Car tree sap removal

The most annoying thing ever

We attended a recent car show with the Moffstang and Coca Cola transporter and thought we had done well when we scored a great shaded area under a tree. It was a hot day and the shade was well received, but a few hours later we realised something else; the car and truck were totally covered in tree sap. Oh dear, no! So this quick article on how to remove sap quickly and safely has come from our misfortune.

Where does "sap" come from?

Firstly, it's well worth pointing out that tree sap is not actually from the trees dropping sap, it's from a number of different varieties of insects that are feasting on the tree. They call the dropping residue the nice name of honeydew, which is just another name for bug poo!  These insects really become active and swarm in the warmer months, much to our annoyance on that lovely warm spring day!


Just don't park under trees

Prevention is always best, so the ways to stop this happening is to not park under trees (obviously), if the park is at your home, look at investing in a carport, or getting rid of the offending tree (not always practical). You can look into getting rid of the insects, with a pesticide (usually not good for the trees) or with other bugs that eat the tree eating bugs, with ladybird bugs being a popular one with many female gardeners.

Removing it safely


4 ways of doing it

Thankfully, if you get to remove the residue quickly, it's not that difficult. The longer you leave any of the sap, the harder it can be to get off the paint, and if left long enough, it will become black and sooty due to mould. So with that in mind, we have our list of ways to remove these sap residues that are a few days old, to neglected cars with it left on for a longer period. It's worth noting that there are some types of tree sap that give the bugs an acidic excrement (that would be fun for the bugs no doubt), so it's quite important to remove it ASAP, otherwise it will etch into the paint surface, leaving small circular "water" mark after you've cleaned all the residue off. In the rare case you do unfortunately get these marks after following our steps below, I would suggest you call your local professional detailer to remove these marks with a good machine polish. 

#1 Warm washing

This one is to do if it's only one to two days after tree sap falling - Wash with warm water and an Auto Body Gel or Nanolicious Wash concentrate. Prepare a warm wash solution, in our 12 litre BOB Bucket, with two cap-fulls of Auto Body Gel or Nanolicous Wash and warm water (hot enough so that you can still put your hand in the bucket). Hose the car down, then begin washing with one of our safe microfibre wash tools like The Wash Pillow or Shagamittastic Wash Mitt.

A great tip is to leave the car out in the sun for 10 mins before you wash (yes we know this breaks one of our cardinal sins of washing cars), as the heat from the sun will soften the residue and make it easier to remove. Use a chamois or microfibre drying towel to dry the paint and inspect the car to see if it's all gone. 

#2 Clean Detail

If you have a show car and don't like using water, try our Clean Detail spray. This is what we used on the Moffstang and it worked beautifully.

Park the car in the sun for at least 10 minutes, then spray on the Clean Detail quite thick, let it sit for 15 seconds, then wipe clean with a microfibre cloth like our Dirty Deeds cloth, turning over regularly so you're not putting the residue back on the car. It can pay to have a few clean microfibre cloths on hand, to keep swapping them over to fresh ones in the cases where the residue is quite thick.

#3 Ta Ta Tar

If you have let it go a little bit longer than a few days and the above process didn't work, our next level of cleaning is to use the Ta Ta Tar spray. This high end cleaner will quickly work at breaking down the residue and making it easy to remove. Wash or use the Clean Detail as above, park the car in the sun to warm up the panels, then put it back in the shade and while the paint is still warm, spray the Ta Ta Tar on the areas affected, leaving it sit for around a minute. Wipe off in a gentle circular motion with our folded Dirty Deeds microfibre cloth, then wash it down clean with the hose. Once done, inspect the car to make sure you've got it all off. 

If there are still a few stubborn areas, or a heavy resin like deposit, spray the Ta Ta Tar directly onto the area and slowly massage it with the tip of your finger on the marks, this can slowly break down the harder deposits over the next couple of minutes. In our experience, this should remove nearly all but the hardest residue. If it doesn't, we have our final solution for the most dramatically covered and neglected cars out there.

#4 Clay Bar or Clay Towel

If the tree sap has been on the car for a loooong time and dried hard to the paint, we have one final non damaging solution; Fine Clay Bar or our new Claying Rubber.

Now this is only for hard dried sap on the car. If the sap is still soft, the above procedures will be far more effective. Basically, use it as per the instructions with either the Auto Body Gel, Nanolicious Wash or Boss Gloss spray as the lubricant for them. We don't recommend keeping the clay bar after using it to remove sap, so throw it away. The Claying Rubber can be washed clean with our multi purpose Orange Agent spray. 

Final step

After completing these procedures, you should have no more sap, so be sure to then use the Paint Cleanse & Restore and then a coat of the Carnauba Body Wax, Lazy Wax or Fully Slick, as the layer of wax will offer protection and make cleaning off the tree sap residue that much easier next time you're silly enough to park under a tree!  

All the microfibre cloths can be washed and reused after a wash with our Microfibre Wash.

If you have any questions or feedback on this article, please feel free to email us at or call for a chat on our office line, 1800 351 308.

Love your car,

Dan Bowden

Orange Agent Orange Agent

Orange Agent

Super versatile citrus pH neutral cleaner, to remove silicones, oils and heavy grime from most surfaces.


Dirty Deeds Dirty Deeds

Dirty Deeds

A very useful 2 cloth pack, created for all the dirtier jobs around your car and bike.


Auto Body Gel Auto Body Gel

Auto Body Gel

The original salt-free wash, for a rich and gentle clean, even in the direct hot sun!


Ta Ta Tar Ta Ta Tar

Ta Ta Tar

New powerful citrus formula, for easy cleaning of tar from your car.


The Love Glove The Love Glove

The Love Glove

Super soft and safe microfibre wash mitt. Our aptly named "The Love Glove" is a pleasure to use.


Big Softie Big Softie

Big Softie

This plush cloth cuts time in removing waxes, cleansers, glass cleaners and detail sprays.


Clean Detail Clean Detail

Clean Detail

A light cleaning detail spray, for quick work on engine bays, door jambs, interior hard surfaces and more.


Easy and effective tar removal from your car
Easy and effective tar removal from your car