How to Remove Tree Sap Stains From Shoes

How to Remove Tree Sap Stains From Shoes

The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 25 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hr, 25 mins - 1 day
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0-10

Whether you've been camping or just walked through the backyard, it's easy to end up with tree sap on your shoes. If ignored, the stain can get worse, as its stickiness attracts other materials and substances that can also leave a stain. Getting the sap and any lingering stain off your shoes requires rubbing alcohol and patience while you wait for the stain to set in the freezer.

Putting your shoes in the freezer is an essential first step to getting a sap stain off. Cold temperatures make sticky things like sap or chewing gum brittle and easier to snap off whatever they had been previously stuck to.

Here's our guide to getting tree sap and stains off shoes in just a few simple steps.

 Stain Type  Tannin-based and gum-based
 Detergent Type  Rubbing alcohol

Before You Begin

If the stain isn't yet set, you can use rubbing alcohol as a solvent to try to dissolve the stain before it can set. The one thing to be aware of before diving in is how rubbing alcohol could affect the color of your shoes. Choose a small, inconspicuous location to test: apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol, dab the area with a clean paper towel or cloth, and let it dry. If the color doesn't change, you can go ahead with using the rubbing alcohol to help prevent the stain from setting.

If the dye on your shoes changes, though, as it might with a canvas sneaker, use a liquid dish soap, laundry detergent, or color-safe stain remover.

When to Call a Professional

If you have a stain on silk shoes or a vintage pair, consult a professional cleaner, especially if you need more stain removal tips

If your shoes are made of suede or the stain is on a suede part of your shoes, there's a different cleaning procedure to follow.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Butter knife, spoon, or scraper
  • Freezer


  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Paper towel or cotton balls
  • Ice cubes (if necessary)
  • Plastic bag


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 especially 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, leave it in the freezer longer so it can continue to harden. Scrape off the big chunks of the sap with a butter knife, a spoon, or any kind of hard plastic scraper (a credit card works). Ideally, you want to the sap blobs to just pop off.

    Be careful not to overwork the sap blobs. Overworking them can melt the sap and spread the stain further.

    scraping sap off of a shoe

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  3. Remove Residual Sap and Repeat As Needed

    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 to ensure that you aren't accidentally spreading the stain from the towel to other parts of the shoe.

    Repeat until the stain is gone.

    rubbing the sap stain off of a shoe

    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

Additional Tips for Removing Tree Sap

  • 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 then remove.
  • If your sneakers are canvas and you decided to throw them in the washing machine, don't then move them to the dryer. Heat will cause any remnants of the sap stain still on the fabric to set.
  • With a full freezer and no ice cubes available, you can also use an ice pack, cold pack, or can of peas. Just separate the cold item from the stain with a piece of wax paper to make sure you don't inadvertently pass the stain off to something else.