Basically as the title states. I placed my tent under a tree at the weekend to give a bit of respite against the torrential rain while setting it up. Said rain has mixed with sap laden leaves (which I was unaware the tree had) and covered it in a sticky layer.

I don't know if it will effect the waterproofing, but even if it doesn't the stickiness is something I would like to remove. For reference it is a big four man tent, 3m x 6m. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • Hi Dynadin, and welcome to TGO. I have some difficulties imagining what you mean by "sap" or "sap laden leaves" (might me missing english skill on my side...). Could you try to explain that? What kind of tree was it? Do you have a picture of the remains on your tent? Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 18:58
  • @PaulPaulsen sap is what you get when you cut a tree or plant and it oozes, it's the sticky sugar water trees have. It's sort of like a plants version of blood.
    – Aravona
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 20:49
  • @PaulPaulsen the tree was a Field Maple which is quite common to Wales, where I was camping. Sap is as Aravona stated.
    – Dynadin
    Commented Aug 17, 2014 at 20:55
  • 2
    @Aravona thanks. I was just puzzled because normally this doesn´t drop from a tree without a wound or something like this. The honeydew part of Pauls answer explains this :) Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 10:30

5 Answers 5


From experience with small sections I have used hand sanitizer and it works.

My parents used to use baking soda for our pop up camper. It was a thicker material then a tent, but it cleaned and absorbed a lot of sticky substances.


It is most likely not sap but the excretion from Aphids (Greenfly). They suck the sap from the tree and then excrete this sticky substance, often called Honeydew.

It may be worth contacting the tent manufacturers for advice, but I would suggest careful washing first with just water and if that isn't enough, try with some soap flakes (like Dreft).

  • Honeydew has been very bad this year on my car where I live (northern sububs of DC). Water, mild soap and elbow grease take care of it, plus shifting the parking place.
    – ab2
    Commented Aug 11, 2018 at 22:31

If it's honeydew, then soap & water should do the trick. Do not use harsh soap.

An alternative method is to use a gritty, oily mixture to rub it out. I'm thinking maybe baking soda & vegetable oil. The grit helps break up the sticky substance, and the oil keeps it from re-sticking. Similar to using peanut butter to get gum out of your hair. Then use a soap & water solution to wash the oil out.

Good luck, and let us know what ended up working.


I've never tried this with a nice tent that had a waterproofing layer, but I have had to remove pine sap from several items before (backpacks, clothing, car upholstery). You need some sort of a solvent to really take it off without a lot of abrasion. I have used the product Goo-Gone or nail polish remover in a rag, then just rubbed it off, then followed up with soap and water. If it's a tent, you might want to wash and dry it again as soon as possible to try to get all the solvent off, then reapply some waterproofing solution to be sure.

Alcohol would probably be the gentlest solvent, if it worked, so you might want to try that first after soap and water. I've never tried hand sanitizer, but I have tried rubbing alcohol, and it doesn't seem to work that well for pine sap.

  • Acetone really is excellent for getting off conifer sap - it's the primary solvent in most nail polish removers. Fluoropolymer DWR coatings are relatively acetone resistant. It would be my next choice if soap/water/gentle washing didn't break the sap loose.
    – oasisbob
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 16:51

If it is maple sap, I'd try plain ol' soap and water, since it is not oily like pine or fir. Oil and solvent based cleaners often fail on aqueous crud. I haven't had to deal with maple sap, but I've had to deal with tools contaminated with mouse excrement, which stubbornly refused to come off with toluene and acetone. Dish washing soap (and water) did the job.

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