remains even after immediately removing the tree sap.

Either way, there are certain items and techniques that you can apply to effectively scrape sap and pitch off your clothes.

Freezing Method

Think of it as if you were removing chewing gum off your hair or clothes. Start by refrigerating the garment in the freezer if it is able to fit, or fill a plastic bag with ice and place it where the sap is.

You must wait between 10 to 20 minutes in order for the sap to turn solid. When the sap is frozen, it becomes brittle and easier to separate from the fabric.

Once the sap is solid, you’re able to break off most of the sap with your hands. Afterward, use a spoon or knife to scratch off the remaining residue.

Be careful when scraping the sap off from delicate clothing because you can damage or rip it. If the fabric is too delicate, it is best to use another method to remove it.

Apply a Cleaner or Solvent

Solvents are useful in removing sap residue because they detach or extract it from the fibers without producing harmful chemical reactions. There are many solvents available, but you have to take into consideration whether it will damage the garment or cause the dye to run out.

Before applying anything to your clothes, you must be sure that it is colorfast. Therefore, you need to search for an inner seam and smear a small amount of the solvent with a white towel or cotton ball.

The purpose is to observe if any color is transferred when you rub it against your garments. If there are no stains, then the cleaner is safe to use.

However, when it causes a color stain, it’s best to use another solvent or risk ruining your clothes permanently.

For example, the best solvents to clean up sap stains are rubbing alcohol and, or alcohol-based hand sanitizers. This is due to the fact that alcohol is a liquid that doesn’t damage fabrics, and it’s unlikely to cause the color to run out.

Peanut Butter, Nail Polish Remover, and Cooking Oil

Your other options are peanut butter, nail polish remover, and cooking oil. Although peanut butter and cooking oil are efficient substances to disintegrate sap and pitch from clothing, they do leave oil stains behind.

Nail polish remover is also able to break up sap, but its acetone-based content is known to damage garments and even produce holes on delicate materials, like denim, nylon, and other synthetics.

Some people have also used commercial brands, like WD-40 spray, to remove sap efficiently. But always test it to see if the material is able to withstand it.

You can smear the solvent directly on the garment or use a damp towel. If the sap-stained spots are small, you can soak a towel with the solvent and rub it in. However, if the stain is extensive, you can apply it more thoroughly with your fingers.

With the first few drops, you will be able to see the spots diminishing little by little, as the solvent works its magic. Continue to rub the stained area until it is longer visible.

Sometimes, it’s advised to drench a small amount of the detergent on the sap and let it sit for around 20 minutes. Usually, this will ensure that the sap is completely dissolved.

Once the time has passed and you are no longer able to see any more sap or pitch on your clothes, you can proceed to launder your clothes or wash them as you normally do.

In some cases, you can use hand sanitizer like shown in this video.

Use of Stain Removers

Laundry detergent and stain removers are other substances that you can use to get rid of sap and pitch off clothes. These allow you to pretreat the blotches before putting them in a washing machine.

You simply soak a towel or cloth with the detergent and then apply it evenly on the sap stains. Scrub the affected areas with a soft-bristled toothbrush or sponge, and then let it absorb the cleaner from 20 to 30 minutes.

Some removers are effective in breaking down tree pitch and resin from garments after a certain period of time.

Once the time has passed, you can finish cleaning your clothes in the washing machine, or by hand. Try to use hot water if you can because it’s able to eliminate any type of stains more efficiently.

However, some clothing must be washed in cold water, such as delicates. Therefore, you should always read the washing label before using hot or cold water. Also, you can use bleach to increase your detergent’s capacity for removing stains.

Remember that chlorine-based bleach is only used in white colors and specialized bleaches are available for colored garments.

Because of this, you should always examine the washing warnings beforehand. If not, you might be able to remove the stain, but also ruin your clothes in the process.

Sometimes, the stain is not completely gone on the first try. It might be necessary to throw your clothes in the washing machine a couple of times before it is no longer visible. It may seem like a lot of work, but the reward is worth it in the end.

Powder Detergent and Ammonia

If the sap stain still remains after using the previous methods, you can up your game and resort to more aggressive substances.

First, you must make a solution using the same amounts of water and powdered detergent. Try to form a paste-like substance and smear it directly on the stained spots with a spoon or sponge.

Let the garment sit for about 30 minutes to 1 hour before using our ultimate weapon, clear ammonia! It is a highly effective liquid that is able to disintegrate the toughest stains, including sap and pitch.

Use a spray bottle and spread it evenly on the stains.

Now, you can wash your clothes by hand or in the washing machine. Always try to use hot water to break the stain more quickly.

Does Tree Sap Come out in the Wash?

washing machine

If you follow the correct procedures before putting your sap-stained clothes in the washing machine, it’s highly probable that the stain will be gone in one or two washing cycles. However, it will be extremely challenging to remove a sap stain only using water.

While hot water is known to remove tough stains, like oil and ink, it might not be enough to remove sticky substances like sap and pitch.

For this reason, always try to use cleaners, stain removers, or other methods before throwing your clothes in the washing machine.

How to Get Sap Out of Clothes After Drying?

The only way to remove dried sap stains is through the use of clear ammonia, or various attempts of rubbing alcohol. Sometimes, you are able to remove sap stains immediately with ammonia for the first time.

However, some stains are tough and may require more cycles to fully remove it. Don’t fret and eventually, the stain will come out!

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Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!