How to Get Sap Out Of Hair – Practical Guide

how to get sap out of hair

While spending time outdoors, in a forest or park, you or someone you know may have had a bad encounter with tree sap. It can leave you in a sticky situation if it gets on your equipment, clothing, and especially your hair. If you get tree sap in your hair it might turn into a tangled mess, but have no fear because we’re here to help you get out of this sticky and often annoying situation. This article will give you useful tips and tricks on how to get sap out of hair, and also offer some fun facts about tree sap.  

First things first, don’t panic if you get tree sap in your hair. Your first thought might be to chop off your hair or shave it all (which can cause panic and leave you in tears). Instead, remind yourself to remain calm because it’s not the end of the world… you and your beautiful hair can be saved. Tree sap can be removed by using the right products and by following an effective procedure to get it out safely.

Products to use

oil and soap
Oil and soap | silviarita

To remove tree sap from hair, there are a wide variety of products that can be used. The product(s) you choose will vary depending on the amount of tree sap that ends up in your hair and from what kind of tree it’s from. For instance, tree sap from pine trees tend to be thicker than sap from broad-leaf trees, and may be more difficult to deal with. Below are the different types of products commonly used to remove tree sap from hair:

Oil-based products

If you get sap in your hair, you can run to the kitchen or camping/picnic food supplies and find oil-based food products. Items such as vegetable oil, mayonnaise and peanut butter are often the most accessible and can be used to remove tree sap from your hair. For thicker saps that are harder to get out, you can use baby oil.


Pure bar soaps and dishwashing detergent can cut through the sap and help remove it from your hair. Oil-heavy bar soaps (e.g. made with olive oil) and conditioners can also help.

Alcohol-based products

When the tree sap is stubborn and hard to get out, you can use alcohol-based products to deal with the mess. If you’re camping or having a picnic at the park, you may have brought hand sanitizer and/or alcohol-based wipes, which can be used to remove tree sap. Rubbing alcohol or high-proof alcohols, such as vodka, are also good options if they are available.


If all else fails, there are a few more products that you can try. Baking soda is a useful product that can be found in your pantry or easily bought at the store. It’s gentle on hair and can help slowly dissolve tree sap when you scrub your hair with it. Your last resort would be to try acetone-based nail polish remover.  However, you need to use extreme caution when putting acetone in your hair. Acetone can be harmful if it gets in your eyes and it may dry out your hair.

How to get sap out of hair

hair without sap
Hair without sap | Clay Banks

1. Put product on your hands or wash cloth

Measure out a quarter-sized dollop of the product onto your hands or a wash cloth, either by pouring or with a spoon. If you’re using peanut butter, it should be heated up in the microwave or with a hair dryer until it thins out and becomes almost pourable. You can put oil-based products directly on your hand, but for other products, it’s recommended to use a wash cloth.

For dishwashing detergents and bar soaps, make sure to wet the wash cloth before putting on the soap. Rub the soap into the cloth until you see soap suds. If you’re using alcohol-based products or acetone, you do not need to wet the cloth. Apply the alcohol and acetone directly on the cloth. Baking soda can either be sprinkled on a damp cloth or directly in your hair.

2. Rub the product into your sap-covered hair

Gently rub in the product you’ve chosen to use with your hands or wash cloth. For maximum effectiveness, some products such as baking soda should be left to sit in your hair after you rub it in. Letting the product sit for a few minutes is especially useful if you got pine tree sap (which is often a thicker sap) stuck in your hair. After massaging the product into your sap-covered hair, break up the clumps with your fingers.

3. Comb out the clumps

Once you’ve broken up the clumps with your fingers, use a comb to evenly distribute the product in your hair.  Gently combing your hair with a straight-tooth comb can also help remove the clumps of sap. However, if you encounter big clumps, don’t force your comb through. Try to soften up the clumps by adding more product and breaking up the clumps into smaller pieces with your fingers.

girl combing its hairs
Girl combing its hairs | Armin Lotfi

4. Repeat until the sap is removed

You may need to repeat the process two to three times to fully remove the sap from your hair. If it’s not all gone the first time around, add more product and rub it in using your hands or a wash cloth. You can also try using other products if you found that your first choice did not work effectively. Caution: If you used alcohol or acetone, do not use baking soda and vice versa.

5. Thoroughly rinse out the product from your hair

Once you’re able to comb through your hair without feeling large clumps, you can now rinse your hair. You will need to run lots of water through your hair to get the product out, so we recommend hopping in the bathtub or shower. As you rinse, comb your fingers through your hair to feel for any sap that was left behind.

Caution: If you used acetone-based nail polish remover, rinse out your hair carefully to ensure no acetone gets in your eyes.

shower rinsing
Shower rinsing | tookapic

6. Wash and condition your hair

When all of the sap is out of your hair, you can wash and condition as you normally would to remove any leftover product from your hair. Using conditioner is recommended because some products (e.g. acetone and alcohol) can dry out your hair.

