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How To Get Tree Sap Off Hands and Skin

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"How to get tree sap off hands" comes like a course in the Pacific Northwest. Since we moved here, my family has had our fair share of the sticky stuff, and I have become an expert at removing it.

A simple barefoot walk out into our yard yields feet full of tree sap, sticky fingers, and, yes, the dreaded tree sap in our hair. It can be a huge pain, and it was for me as a mom of two at first. I come from the city. Run-ins with tree sap were relatively rare, even in a tree-laden town like the one where I lived. Now, it is everywhere!

Just the other night, my four-year-old woke up in the middle of the night and called out to me: "Mama!" When I went in to check on her, she asked me, sleepily, if I would remove the tree sap from in between her toes. It was bothering her in her sleep.

Now, you might not have tree sap issues to this extent, but you came here for a reason. I am willing to bet it is to find out how to get tree sap off skin and hair. Well, after two years in tree sap insanity, I am here to help.  

Table of Contents:

  • What Is Tree Sap? 
  • 5 Best Products to Get Sap Off Skin and Hair 
  • When All Else Fails, Combine! 
  • What Not to Use For Removing Tree Sap

What Is Tree Sap?

Perhaps you are most familiar with the pine sap of the Christmas tree variety? Have you ever carried in a Christmas tree, excited to get decorating, only to find your hands covered in pine sap?

I have.

how to remove tree sap from your hands and hair

Pine sap is tough. We love Christmas trees. We love maple trees in the park. God knows we love maple syrup on our pancakes. But for all of that love, we also must deal with sticky tree sap, the super sticky substance that oozes from at least 22 tree varieties in the United States. We supply hundreds of gallons of maple syrup to the market between the US and Canada. Tree sap eventually becomes maple syrup after tapping the tree and boiling the sticky sap, among other steps.

Pancakes?

Yes!

Hands, feet, and hair?

No!

So, how do you get rid of it?  

5 Best Products to Get Sap Off Skin and Hair

Coconut Oil for removing tree sap

Coconut oil is one of my go-to solutions for pretty much everything. Coconut oil has multiple benefits.

Dry skin? Coconut oil.

Chapped lips? Coconut oil.

Dry hair? Coconut oil.

And, yes, tree sap? Coconut oil.

To remove tree sap, apply a bit of coconut oil directly to the place where the sap is, rub it all in, and let it sit. It should bind to the coconut oil and rub off easily. 

Vegetable Oil for removing tree sap

No coconut oil on hand? You can remove tree sap with the same process with whatever vegetable cooking oil you have on hand.

It may not smell as nice, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. When removing the tree sap from your hair, use a dying bottle to spread the oil directly to the glued strands. 

removing tree sap with vegetable cooking oil

Degreasing Products Used in Your Home can remove tree sap

This stuff is a lifesaver, mainly because we all have degreasing products in our homes, at least grease-cutting dish soap.

I never knew the real power of those products until I moved to a sprawling property with lots of projects to manage. Now I always keep some around if one of us gets covered in grease from a machine.

It acts in the same way with a tree sap as well - cutting right through it while not damaging your skin or hair. 

Rubbing alcohol for removing tree sap

Yes, you read that right. Rubbing alcohol or drinks with a large percentage of alcohol like vodka will also help cut through the sticky sap on your skin and/or hair and allow you to rub or wash it off:

  1. Soak a cotton pad in rubbing alcohol
  2. Press the cotton pad against the tree sap and hold it there for two minutes
  3. Rub the cotton pad in a circular motion to remove tree sap
  4. Once the sticky sap is no longer stuck on the skin or hair, wash away the rubbing alcohol, and the tree sap remains using baking soda diluted in warm water.

Mayonnaise for removing tree sap

    Look, I am not a fan of mayonnaise. I have never been. I will put it in my tuna, and that is it. Otherwise, it just feels too greasy and oily for my taste.

    But that is precisely what we want to remove sap - greasy, oily, slick material to bind with the sap and let it slide off. Mayonnaise may be one of the best products to get sap off the skin and especially out of hair due to its ease of use.

    You can just glob it up with your fingers and lather it on. I know, yuck. But also, yay! 

    When All Else Fails, Combine!

    Try a combination of the products above when dealing with particularly nasty tree sap that just will not come off your skin (or out from between your toes).

    I love oils for removing tree sap, particularly from hair, because if it binds correctly, it will allow the sap to slide right out.

    You can try a natural oil-based hair oil you have on hand and then wash it off with a degreasing soap.

    You can apply the degreasing soap and rub it off with baking soda or alcohol.

    The bottom line is not to give up. And trust the process. The sap will eventually come out.

    That is one of my favorite things about our largest organ, our skin: it does not want to hold on to anything foreign either on it or in it.

    Everything, with time and patience, comes out.  

    What Not to Use For Removing Tree Sap

    In the end, you want to use what you have on hand, combine what you can, have patience. And, please keep it simple.

    I have read articles professing the wonders of everything from pine oil to peanut butter. But how many of us have pine oil on hand, and who wants peanut butter in their hair? Not me! Stick to anything alcohol-based or oil-based to get tree sap off hands and hair, and you should be in good shape.

    Do not get crazy removing tree sap off with a knife or running out to the store for new products. By the time you get there and back, the sap will likely already be on its way out.

    Shanna Mendez

    Shanna Mathews Mendez is a freelance writer and blogger on topics related to self-care, naturopathy, female empowerment, and motherhood. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children, where she enjoys traveling, being active outdoors, and studying herbalism and plant-based remedies in her free time. Drawing on her graduate degree in comparative literature and her own life experiences, she is currently writing her first book. She can be found online at her website thewordywitch.com

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