How to Remove Tar Stains From Clothes

How to Remove Tar Stains From Clothes

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 5 hrs, 15 mins - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-10

Laying down pavement or roof tar is hot, sweaty, and messy work. However, you can take some effective at-home removal measures to eliminate tar using items you likely already have in your cupboard. Remember never to place a still-stained item into a machine dryer, as the high heat can set the stain and make it permanent. Always wear gloves and a face mask to prevent fume inhalation when handling wet tar. Home dry-cleaning kits are not recommended for removing tar stains.


Click Play to Learn How to Remove Tar Stains From Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery

Stain Type Resin-based, oil-based 
Detergent Type Heavy-duty
Water Temperature Hot

When to Call a Professional

If your tar-stained garment is marked as dry clean only, visit your dry cleaner as soon as possible and identify the stain.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Dull knife or scraper
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Washing machine
  • Gloves
  • Face mask


  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent or stain remover
  • Ice cubes
  • Oxygen-based bleach (optional)


Materials and tools to clean tar from clothes

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

How to Remove Tar Stains From Clothes

You can take at-home steps to remove tar stains from your clothing but may need to repeat cleanings several times before the stain is eliminated.

  1. Harden the Tar

    Place ice cubes into a plastic bag and then place the bag on the stain to harden the tar. After the tar is hardened, use a dull kitchen knife or the edge of a credit card to scrape away as much of the solid tar as possible. 

    Ice cubes in plastic bag pressed onto jeans with tar stains

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  2. Apply Stain Remover

    Treat the oily component of the stain with an enzyme-based pre-treater or stain remover once you've chipped away the tar. Work in the stain remover with a soft-bristled brush, allowing it to work its way into the fabric for at least 15 minutes.

    Soft-bristled brush scrubbing stain remover into jean leg with tar stain

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  3. Apply Heavy-Duty Detergent

    Add a heavy-duty liquid detergent containing adequate stain-removing enzymes or a paste made of powdered detergent and water. Scrub the stain lightly with a soft-bristled brush and rinse in hot water. Next, wash as usual in the hottest water advised by the garment's care label. Recommended detergent brands include Tide or Persil.

    Heavy duty detergent scrubbed into jean leg with tar stain for washing

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

  4. Treat Discoloration

    Mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach and cool water. OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach, or Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach are recommended. Follow the package directions for how much product to add per gallon of water. Completely submerge the garment and allow it to soak for at least 8 hours. If the stain is gone, wash as usual. If not, repeat the soaking process.

    Jeans with tar stain soaked in plastic bucket with oxygen-based bleach for discoloration

    The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo


Never attempt to remove tar while it is wet because you will only push it deeper into the fibers.

Additional Tips for Handling Tar Stains

In addition to the above cleaning methods, you can add hydrogen peroxide and baking soda to a dab of detergent and let it rest on the stain. If you don't have ice on hand to harden wet tar, you can apply a bag of frozen vegetables from your freezer to the tar, but be prepared to discard it after use. If you get tar on your hands during cleaning, apply a baking soda paste or exfoliant. Disinfect and bandage any raw areas on your skin. You should be able to remove tar stains at home, but if the stain persists, feel free to contact a professional for more specialized guidance.