Once you’ve followed these steps, you hair should be clear of tree sap. But keep in mind that we all have different hair types and lengths of hair, so you may need to alter the steps to match your needs. The products and process will also vary depending on how much tree sap you get in your hair. It’s good to experiment to figure out what works best for you.

Useful videos

For those who like to see how it’s done, we have also included some video tutorials. As you’ll see, there are slightly different methods of getting tree sap out of hair than the one we outlined above.

How to Remove Christmas Tree Sap

This Howcast video focused on how to get remove pine tree sap. To get it out of your hair they suggest using mayonnaise, pure soap or shortening. After applying it to your hair, let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse. Apart from giving tips on how to get it out of hair, they also give suggestions on how to remove sap from your hands, clothing, carpet and car.

How To Get Tree Sap Out Of Your Dog’s Fur

When you take a trip to enjoy the outdoors, you may have brought your dog along for the adventure. But since they have fur, they are also susceptible to getting tree sap stuck to them. This Jen Goes Camping video shows a quick and easy way to remove tree sap from your dog’s fur. She suggests using olive oil because it effectively removes the sap and it’s safe for the dog to lick off.

Fun facts about tree sap

It may seem like a sticky nightmare when you get it in your hair, but there is more to sap than meets the eye. Now that you know how to get tree sap out of hair, here is some information on the importance of sap for trees.

Sap plays an important role in keeping trees alive

Tree sap is known as ‘the lifeblood of a tree’. Sap is like the equivalent of blood for humans. It is how trees distribute essential mineral nutrients and sugars to all of its living parts. There is a continuous flow of sap from the roots upward and from the leaves downward. The water and sugar/food created by the tree’s leaves via photosynthesis flow down to the rest of the tree as sap. Trees also are able to pull mineral nutrients from the soil and water through their roots to send to the rest of its parts.

tree sap
Tree sap | TechPhotoGal

Tree sap and tree resin are not the same thing

The terms ‘sap’ and ‘resin’ are often confused and used interchangeably. Both bread-leaf and evergreen trees produce sap but resin is only found in the Pinaceae family of trees, which include pines, cedars and Douglas fir trees. Sap is clear and watery, resin is thicker with a slightly amber brown color.

Unlike sap, resin does not accumulate and transport nutrients throughout the tree. Resin is a stickier and thicker substance that’s secreted by the tree and oozes out of the bark through resin ducts. Its purpose is to protect the tree after it has been injured or attacked by pathogens or insects. Resins build up in the tree as it ages. When the sapwood layer no longer transports sap, it becomes heartwood. In the heartwood is where resin tends to accumulate.

Certain types of pine tree resin are harvested to make turpentine. Resin from pine trees have unique properties to make this flammable substance that’s used to coat objects. Turpentine is commonly found in paints and varnishes. Today, most turpentine is made synthetically, but pine resin has played an important role in its discovery.

Pine tree sap is thicker than broad-leaf tree sap

Sap in both evergreen trees and broad-leaf trees are largely composed of water, but what makes them thick and sticky is the rich minerals and carbohydrates that are carried through the tree in the form of sugar compounds. However, pine sap tends to be thicker than sap found in broad-leaf trees. Since pine trees are mostly found at higher elevations they’ve adapted to have a slightly lower water content to ensure the sap doesn’t freeze.

Tree sap can be harvested

Sap can be taken from trees and consumed by humans. One of the most well-known saps that is harvested for us to eat comes from Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) trees. The sap can be removed by a process called tapping.

harvest sugar maple sap
Harvest sugar maple sap | thankful4hope

The next time you’re out enjoying nature, we hope that you see tree sap in a new light. It may have left you and your hair in a messy situation, but tree sap is more than just a sticky substance. It plays a key role in a tree’s survival, and we wouldn’t have beautiful parks and forests without it. We also wouldn’t have delicious syrup to put on our pancakes!

Final thought

clean hair on sunset
Clean hair on sunset | Free-Photos

Getting tree sap out of hair can seem like an overwhelming task, but we hope that this article has given you the information you need to confidently remove it yourself. Remember, that if/when you get tree sap in your hair, the most important thing is not to panic. You don’t need to go chopping your hair off because sap can easily be removed. All you need are the right products and methods to successfully take it out. Most of the products we mentioned in the article are items commonly found in households or among your camping and picnic supplies. They can also be easily bought from the store and fairly inexpensive.

As long as you follow our step-by-step instructions on how to get sap out of hair, you’ll be able to remove even the most stubborn tree sap clumps. You may also become a lifesaver at your next camping trip or picnic if one of your friends, family members or dogs get tree sap stuck in their hair.

Featured image src: How to get sap out of hair | 7901455

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