How Do You Get Tree Sap off a Tarp?

A person sitting by the water, underneath blue tarp.

One of the issues campers all around the globe like to endlessly talk about is the uninspiring story of tree sap sticking onto your tarp. If you’re used to spending most of your weekends in nature, then you know what’s up. Also, you probably wonder is there anything you can do about it. It’s time to settle the score once and for all, and find out is there a way to easily remove the tree-sap off the tarp.

People gave you all sorts of advice, but you’re still not sure what’s there to be done. You might ask yourself: Jeesh, am I really going to pour some mayonnaise over the tree sap stain? Without proper context, you’d think we’re crazy for mentioning mayonnaise here. Stick around to see if there’s some sense to it.

The easiest way you can handle the issue is by rubbing alcohol on the spot or using Goo Gone remover. Hand sanitizers also work miracles. If you’re dealing with maple sap, it’s best you use the traditional water&soap combo. Also, it’s best you avoid pouring mayonnaise or applying Goo Off to the spot, as the latter contains acetone.

Tree sap stains can look awful on your traditionally blue tarp. If you’re wondering why that color is most popular with tarp-makers, check out the answer.

Table of Contents

Basic information concerning tree sap

Ah, tree sap… It’s so good to see you, old buddy! Said no one ever.

Before we delve deeper into the subject matter, let’s do a quick elementary school check-up.

Lesson #1: Where does tree sap come from?

Some people refer to sap as the blood of the trees. It kinda sounds like a heavy metal musical epic. Anyway, let’s stick to the story. Sap flows through the outer part of the tree known as sapwood, spreading the necessary substances (water, sugar, and nutrients) throughout the tree. The inner part called heartwood is surrounded by a dense layer of alburnum (sapwood’s alternative name that also sounds metal).

Lesson #2: Can we put it to good use?

This question comes as no surprise considering our practical humanly nature. Anyway, do words like maple and syrup mean anything to you when they’re combined? If so, you might wanna know that tree sap is the key ingredient of your favorite pancake siding. Of course, that’s not all.

There are many ways we can put tree sap to good use. For example, we can make glue out of tree blood. Or candles, even.

You can also brew beer with it. Now that’s a piece of info worth writing down.

Lesson #3: Why does sap leak from the trees?

This is where the story gets a bit depressing. Often, the appearance of tree sap outside of a particular tree is because something’s wrong with it. Hopefully, this will soften the feelings of campers very much annoyed by the encounter with tree sap. The tree is bleeding, you guys.

So, what’s wrong with the tree then?

Let’s give an example of what can kind of issue can the tree be dealing with when producing excessive amounts of sap. Bark beetle lays its little eggs underneath the surface of the tree bark. When the larvae hatch, they create a decent number of tunnels. The tree defends itself by producing sap into the holes which the bark beetles left, just to try to stop the pest from reproducing once again.

Besides the bark beetle issue, tree sap on the outside of a tree could very likely be a sign of an infection. Also, there are many sap-sucking insects that produce substances (known as honeydew) that make the tree produce more sap. People are likely to put an equation mark between tree sap and honeydew since they very much look alike.

Additionally, one of the reasons behind trees producing sap is the so-called self-pruning. It happens when the tree is dealing with parts of itself that cannot sufficiently photosynthesize.

Why does tree sap annoy campers so much?

We can assume most folks know the best camping spots are usually beneath a canopy of trees. Of course, that kind of “luxury” comes with a price. Eventually, you’ll have to clean tree sap from the surface of your camping gear. Not to mention all the bird waste, but that’s not our topic for today.

It’s should come as no surprise that sap is pretty hard to clean. If you’ve ever parked your car beneath a sick tree, you know what’s up. It’s very sticky. Centuries ago, people used it as a form of primordial adhesive.

All in all: it’s the removal of tree sap from parts of their camping equipment (including vehicles) that annoys campers so much. In the text below, we’ll show how do you get tree sap off a tarp with some extra tips on the side.

A detailed, close-up photo of a tree sap drop.

How do you get tree sap off a tarp?

As we’ve already said, removing tree sap from parts of your camping gear can be a tough task to handle. Okay, maybe tough is not the correct word to describe it. How about boring, everlasting, or tedious? Now, that’s more like it.

Luckily, you’ve got nothing to worry about. There are ways you can get tree sap off a tarp and other parts of your camping equipment.

A quick tip before we start

Whatever your substance of choice for removing tree sap from your camping gear, it might be best to try it out on a small piece of tarp, for example. Just so you know how the material will react to the sap-removal substance.

Some campers recommend trying to wash it with water first. Although, it’s probably not going to work. You’ll have to choose something from the suggestions below.

The easiest solution – rub it with alcohol

As the title suggests, this solution is probably the easiest, since you’ll use regular household items. We’ve excluded water from the completion, due to it being an obvious winner (at first sight, of course). Anyway, some alcohol and a piece of cloth will take care of the problem in no time.

Alcohol is known to do wonders if a more liquidy sap is the issue. If you can – use diluted alcohol and don’t forget to clean the area with soap and water after you’re done.

