How to Remove Sticky, Clingy Tree Sap From Your Clothes

Yes, your favorite quarter-zip or puffer coat can still be saved!

December  4, 2021
Photo by Bobbi Lin

If you like to camp, hike, or bring home a Christmas tree during the December season, then you know the sinking, pit-in-your-stomach feeling of realizing you’ve sat in or leaned against sap. At first, it might not register. There are a lot of sticky elements in the great outdoors and not all of them are as lethal to your favorite quarter-zip fleece as sap often is. Though once you’ve become conscious of the fact that you’ve managed to get sugary tree excrement on your beloved leggings, the heart-wrenching sensation is unmatched.

But what if we told you that you’d never have to experience that pain again? That you’d never have to discard another contaminated puffer jacket? Well, that is, in fact, what we’re here to say. We’ve scoured the internet for every sap-eliminating tip and trick in the book, so you have multiple methods at your disposal the next time your garments come in contact with this dreaded natural adhesive. From expected remedies like stain remover to avant-garde options like peanut butter, here is how to get tree sap out of your clothes.

First Things First

No matter which of the following processes you try, the first step should always be scraping away the still-tacky excess goo using a spoon or dull knife. This will give your chosen treatment the best chance of success. Then, test for colorfastness using your selected technique by applying a drop to a hidden part of the fabric, rinsing, and blot drying. If color change doesn’t occur, proceed as planned. If color change occurs, pick another removal method.


Freezing is the least invasive option, so it’s always worth a shot. If it fits, place the entire item in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Otherwise, rest a bag of ice on the stain for the same amount of time. Once the sap is sufficiently frozen, break it off with your hands and scrape the rest away using your spoon or dull knife. In some cases, this is all you need to do before throwing it in the washing machine.

Stain Remover

An obvious route, laundry stain remover does exactly what it’s designed to do — even when the stain is gooey sap. Pour your go-to liquid directly onto the sap and use a rag or old toothbrush to work it into the fabric. Let it continue to soak for about five minutes and then wash it with your regular detergent in the hottest cycle the garment’s care label allows. This process should yield a stain-free item.

Rubbing Alcohol or Hand Sanitizer

Rubbing alcohol—or hand sanitizer, if you’re on the go—tends to break down sap quite reliably. Use a rag or old toothbrush to work it into the fabric, then let it soak for about 15 minutes. Follow up with your regular detergent and the hottest wash cycle the garment’s care label recommends. If all goes well, your garment will emerge sap-free.

Peanut Butter or Cooking Oil

If you don’t have access to ice, stain remover, or rubbing alcohol, consider peanut butter or cooking oil as your last resort. While these household substances also have the power to disintegrate sap, they may leave oily stains of their own behind in its place, which you’d have to subsequently attempt to remove. An internal monologue about the lesser of two evils is bound to ensue.

A Final Note

Don’t get discouraged! You might need to repeat your treatment two or three times—or combine multiple methods from this list—to fully remove the stain, so be patient and NEVER put the garment in the hot dryer between attempts. The heat could set any residual stain that would otherwise come out with another try, rendering it impossible to remove.

Did we miss any ways to remove tree sap? Tell us your tricks below!

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  • KMicken
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KMicken October 24, 2023
Two years later commenting to agree ... yes, those matte tree balls and other ornaments are lovely. Where did you get them? Thanks.
Camihenry December 7, 2021
Great advice I'll definitely try one of those next time (I have a few articles of clothes that definitely have a sap stain). I have a question but about the picture that goes with the article. Where did you get those gorgeous matte balls and dipped tree ornaments? Were they available on food52?