Don't Let Pollen, Sap Sabotage Car Luster

Few things mess with a vehicle’s appearance like tree sap and pollen. Together, they make a nasty concoction that bonds to a paint job and doesn’t go without some elbow grease...and the right tools.

“Tree sap has a different mixture of natural resins than tar,” said Mike Schultz, Turtle Wax’s senior vice president of research and product development. “A quality cleaning product usually contains four or five different solvents for removing a wide range of environmental contaminants.”

Schultz suggested using a product specifically designed for cleaning automobiles. Some products may be specifically designed for tar removal. Others combine the kinds of solvents needed for tar, bird droppings, bug goo, pollen and tree sap.

“Always be gentle when removing sap and other contaminants,” Schultz said. “Otherwise you actually damage the surface,” he said.

Sap gets under the paint and can cause raised bumps on the surface. The pimple-like imperfections are particularly noticeable on white cars or black vehicles with high-gloss finishes.

New vehicles and recently painted cars are more susceptible to sap damage. Yet, sap can destroy the paint on any vehicle if left on the surface long enough.

Schultz had the following suggestions for vehicle owners who encounter problems with tree sap:

  • Remove sap quickly. Left on your vehicle for days or weeks, sap can cause permanent stains to painted surfaces.
  • Rinse off your vehicle with a quality car wash product before using a sap-removal product. If your vehicle has a good coat of wax, a basic washing can remove much of the contamination.
  • Consider using a sap removal product for globs of sap and heavy concentrations. Look for a product specifically designed for vehicle exteriors.
  • Let the sap removal solvent sit for a minute or two before wiping. This allows the solution to soften the sap and loosen it from the surface of the vehicle.
  • Avoid harsh household cleaners. They can damage, or strip the clear coat and cause rubber to age.
  • Use microfiber towels. The soft fibers help prevent scratching caused by materials such as paper towels and household sponges.
  • Carry a spray detailer when traveling. These types of products remove contaminants without requiring you to wash the vehicle.
  • Wax your vehicle regularly to provide a layer of protection between the surface and environment.
  • Re-apply the wax to areas you have cleaned with a sap removal product.