How to Remove Tree Sap from Clothes, Shoes, Carpet, and Upholstery

Carrying The Tree
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Those that love the great outdoors, a fresh Christmas tree or pine garlands, or golfers who spend a great deal of the time in the rough may find this tree sap stain removal information quite useful.

All trees have sap and there are two kinds. The phloem sap in the layer next to the outer bark. This sap is composed of water, sugars, and nutrients that are produced from the leaves and flows to the rest of the tree.

The xylem sap is a bit deeper in the sapwood, the youngest layers of the tree. The sapwood cells carry water and minerals up the tree from the roots. The sapwood produces carbon dioxide. 

The sap may appear for several reasons. If the tree is cut or injured, the sap will ooze out from the tree. Changes in temperature will also affect the flow of tree sap. During cold weather, when temperatures fall below freezing, the tree pulls water up through the roots, replenishing the tree sap. Warmer weather when the tree is dormant produces pressure within the tree. This is why maple sap is gathered in the late winter just as spring temperatures begin.

Conifers also produce tar or pitch which is hydrocarbon-based and sits mainly in the outermost wood layers. Its function is defensive; when an insect chews though the bark the pitch oozes out and actually pushes the insect out of the hole. Resin is formed as pitch crystallizes and loses more liquid components.

Amber is fossilized resin.

How to Remove Tree Sap from Washable Clothes

It is important to remove tree sap and pitch stains from clothes and camping gear for several reasons. They can leave stains and because sap is sticky, it will attract additional soil and insects. 

Start by treating the sticky component of the stain with an enzyme-based stain remover like Shout or Zout.

 If you do not have a stain remover, use a bit of heavy duty liquid laundry detergent that contains enough enzymes to break down the stain. Tide or Persil are leading performance brands that have enough cleaning power and enzymes to break apart the sap from the fabric fibers.

Work the stain remover into the tree sap stains using a soft bristled brush like an old toothbrush and allow the product to work for at least fifteen minutes. Rinse the stained area with hot water. If you still see significant evidence of the stain, treat again. You may need to work through layers of dried pitch. Next, wash the fabric in the hottest water temperature recommended on the garment or equipment care label.

Check the stained area before tossing the item in a clothes dryer. The high heat of the dryer can fuse the sap or pitch with the fibers and make it even more difficult to remove. If the stain remains, repeat the stain removal treatment steps. 

How to Remove Tree Sap from Shoes

Large amounts of tree sap is usually easier to remove from shoes if it is frozen solid. Place the shoes in a plastic bag in the freezer overnight. Or, place some ice cubes in a small plastic bag onto of the tree sap on the shoes.

When the sap is solid, use a dull edge like a kitchen knife, edge of spoon, or hard plastic scraper to remove the sap.

If you can't wait for the sap to harden, use a bit of WD-40 lubricant to help lift off the gooey mess. Treat any stains with a stain remover and scrub with a soft-bristled brush. Do not use this technique on suede shoes.

How to Remove Tree Sap from Dry Clean Only Clothes

If the garment is labeled as dry clean only, it is best to head to a dry cleaner and point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner.

If you choose to use a home dry cleaning kit, be sure to treat the stain with the provided stain remover or a commercial dry cleaning solvent before putting the garment in the dryer bag.

How to Remove Tree Sap from Carpet and Upholstery

Tree sap or pitch can easily be tracked onto home or car carpet and upholstery.

Again, tackle these stains as soon as possible because the stickiness will attract more soil and become harder to remove.

If you can see beads of sap or tar, put some ice in a plastic bag and place over the area. This will harden the residue and you may be able to lift it from the carpet fibers. Next, mix a solution of two teaspoons of liquid dish washing detergent with one cup of hot water. Use a soft-bristled brush to work the solution into the carpet. 

Use a paper towel to blot away the soapy solution as the stain is loosened. Next, flood the area with plain, cool water to remove the soapy residue and then blot dry with a paper towel. Allow the stained area to air dry away from direct sunlight or heat. Vacuum to lift carpet fibers.

The same solution and technique can be used for upholstery. Take extra care not to use too much solution and which can cause mold and mildew problems in the cushion fillings. If the upholstery is silk or vintage, consult a professional cleaner.

For more stain removal tips: read Stain Removal A to Z.