Having a real Christmas tree is the best way to get your house to smell like that sweet piney scent. But like most good things, there’s a downside to having a real tree — trees have sap, and that stickiness is going to end up pretty much everywhere. Knowing how to remove Christmas tree sap from whatever it’s stuck on — whether it's your car’s interior or exterior, your kids’ clothes, your hands, a living room rug, honestly maybe even your dog — will make you much more holly and jolly. And you thought standing out in the cold to pick your tree was the only real downfall. (Well, that and trying to get it in the stand. And making sure there aren't any holes. And that the branches are nice and full. And watering it.)
Luckily, if you catch a sap stain early enough, with a little creativity and elbow grease, even the stickiest of marks can be cleaned off most surfaces. Before you vow to get a fake Christmas tree next year, read on for clever ways to remove tree sap from almost anywhere (including your kids' hands, which is an important skill to have if you don’t want every inch of your home covered in the sweet stuff).
1. Car Exterior
How come in all of the quintessential Christmas movies they never show the cheerful family pulling the tree off the car's roof only to find it covered in thick sap? If you're transporting your own tree, chances are there will be stickiness leftover on the car, which can damage the paint if it sits for too long.
Oily products help to dissolve sap, so you can try putting Avon's Skin So Soft, WD-40, or even bacon grease directly on the stain and letting it sit for at least five minutes before gently rubbing it off with a clean cloth. You can also try washing your car, then drying it, which gives you a clean base before you tackle the mark. Then put a small amount of Turtle Wax's Bug & Tar Remover on a clean washcloth, per Cars, and let the cloth sit on top of the area for a few minutes, then rub until it's all off. The steps may have to be repeated a few times depending on how large the sap stain is, and once it's clean, be sure to follow with a quick wax product so there aren't any dull spots on your car.
2. Car Interior
It's hard to get a large Christmas tree into your car, but smaller trees, wreaths, or garlands may also end up leaving sap on your seats.
The best way to clean a car's interior will vary depending on if you have leather or fabric upholstery. For leather seats, something oil-based like WD-40 or even peanut butter are recommended, per How To Clean Stuff, to dissolve the sap. These can be followed with gentle soap and water, then a light leather conditioner so the spot doesn't look dry.
Fabric seats seem a bit trickier, but it's still possible to clean off a sap mark, and the answer may be as simple as hand sanitizer. "Rubbing alcohol (or hand sanitizer) is the ticket to safely removing sap from carpeted floor mats, fabric upholstery or seat covers," cleaning expert Jolie Kerr told Town & Country.
3. Clothes & Fabric
You may want to think twice before throwing sappy clothes in with the rest of the laundry. It's a good idea to treat the stain first by brushing an enzyme-based stain remover like OxiClean or a strong laundry detergent directly onto the mark and leaving it on for at least 15 minutes, per The Spruce. Then wash as normal, but check the stain before drying, because if it's still there, the heat of the dryer can cause the sap to fuse with the fabric, which is exactly what you don't want.
If you don't have immediate access to a washing machine, you can blot hand sanitizer onto the garment using a paper towel (as long as the clothes are colorfast, meaning the color won't bleed, which you can check by moistening a small section of an inside seam). The alcohol will help dissolve the sap.
Tree decorating can quickly go from a merry family activity to a full-blown, sappy mess, but if you or your kids end up with sap on your hands or skin, it's really nothing to worry about (unless in the off chance that they have an allergy).
The stain should come off easily with things you probably already have in your kitchen. Rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer (not the alcohol-free kind) will dissolve the sap, or you could try washing hands with your cooking oil, Kerr told Town & Country. If it's really stuck on there, you may need to exfoliate the sap using salt or sugar.
Even if you bought the best tree holder and have the most festive tree skirt around, sap can still somehow end up stuck in the rug. While this is not best case scenario, it's also not a total crisis.
It may seem counterintuitive, but you'll want to harden the sap stain first by icing it, per The Spruce. To prevent your rug from getting wet, you could put a piece of wax paper between an ice pack and the carpet, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Once it's hardened, use a butter knife or the edge of a spoon to scrape and lift as much of the stain as possible. Then using liquid dishwashing detergent, or a rubbing alcohol-soaked cotton ball, work the solution into the carpet with an old toothbrush and blot it dry. After allowing the stain to totally dry overnight, you can vacuum over it as the last step, which will help lift any remaining sap.
6. Hair & Fur
It's never fun to look over at your child or your pet and realize that there's something matted and congealed in their hair, but you don't have to bust out the scissors if it's just sap.
For hair and fur, you actually want the sap to be soft, so if the spot has dried, use a hair dryer to gently warm and soften it up. Then use an oily substance like olive oil, smooth peanut butter, or mineral oil to loosen the sap, per the Ontario SPCA (the organization also warned that if you're cleaning your dog or cat, take extra caution to use pet-safe products, as they'll probably lick the area).
When the spot is saturated in oil, you can begin to comb it out using a wide toothed comb, adding more oil or blotting away excess product as needed. Follow with a normal shampoo and conditioner and you should be sap (but maybe not tear) free.