How to Get Sap Out of Clothing (Nylon, Polyester, and Skin Too!) – 5 Ways

By Emma
How To Get Sap Out Of Clothing

In this article, we will show you 4 ways to get sap out of clothing – removing sap with rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer, detergent and baking soda paste, dedicated stain removers, and household items.

Undeniably, it’s great to be outdoors and among the trees. Well, until you climb one, hug one, or simply lean against one. The resulting gobs of sticky sap on your clothes or hands are no fun at all. 

But although it can seem like the sap stains spell disaster for your wardrobe, don’t toss out your gear just yet. 

We’ve written this helpful how-to resource to rescue you from your sticky situation (ahha…see what I did there?)

First, Remove Excess Sap From Clothing

Before jumping straight to hardcore stain removal, be sure you’ve removed all excess sap.

A knife or spoon should be sufficient to scrape it off, but if you’re getting nowhere, consider tossing the clothes into the refrigerator.

Though it sounds a little dumb, sap is more likely to chip off easier if it’s frozen.

And don’t sweat if you can’t get it all – just do the best you can.

how to Remove Sap with Rubbing Alcohol or Hand Sanitizer

Rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer are products that pretty much everyone has – or should have – laying around the medicine cabinet.

It’s also one of the most go-to methods for removing sap from clothes, as rubbing alcohol won’t strip the dyes from your clothing. 

Instead, it acts as a solvent, which “matches well with the sugars/phenolics (aka, resin) in the sap, dissolving it.” (Citation taken from this chemists’ forum)

Rubbing alcohol is also a degreasing agent, which is why it can lift and remove even the most stubborn stains.

Perhaps best of all, it won’t weaken or eat into your clothes, increasing the potential for tears and holes in the fabric.

To see a demo of removing sap with rubbing alcohol, check out the video below. The process is pretty much identical for using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but here’s a video using that specifically. 

Step 1: Massage Rubbing Alcohol Into Sap Stain

Standing over the sink or a bathtub, pour a small amount of the rubbing alcohol into a damp rag. If using hand sanitizer, you can simply dab it directly onto the garment.

Then simply massage the alcohol into the sap stain.

Step 2: Let Sit for 10-20 Minutes

Once the alcohol has been thoroughly incorporated, let it absorb for a few minutes. 10-20 minutes is a pretty good timeframe. 

Step 3: Throw Into Washing Machine

Now that the rubbing alcohol has had some time to fully absorb into the stain, it’s time to wash!

Throw the affected garment(s) into your washing machine and run according to your preferred settings

Just don’t throw anything else into the wash. See, if there’s the slightest chance you missed any sap, the heat from the laundry cycle could melt the sap and distribute it on the rest of your garments.

How to remove Sap with Detergent and Baking Soda Paste

If the rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer didn’t work, consider the following alternative. This method makes use of some good ole’ fashioned powdered laundry detergent and baking soda.

Turns out, creating a paste out of laundry detergent creates a concentrate that helps the sap bind to the thicker substance. 

Plus, baking soda is an ingredient featured in many stain-removing formulas. So adding it to the detergent will only increase your odds of beating the sap stain once and for all.

Step 1: Combine Powdered Detergent, Baking Soda, and Water 

First, mix approximately a tablespoon of powdered detergent and a tablespoon of baking soda. Then combine that with a tablespoon of water, stirring until the substance becomes pasty. 

Oh, and feel free to increase or decrease the measurements based on how many sap stains you’re dealing with. Just keep the ratio the same, and you’ll be fine.

Step 2: Rub In the Paste and Let Sit for an Hour

When your paste is ready, massage it into the sap stain. 

Then, let it sit for an hour. Yeah, it’s definitely longer than some of the other methods. But this helps give the paste more time to loosen up the sap remnants.

Step 3: Scrape Off the Paste and Spray On Ammonia

After the garment has marinated for a while in the detergent paste, go ahead and scrape that paste off.

If you have clear ammonia, this is a great way to “top off” your stain removal. It has a high pH level, meaning you can get stains out with minimal effort. 

So go ahead and give the stain a quick spray.

