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How to Get Tree Sap Out of Hair and Clothing

How to Get Tree Sap Out of Hair and Clothing
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If you think having to take tree sap out of your hair will never be a problem, think again. You don’t have to be a tree farmer to fool with sap all day and find it’s getting stuck everywhere.

If you take a jog in the woods and touch a tree at some point, you can get sap on your hands, which can then be transmitted to your hair once you touch that part of your body.

Then there’s kids. Kids who live and play near the woods can come back home at the end of the day filled with dirt and sap all over them, including on their clothes and in their hair, which can be a greasy, clumpy mess by the time they get to you.

In fact, there are numerous ways that people can find themselves sticky with sap.

Of course, if you are the manager of a tree farm that extracts sap to make maple syrup, the chances of getting sap all over you are even higher. Once it gets on your hair and clothing, it can feel like you’re being overpowered by the stuff, but not to worry.

Once you get to your home, you’ll have lots of options for removing the sap so you can be completely clean and free of stickiness once again.

The Basics: What Is Sap?

There are several types of sap, but the vast majority of it consists mostly of water and things such as nutrients, hormones, minerals, and of course, sugar.

Some types of maple trees have very little sugar in their sap and, therefore, the trees are usually used for other purposes. Indeed, the sugar content in the sap can vary greatly from one tree to another.

When sap flows through the wood of the tree, carbon dioxide is produced, which causes pressure to build up within the tree itself. Through openings in the tree, such as wounds and other openings or cracks, the sap will seep out of the tree.

Excessive heat can do the same thing.

The First Step: Choose Your Product

There are numerous products that can help you get the sap out of your hair. Keep in mind that sap is thick and “greasy,” if you will, and, therefore, you’ll need something that basically degreases your hair.

For this, you can choose products such as:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Peanut butter
  • Vegetable oil
  • Baby oil
  • Pine oil (you can buy this at a health-food store)
  • Degreasing soap
  • Dishwashing liquid

It may sound like an odd suggestion to use an oil-based product to remove sap — which is oily — from your hair, but these products allow the sap to slip right out of your hair if used correctly.

For extra-tough messes or sap that is thicker than usual, baby oil is likely your best bet. Otherwise, one of the other products will suffice.

To start with, you can use a degreasing soap, a bit of dishwashing liquid, or even mechanic’s soap, which is made specifically to get rid of grease and tough stains. These things may not get all of the sap out, but it should get a good bit of it, and you can use something else to take out the rest of the sap.

If you have none of these products in your home, try a standard soap, such as Ivory, which is extra-mild, or Dove, which has conditioners that may do a great job of removing oils from the hair.

The fewer dyes and perfumes that are in the soap, the more effective they will be. Mild soap and soaps with conditioning lotion in them usually work best.

What If the Sap Is Extra Stubborn?

Occasionally, sap will be extra thick or super stubborn for one reason or another. When this happens, you’ll likely need more than just an initial washing with soap or other such products.

If you’re having an especially difficult time getting the sap out, one of the following items can be used to force it out of your hair:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Vodka (or another high-proof alcohol)
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Hand sanitizer (when you’re in a bind and there’s nothing else around)

Essentially, anything with alcohol is likely to do a great job of getting out the excess sap, so you can even get creative when you’re looking for alcohol-filled products – rummage through your kitchen cabinets and find something with alcohol in it, and it should work!

If none of these items work, or if you still have some sap in your hair, you can use regular baking soda. Baking soda is gentle, yet extremely effective, at getting something super clean – including hair.

Just sprinkle a bunch of it in your hair and give your scalp a good scrub. Take your time because it won’t happen instantly, but it should be a big help in removing the sap.

Another advantage of baking soda is that it is difficult for it to harm anything or anyone. In fact, you can even scrub your hair and scalp with baking soda when you need to remove excess conditioner in your hair, as well as the buildup of other products.

What If None of This Works?

Of course, if you try all of these things and nothing works, there is a “last resort” option, and it’s called acetone.

If you have nail polish remover, you can place a small amount of it near where the sap is and try to remove it that way. The more acetone that is in the nail polish remover, the more likely you’ll be successful with this task.

All nail polish removers have acetone, but some have only small amounts. There is even nail polish remover that is 100% acetone, and of course, this type will work much better than the others.

There is a word of warning, however, when it comes to using nail polish remover to get sap out of your hair. Nail polish remover is extremely drying, so use it with caution.

You should also keep in mind that not only can it dry out your hair and scalp if you use too much of it, but it can also be extremely painful if you get it in your eyes. Just like shampoo and conditioner, therefore, you should never get nail polish remover anywhere near your eyes.

These are just some of the reasons why using nail polish remover to get the sap out of your hair is considered a “last resort” measure.

How to Use the Products

To get started, you should keep in mind that only a small amount of the product is needed to be effective. Take a washcloth and place about a tablespoon of the product in the middle of it, and start washing your hair.

You can also use your hand instead of a washcloth if you like. Just remember that at first, you don’t need a lot of the product to get the job done.

If you use a liquid product, such as vegetable oil or nail polish remover, you don’t need to add any water to the washcloth – the product will make the washcloth wet enough to proceed. If you use peanut butter, make sure it’s almost pourable, which means you may have to put it in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it up a bit.

