How to Remove Pine Tar From Clothing

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Sap dripping down pine tree bark.
Sap dripping down pine tree bark. (Image: Photo courtesy of Jina Lee: wikimedia.org)

Pine tar, also called pine sap, is a sticky, viscous substance that drips from the trunks and branches of pine trees. Like candle wax, pine tar soaks into the fibers of most fabrics and can be very difficult to remove. Putting an item stained with pine tar into the wash will only set the stain further, and possibly spread it to other articles of clothing--unless you treat the stain before washing.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Washing detergent

Soak a lint-free cloth with rubbing alcohol and work it into the pine tar stain. The alcohol should soak through to the other side of the stained fabric. Use a lint-free cloth or the fibers of the cloth will stick to the sap and make it harder to remove. The stain should begin to soften and break down.

Wash the clothing with detergent and warm water, even if some of the stain remains after applying the rubbing alcohol. Don't put any other clothes in the washer with the stained item.

Check the stain after one wash cycle. If it is still there, repeat Steps 1 and 2 until it is gone.

Tips & Warnings

  • On delicate fabrics like silk, test a hidden part of the fabric with the rubbing alcohol before applying it to the stain. Rubbing alcohol may stain the fabric or ruin the dye. Wash delicate fabrics by hand in lukewarm water instead of putting them into the washing machine.

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