Hand sanitizer solution

Okay, this is the second easiest solution. As the covid19 pandemic is nowhere near over, people are used to sporting hand sanitizers with them. Whether you’re going to work or the campgrounds, hand sanitizers are a must-have addition to the content of your bag/luggage/cargo.

If you were to check out message boards that talk about the issue this article is dealing with, you’d see a number of comments mentioning hand sanitizer as the best solution for it.

Dealing with maple sap? Try the soap&water combo

If your answer to the first part of the title is a YES, then you might want to try the good old soap&water combination first. The thing about maple sap is that it’s not oily like pine or fir sap, for example. That being said, soap&water solution seems pretty convenient.

Goo Gone remover?

Camping experts suggest it’s best you use the famous Goo Gone remover since it has proved itself as the best option for tree sap removal. If you’re wondering if it will damage your tent – don’t worry because it won’t. It’s a widely used citrus-based product for cleaning greasy, gooey substances, that still hasn’t let its users down.

Goo Gone remover is fantastic when it comes to removing pine sap.

The moment you’ve been waiting for – the mayo fix!

Now, you might want to think a little before using this solution. Although it’s widely recognized as a good sap remover, mayonnaise might cause more damage than tree sap. It will remove the sap, but probably also do some good damage to your waterproofing. It can also leave hard-to-clean stains, etc. Also, if you’re wondering how to intentionally remove waterproofing, read the article you’ll find on this page.

Ice, ice, baby

While this is basically a water solution, it’s the coldness of ice that makes it a category of its own here. If for some reason none of the above solutions seem to work, you can try rubbing the tree sap with an ice cube. Of course, it doesn’t have to be your backup plan or something. You can try it out first if that’s your wish.

Avoid using Goo-Off

Even though some would suggest you use this product, it’s best you completely avoid it. Why? Well, it contains acetone, so it’ll probably damage your tarp.

Will the solutions above affect waterproofing?

There’s a chance they will. In order to prevent that you can obtain a water-sealing spray. Use it on the spot where you’ve cleaned the tree sap.

You can also thoroughly wash the tarp after the tree sap removal, and waterproof it completely once again.

There are folks that recommend you leave the tree sap (after you sprinkle it with baby powder to be less sticky) and enjoy an additional layer of waterproofing.

A quick walkthrough

Alright, now that we’ve listed the solutions above, it might be best to do a quick walkthrough, just for the sake of clarity. Here’s what you can do to remove tree sap:

  • try to clean it with water – it probably won’t work, but give it a try.
  • rub it off with alcohol – use a piece of cloth and watch as the resin is coming off.
  • use hand sanitizers to clean the sap – they’re very effective.
  • try the water&soap combo – if you’re dealing with maple sap, this will do the trick.
  • apply Goo Gone – a fantastic product made for sticky issues like the one in question.
  • use mayonnaise – but it’s better you avoid it.
  • rub an ice cube on the spot – if nothing else works, try this.
  • avoid using Goo Off – it contains acetone.

And that’s about it, folks. These were some of the tips you can use to remove tree sap off a tarp. Hopefully, you won’t have to worry about tree sap stains ever again! You can find a solution to another tarp issue by clicking right here.


You might also like…

Can You Take a Campervan to Isle of Scilly?

Can You Take a Campervan to Isle of Scilly?

The incredible outdoors. Being in total agreement with nature. Astonishing 360-degree panoramas! Camping on Scilly restores the mind, body, and soul and there is hardly a place more suitable than here. Yet, can you take a campervan to the Isle of Scilly? Stay tuned...

Can I Sleep on the Beach in Greece?

Can I Sleep on the Beach in Greece?

Are you a comfortable camper, traveling with your tent and sleeping bag, or prefer to have someone pitch your tent or dome for you? Greece presents a startling number of cheap places to camp next to many superb beach fronts or in a peaceful, shady forest. Make sure...

Can You Sleep in the Eurotunnel Car Park?

Can You Sleep in the Eurotunnel Car Park?

Since its start in 1994, the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle has been confirmed to be the most efficient operator in pushing people across the track. Now, the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle sees thousands of travelers crossing beneath the English Channel to reach Calais, and other...

Can You Wild Camp in Oslo?

Can You Wild Camp in Oslo?

Camping in some of the globe’s most scenic topography is one of the best things about a trip to Norway. There is the reward too: it maintains costs down in what is otherwise a pricey land to travel around. Can you wild camp in Oslo? Stay tuned to find out more! It’s...

Are Big Agnes Tents Worth the Money?

Are Big Agnes Tents Worth the Money?

As outdoor enthusiasts, most of us know about Big Agnes tents. Yet, maybe you just can’t decide the best choices from their massive collection. Or, you just want to know - are Big Agnes tents worth the money? Let's dive into more details below! It is kind of a waste...

Are Eddie Bauer Tents Any Good?

Are Eddie Bauer Tents Any Good?

So, you're thinking about purchasing a new tent? Wondering if Eddie Bauer tents are any good? If your answer's a YES to both of these questions, we're quite sure you'll appreciate what we've got in store for today. Heard about Eddie Bauer yet? And nope, it's not that...