Next, make sure you get the product all through your hair, which means every strand should be soaked with it. While you’re doing this, take your fingers and rub it through all of the clumps to get out as much of them as possible.

If you’re using baking soda or pine oil, keep it in your hair for a few minutes before scrubbing it, because these products sometimes take longer than others to work.

At this point, you should take a wide-toothed comb and comb your hair all the way through, making sure the product is evenly distributed all over your head. If you end up hitting a clump, don’t try to pull the comb through it.

Instead, try to dissolve the clump with your hand or the washcloth, because this is usually a better method.

Repeat the Process If You Need to

If you feel like the sap is still in your hair, you have two choices, including:

  • Repeat the process as many times as you need to make it work; it may take two to three times total to get the job done.
  • Repeat the process, except this time, use another product instead of what you used the first time.

So, you can either repeat the process until the sap comes out of your hair, or use another product. If you used vegetable oil the first time and it didn’t work, try peanut butter or mayonnaise the second time.

Eventually, something will work for you and the sap will come out – at least most of it.

Once you feel like at least most of the sap is out of your hair, you can get in the shower and rinse your hair thoroughly. While you’re in the shower, run your fingers through your hair to see if any sap is left over.

You should also go ahead and shampoo and condition your hair so that it is extra clean, and also to remove any small amounts of sap that may remain in your hair.

At this point, your hair should be completely sap-free and as smooth as it was before, so if this happens again in the future, you’ll know exactly what to do!

What About Getting Sap Out of Clothes?

Now that we’ve talked about getting tree sap out of your hair, let’s move onto how to get sap out of your clothes. There’s no telling which one is more challenging – removing sap from hair or clothing – but one thing’s for sure, and that’s the fact that it can, indeed, be done!

Just like removing sap from hair, removing sap from articles of clothing can be done in one of several ways. Below are the details you need to know to accomplish this task.

What Sap Does to Clothing

When sap gets on your clothing, it begins to dry. Once it’s dry, it gets into every fiber of the fabric and a stain results.

However, you can still get a sap stain out as long as you don’t put the clothes in the dryer and set the stain. Before you wash and dry your clothes, you have to make sure you get out as much sap as possible.

One of the products you can use to treat the sap in your clothes is a stain remover and some bleach. To get started, you have to pretreat the stain. Take the stain remover and place some on a towel or cotton ball, then spread an even layer of the stain remover over the entire sap stain.

Use a cotton ball or even your hands to make sure the stain remover is rubbed into the sap thoroughly. Let the stain sit for 20 minutes.

At this point, a lot of the sap will have started to break up and dissolve. If you feel that 20 minutes isn’t enough time, you can always let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes longer.

Once you feel like at least most of the stain is starting to dissolve, you should go ahead and wash the garment. Check the label on the inside of the garment and choose the hottest water setting it can handle without worrying about ruining it – the hotter the better.

In most cases, warm water will be enough to remove the sap stain, but always go by what the label tells you to do.

You can also wash the garment by hand if you want to because remember, once the garment goes through a drying cycle, the stain is going to set and will never come out.

Washing the garment by hand allows you to see with your own eyes the progress of the stain being removed, allowing you to reapply the stain remover if the process doesn’t get the stain out the first time.

You should also use bleach when washing the garment – regular bleach for whites and all-color bleach for colored garments. The bleach provides a little more oomph to the cleaning process and enables the sap to be removed completely.

Rubbing Alcohol Is Another Option

Instead of stain remover and bleach, you can always try regular rubbing alcohol instead. If you have a lump of sap on the garment, put it in the freezer for a little bit.

If the stain is flush with the garment, there’s no need to complete this step. If a lump or wad of sap is present, you should freeze the garment until it hardens.

Next, take a spatula or butter knife and scrape the wad of sap off of the garment. Don’t be too rough with it because you might tear the garment, but put enough pressure on it so that the sap comes off.

More often than not, the sap will be brittle at this point and will simply break off from the rest of the garment.

Put some rubbing alcohol on a towel or cotton ball, then rub the stain with it to remove the sap. You can use your fingers or even an old toothbrush to rub the alcohol deep into the stain. Repeat this process until you notice the stain dissolving and disappearing.

Once again, at this point you should be able to wash the garment in your washing machine to get rid of any specks of sap that might still be there. If the stain is too large, you’ll need to keep reapplying the rubbing alcohol until most or all of the stain is gone.

For both of these methods – the stain remover and the rubbing alcohol – you’ll need to make sure the stain is completely gone once you get it out of the washer. If you notice that even a small bit of the stain is still there, you need to go back and reapply your products and try to clean up the stain once again.

Afterward, you can rewash and then dry the garment, but only once you make sure that the sap stain is completely gone.

Final Thoughts

Removing sap isn’t difficult and in most cases, the products you’ll need are already in your home. The important thing to remember is to make sure the sap has been removed before placing the garment in the washing machine, and if you notice it’s still there afterward, it’s time to reapply the cleaning products.

Again, once your garment goes through the dryer, it will be almost impossible to remove the sap stain, so taking care of the stain beforehand is crucial.