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If you’re the type of driver who always hunts for a parking spot next to the biggest tree, then you know what it’s like to roll out from under the glorious shade, only to discover brown, sticky drops all over the hood of your car. Or maybe you’ve come back from a camping trip and realized your mosquito-bitten ankles weren’t the only casualty of the great outdoors.
Tree sap stains can be a big pain to remove, and the longer you wait, the less likely they are to budge. The best thing you can do for your car is take care of the mess right away, so here are three ways to safely remove tree sap from your car and make your ride less tacky (no pun intended)!
Before we get to the how-to portion of this how-to, what is it that makes tree sap so sticky, anyway? The answer: terpenes.
Terpenes are bio-active molecules produced by thousands of plant species, particularly, coniferous trees. Their purpose in the wild is to protect plants from hungry animals and infectious disease, but they’re also responsible for the distinct pine odor you smell on a hike through the woods, and that delicious maple syrup flavor you enjoy on your pancakes. They also make things sticky.
How sticky? That depends on the tree. Some trees, like oak and maple trees, produce a much thinner concentration of oils, resin and terpenes, the three main ingredients that make up tree sap. Removing tree sap from these types of trees is a piece of cake, especially if you catch it fresh.
Cedar, fir and pine trees, on the other hand, produce a much thicker, glue-like sap that can be much more difficult to remove. This type of sap rarely comes clean with soap and water, and if removed incorrectly, it can pull the paint right off your car. With this much hassle, it may be tempting to just throw your hands in the air and call it a day, but there’s one more use for terpenes we forgot to mention.
They’re also an all-natural paint thinner.
That’s right. Turpentine, a much more distilled combination of resins and terpenes, is also an active ingredient in most paint thinners. So, imagine the damage a much more concentrated paint thinner could do if allowed to sit for hours, or even days, on the surface of your car. Needless to say, you’re in a sticky situation (see what I did there?).
The best way to prevent damage to the clear coat or permanent stains is to remove tree sap deposits as soon as you notice them. And the good news is, this type of clean-up isn’t always difficult. In fact, with the right products and know-how, removing tree sap from your car is just as easy as getting rid of any other stain!
Sometimes, a little bit of car wash soap and a microfiber cloth is all you need to remove the tree sap from your car. This is especially true if you’re dealing with fresh sap deposits from an oak or maple tree. Even if you aren’t sure if a tougher stain will come clean, it’s always a good idea to start with your regular wash and see what residues are left over after you rinse and dry your car.
We recommend a high-foaming, all-purpose car wash like Turtle Wax M.A.X. Power Detergent to safely remove tree sap and other stubborn contaminants from your finish.
After you've performed your usual car wash, feel the surface of your car with your hand. If there’s any stickiness or noticeable residues, you’re not out of the woods yet. The next best way to get rid of sap stains is to increase the concentration of car wash soap in your bucket and spot clean the affected areas.
We formulated our M.A.X. Power Wash Detergent to be adjustable, so you can perform anything from a gentle wash to heavy-duty stain removal simply by changing the amount of soap in your bucket. Dilute 9 oz of soap per gallon to use M.A.X. Power at its full strength or apply a small amount of product directly to your wash mitt to tackle any leftover sap stains and residues. Rinse your car thoroughly and towel dry.
If there are still sap stains stuck to your finish, then it’s time to break out the bug and tar remover to lift those stubborn soils from the clear coat.
Our Turtle Wax Bug & Tar Remover is formulated with powerful solvents that do all the heavy lifting for you, breaking down tough stains like fresh tar, bug remains and tree sap deposits so that they come clean with a single wipe. We recommend spot testing this specialty cleaner on one small area of your car first to see how long the formula needs to dwell to break down that pesky sap.
Try allowing the product to sit for 10 seconds first. If there are still leftover residues, treat the area again and give the product more time to work its magic. Then, wipe any excess product and soils away with a fresh, microfiber towel.
Continue to treat any areas of your car with tree sap, working on one 1’ x 1’ section at a time. Once you’ve removed all the sap from your car, you’ll want to apply a fresh coat of wax to the finish to replace any wax your Bug & Tar Remover may have removed.
Try our Hybrid Solutions PRO Flex Wax if you want to wax quickly. This incredible spray wax boasts all the same benefits as a liquid or paste, and it goes on with one simple spray. Plus, this sleek, glossy formula is infused with pure graphene, the strongest substance known to man, for unparalleled durability and an eye-popping shine.
And just like that, your car is sparkling like new again! Now, how about some pancakes with fresh maple syrup? Just be careful around your car.
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