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Sticky? How To Get Tree Sap Off Skin


Tree sap troubles are par for the 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 sap, sticky fingers, and, yes, the dreaded 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 sap from in between her toes. It was bothering her in her sleep. Now, you might not have 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 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! 
  • Keep It Simple: What Not to Use 

What Is Tree Sap? 

Perhaps you are most familiar with the sap of the Christmas tree variety? Have you ever carried in a Christmas tree, excited to get decorating, only to find your hands all sticky? I have. It is tough. We love Christmas trees. We love maple trees in the park. Goodness knows we love maple syrup on our pancakes. But for all of that love, we also have to deal with sap, the super sticky substance that oozes from at least 22 tree varieties in the United States. Between the US and Canada, we supply hundreds of gallons of maple syrup to the market. Sap eventually becomes maple syrup after tapping the tree and boiling the 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 

1. Coconut Oil  

Coconut oil is one of my go-to solutions for pretty much everything. Dry skin? Coconut oil. Chapped lips? Coconut oil. Dry hair? Coconut oil. And, yes, tree sap? Coconut oil. Apply the coconut oil directly to the sap, rub in, and let sit. It should bind to the coconut oil and rub off easily. 

2. Vegetable Oil 

No coconut oil on hand? You can accomplish the same feat with the same process with whatever vegetable oil you have on hand. It may not smell as nice, but hey, beggars cannot be choosers, right?    

3. Degreasing Soap 

This stuff is a lifesaver if you have some on hand. I never did until I moved to a sprawling property with lots of projects to manage. Now I always keep some around in the event one of us gets covered in grease from a machine. It acts in the same way with sap, cutting right through it while not damaging your skin or hair. 

4. Vodka 

Yes, you read that right. High-proof alcohol like vodka will also help cut through the sap on your skin and/or hair and allow you to rub or wash it off. Just do not use your good stuff. You would not want to waste it.  

5. Mayonnaise 

Look, I am not a fan of mayonnaise. I never have 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 exactly 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! 

When you are dealing with particularly nasty tree sap that just will not come off your skin (or out from between your toes) try a combination of the products above. I personally 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 an 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 vodka. 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.  

Keep It Simple: What Not to Use 

In the end, you want to use what you have on hand, combine what you can, and have patience. 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, and you should be in good shape. Do not get crazy trying to scrape off sap 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

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