How to Safely Remove Tree Sap from Cars

Removing tree sap from a car’s windows and/or paint is a common problem that detailers can face, particularly for our friends in the Midwest or Northeast where sap-producing trees are in abundance.

Every detailer should know how to properly remove tree sap since this process can easily scratch or damage the paint if done incorrectly.

Which Trees Produce the Most Sap?

Not that you have any control over what types of trees your customers park under, but detailers should know that the following types of trees produce sap:

  • Maple trees are the largest group of sappy trees
  • Walnut trees include butternut, black walnut, heartnut, and the English walnut
  • Birch trees include paper birch, yellow birch, black birch, river birch, and gray birch

Risks of Tree Sap

Tree sap that lands on a vehicle will not immediately damage the paint, but if not removed in time, will eventually eat through the clear coat and into the base coat. This can cause decoloration and stain the paint.

Ideally, any tree sap that lands on a car should be removed before it fully dries using warm water & a microfiber towel. This includes any tree sap that lands on windows. To put it simply, tree sap is harmful and should be removed as soon as possible.

How to Remove Tree Sap from Cars

The first step is to wash & dry the vehicle to remove any loose debris or sap.

Then, use Detail King’s Ex-Con Concrete, Rust, and Tree Sap Remover – a specially formulated mix of mild, inorganic non-fuming acid cleaning agents. Ex-Con is safe to use on paint and windows but should be used with caution not to let it dry on the paint. This should also not be done in direct sunlight.

To use Ex-Con, first, apply it to a towel and wipe the affected area down. Depending on the stubbornness of the substance, you may have to do this several times for complete removal.

For tree sap that has been on the vehicle for a long time, we recommend placing the towel containing Ex-Con directly on the raised surface of tree sap or hardened concrete for 15 -30 seconds and then carefully begin to wipe it down. The extra time “soaking” in the solution makes it easier to break the substance down and remove it without harming the paint.

Other suggestions include:

  • Don’t use Ex-Con in direct sunlight.
  • Don’t allow Ex-Con to dry on the paint.
  • Don’t use Ex-Con on aluminum surfaces because irreversible damage may occur

Ex-Con has proven to be an excellent product to remove algae and film that can accumulate on fiberglass boat bodies. Check out our guide to boat detailing.

Once all of the tree sap is removed, apply a wax, sealant, or ceramic coating to protect the paint. To go the extra mile, Detail King recommends upselling the customer to a paint sealant or ceramic coating, over just a traditional wax if the customer frequently parks their vehicle under trees that will drop sap on the vehicle.

Most auto detailers don’t keep any product on hand that can remove tree sap. As a result, they have to pass up the opportunity to work on these types of jobs and miss out on opportunities to make more money! Having a product like this on hand can equate to more business and additional revenue!