Step 4: Wash as Normal

To ensure you get the last crusty bits of the paste off your clothes, throw the garments in the wash.

How to Remove Sap with Dedicated Stain Removers

As a last resort, if nothing has worked so far, wow – you’ve got one tough stain on your hands!

All joking aside, now that homegrown efforts have failed, it’s time to look into commercial alternatives.

Enter, stain removers. Some of our favorites for stubborn sap stains are Tide Laundry Stain Remover, OxiClean Max Force Laundry Pre-Treater (my personal go-to!) and Shout Laundry Stain Remover.

At this point, things get pretty self-explanatory. You simply follow the directions on the package of your stain remover of choice.

Feel free to combine some of our homegrown methods with commercial products. Even if you aren’t using any of the products listed above, there’s a good chance your personal stain remover could be all you need.

And remember, don’t give up after the first attempt (or two!) Sometimes, really nasty stains require a few treatments before they’ll surrender their deathgrip on your clothes.

how to Remove Tree Sap Using Household Items

Tree sap can also be removed by a host of items lying around your house. 

For instance, take peanut butter. Yeah, this is a weird one, but it comes highly recommended by plenty of outdoor enthusiasts. Similarly to sunscreen, the oils present in peanut butter help break down the composition of the sap.

Coconut oil offers the same performance with similar rationale. 

One word of caution for all oil-based solutions: there’s a possibility that you could be trading the stain of the sap for the stain of the oil! 

This is especially true for something like peanut butter, for example, especially on a pure white shirt. So proceed with caution!

How to Remove Tree Sap From Nylon Clothing

Nylon fabric is, as you may have guessed, a bit more fussy than your beater cotton hoodie. It’s lighter weight and tends to feel “slinky” or “sheer” to the touch. 

Nylon is fully synthetic, and the potential for it to be stained is higher than hardier natural materials like canvas or cotton.

As such, we suggest only using rubbing alcohol to get sap out of anything made of nylon. 

Using oil-based stain removers (including peanut butter, sunscreen, and some of our “shoestring” picks) runs the very real risk of trading the sap stain for the stain of the remover!

Ultimately, the process is simple. Begin by dabbing the rubbing alcohol onto the sap stain. If you don’t notice any improvement, up your game with a brush to scrub the alcohol deeper into the fibers.

When you’re done, immediately rinse out the rubbing alcohol. And don’t be discouraged if the stain is still there; simply rinse and repeat!

How to Remove Tree Sap From Skin

If you wound up with sap all over your hands but were smart enough not to touch your clothes, you’re in luck! Removing sap from your skin is pretty easy.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer will likely be all you need. If you don’t have any, try using a bit of nail polish remover. 

But in the instance that you have neither product available, simple dish soap will work too. Make sure it features the ability to cut through grease, like Dawn Dish Soap Platinum.

How to Remove Tree Sap On the Trail

At this point, you may be saying, “all this is well and good, but what if I have my unfortunate sap encounter on day 1 of my 2 week camping trip?”

Not to worry!

To remove tree sap while on the trail, you need to take stock of the items you have on hand. A lot of hikers swear by sunscreen and dish soap, which pretty much every camper should have in their pack.

All you need to do is vigorously rub sunscreen onto the affected areas of your clothes. 

This is most likely effective due to the host of different vegetable oils present in sunscreen, which help loosen the sap.

The same logic applies to dish soap, which is meant to slice through and lift up grease. Most campers probably have at least a small amount of soap on hand for washing their mess kits.

If you’re looking for some camp cookery, by the way, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best camping mess kits and 10 best camping kitchens.

Conclusion

We hope this article has been helpful in your efforts to purge the sap from your clothes!

As you can see, there’s a few different methods for sap removal. Truth be told, the most stubborn of stains might call for extra ingenuity, perhaps combining multiple methods and products.

In the end, some good ole’ fashioned dedication and elbow grease will surely go a long way. Good luck!

Founder Headshot
AUTHOR

My name is Emma, and I’m a city dweller who jumps on every opportunity to get out and enjoy nature! I’ve gone on a number of car camping and backpacking trips over the past few years. I created this site to inspire others to get outside and to make the process easier for you.