How to Remove Tree Sap Stains From Clothes and Home Fabrics

Removal Methods for Clothing, Shoes, Carpet, and Upholstery

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

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr, 25 mins

Removing sap, pitch, or tree resin is not difficult and does not require special cleaners, but it may need a few steps and some soaking before it's completely gone. Sap is particularly problematic because it's so sticky. As soon as you get a smear of it on your pants or jacket, it begins picking up and attracting dirt, turning into a darker stain that seems to grow on its own. However, never dry this stain unless it's completely gone. Heat can set the stain making it more difficult to remove. Read on to learn how to tackle this stain once and for good.

0:46

Click Play to Learn How to Quickly Remove Tree Sap Stains

Stain Type Tannin-based and gum-based
Detergent Type Heavy-duty laundry detergent
Wash Temperature Hot or warm

Before You Begin

Rubbing alcohol is a good solvent to use in a pinch to prevent the stain from setting. But before applying it to a material, test for colorfastness by applying a drop to a hidden part of the fabric. Rinse it, then blot dry. If the color doesn't change, continue to use alcohol as a step to prevent the tree residue from leaving a stain. However, stick to laundry detergent, liquid dish soap, or color-safe stain removers if the color changes.

Dry cleaning solvent is another strong cleaner that can remove sap, pitch, and resin. If you don't have this cleaner or would rather leave your fabric items in the hands of professionals, take your clothing to the dry cleaners to remove the stain.

If you have a stain on silk or vintage upholstery, consult a professional furniture cleaner, especially if you need more stain removal tips. Also, do not use these cleaning steps on suede clothing, shoes, or upholstery. Suede has different cleaning procedures.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Clothes

  • Soft-bristled brush

Shoes

  • Butter knife, spoon, or scraper
  • Freezer

Carpet and Upholstery

  • Butter knife or spoon (Optional)
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Vacuum

Materials

Clothes

  • Enzyme-based stain remover
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent

Shoes

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paper towel or cotton balls
  • Ice cubes
  • Plastic bag

Carpet and Upholstery

  • Ice
  • Plastic bag
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent
  • Paper towels

Instructions

materials for removing sap stains from clothing

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Remove Sap From Clothes

  1. Pretreat the Stain

    Start by treating the sticky component of the stain with an enzyme-based stain remover. If you do not have a stain remover, use a heavy-duty liquid laundry detergent that contains enough enzymes to break down the stain. Tide or Persil are two leading brands with sufficient cleaning power and enzymes to break apart the sap from the fabric fibers.

    pretreating a tree sap stain

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Apply Stain Remover

    Work the stain remover into the tree sap stain using a soft-bristled brush (or an old toothbrush) and allow the product to work for at least 15 minutes.

    rubbing the stain with a soft brush

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Rinse the Stain

    Rinse the stained area with hot water. If you still see the stain, treat it again. You may need to work through multiple layers of dried tree sap or pitch.

    rinsing the sap stain off of a sweater

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  4. Wash in Hot

    Wash the fabric at the hottest water temperature recommended on the garment's care label. Double-check the area to ensure the stain is gone before tossing the item in a clothes dryer. You might even need to let the fabric air dry to be sure. It can sometimes be difficult to tell if a stain is fully gone from a wet, dark fabric. If the stain remains, repeat the stain removal treatment steps. 

    Note: A high heat dryer can fuse the sap or pitch with the fibers and make removing it even more difficult to get out.

    laundering the item as usual

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Tip

If you're not at home to wash a garment but have some clear hand sanitizer on hand, apply it to the stain (only if the fabric is colorfast). The alcohol in the sanitizer will help dissolve the sap. Blot with a rag or paper towel to remove the bulk of the stain.

How to Remove Sap From Shoes

materials for removing sap stains from shoes

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  1. Freeze the Sap

    Place the shoes in a plastic bag and set them in the freezer for a few hours. Alternatively, put some ice cubes in a small plastic bag and set the bag onto the sap to harden it. Freezing is helpful when there is a large blob of sap on the shoes;

    freezing a sap stain on a shoe

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Scrape Off the Sap

    Check the sap to make sure it is frozen hard; if not, freeze it some more. Scrape off the bulk of the sap with a butter knife, a spoon, or a hard plastic scraper. Ideally, you want to pop off the sap blobs; don't overwork them, which can melt the sap and spread the stain further.

    scraping sap off of a shoe

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Remove the Residue

    Apply rubbing alcohol to a paper towel or cotton ball, then dab the stain to remove the residual sap. Move to a fresh area of the towel as it becomes dirty. Repeat until the stain is gone. You can also use a variety of oily substances, such as WD-40, mayonnaise, or peanut butter, to remove the sap, but all of these leave a stain you must remove. Note: Do not use these steps on suede.

    rubbing the sap stain off of a shoe

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Remove Sap From Carpet or Upholstery

materials for removing sap stains from carpet

The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  1. Lift the Sap

    Check the stained area. If you see beads of sap or tar, put some ice in a plastic bag and place it over the stain. Let the ice harden the sap for about 15 minutes, then remove the ice and try to pull up as much of the hardened sap as possible by hand or scraping with a butter knife or spoon.

    freezing a sap stain on a carpet

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  2. Apply Detergent

    Mix a solution of two teaspoons of liquid dishwashing detergent with one cup of hot water. Use a soft-bristled brush to work the solution into the carpet or upholstery.

    applying detergent to a sap stain on a carpet

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Blot and Rinse

    Use a paper towel to blot away the soapy solution as the stain is loosened. Next, wipe the area with a towel dipped in plain, cool water to remove the soapy residue, and then blot dry with a paper towel.

    blotting and rinsing the sap stain

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  4. Vacuum the Carpet or Upholstery

    Allow the stained area to air dry completely (usually overnight; don't apply heat), then vacuum the carpet or upholstery to lift the fibers.

    vacuuming the carpet after lifting the stain

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Additional Tips for Removing Tree Sap

If the stain persists, you should repeat the above steps until the stain disappears. DIYers report some success with other home remedies.

  • Suncreen: Spray or dab a small amount of sunscreen on the stained area and gently rub the fabric together, then launder as usual.
  • Ice and Vinegar: Another DIY method is the combination of an ice cube plus vinegar. Using an ice cube, freeze the sap stain, scraping off the residue. Next, dip a cloth in vinegar and gently rub the stain until it’s no longer visible. Rinse the stain under running water, then launder it as usual.
  • Extra care with upholstery: Do not saturate upholstery with soap cleaner. Too much soap solution can cause mold and mildew problems in the cushions.