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Learn How To Get Tree Sap Out of Your Hair: Step-by-Step Guide

Feature image for an article on how to get sap out of hair using a detailed step-by-step guide.

Tree sap is an extremely thick, sticky substance that comes from trees and plants, and when it lands on your hair, it can be a gardener or hiker’s worst nightmare. 

Because of its texture, tree sap can easily cling to your hair, coating each shaft in a gooey mess. When this happens, it may seem like the only solution is getting out the scissors and hacking off your hair strands, but we assure you that this doesn’t have to be the case.

With some easy-to-find products, most of which are likely already on your pantry shelves, and a bit of tender, love, and care (i.e., TLC), you will be able to remove all traces of sticky tree sap from your hair and have a healthy, shiny head of hair once again.

How to Get Sap Out of Hair, Including All Types of Sap, Sap Residue, and Tree Sap Stains

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Anyone who has spent time outdoors in the garden or has parked underneath a leafy tree is probably all too familiar with tree sap and just how thick and sticky it can be (especially maple and pine tree sap). 

Tree sap is essentially the blood of a tree and it contains all of the nutrients and minerals that the plant requires to stay healthy and to continue to grow. Sap often contains sugary substances and it is from the sap of maple trees that maple syrup and maple sugar come from.

Usually, when tree sap begins leaking from a tree, the tree has become diseased or there may be an infestation of bugs or parasites that are burrowing into the tree and causing damage. It is at this point in time that the sap will drip out and wreak havoc on your car, your clothing, or your hair. 

How Do You Remove Sap From Hair?

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If you happen to get sap in your hair don’t panic! And don’t reach for the scissors! It may take a little bit of elbow grease and a few items from your kitchen pantry, but the sap will come out!

Sap is easiest to remove when it is still fresh and sticky. If you allow the sap to dry and harden before removing it, it may pose a bit more of a challenge.

Here are a few of the easiest ways to remove sap from your hair.

Creamy Peanut Butter (or Smooth Peanut Butter)

Peanut butter is an inexpensive option that is found in most pantries and can be used to remove a wide variety of sticky stuff from your hair, including sap.

To try this method, carefully separate the affected area of your hair and clip the rest back to keep it from getting sticky as well.

Use the same amount of peanut butter as there is sap and gently massage it into the sap using your fingertips. The oil in the peanut butter will help to break down and soften the sap.

Allow the peanut butter to sit in the hair for ten to fifteen minutes, massaging it frequently and adding more if necessary. 

Next, wash your hair, using your usual shampoo and you should find that all traces of the sap have been successfully removed. 

Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is another inexpensive ingredient that is found in most households and can also work effectively to remove the sap from your hair.

Place a dollop on top of the sap and gently work it in with your fingertips. It should begin working immediately to break down the sticky substance.

Work in more mayonnaise if needed and allow it to sit on the hair for approximately fifteen minutes. Wash your hair with your regular shampoo and condition if you would like.

One great thing about using mayonnaise to remove sap is it has natural conditioners in it, so your hair will be well-nourished and silky smooth afterward.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a great option to use to remove sap from your hair. It is pure oil and therefore doesn’t contain any other ingredients. Its oily texture will help to break apart the substances in the sap, making it easy to remove. 

Using about a tablespoonful (depending on the amount of sap that you are trying to remove), rub it into the hair and gently massage the sap. The oil should work quickly to break down the sap and after a quick wash, the sap should be gone.

Coconut Oil

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Coconut oil is a natural oil that is exceptionally good for both your hair and your skin. It is a solid at room temperature but softens quickly when exposed to body heat.

Using a small amount of oil, gently work it through your fingers until it softens and turns into a liquid. Rub this onto the sap and allow it to sit for ten to fifteen minutes. 

The sap should be easy to remove by this point and should be able to be washed out effectively using your regular shampoo.

Mineral Oil

If you opt for this choice to remove sap from your hair, choose a heavy mineral oil and it should do the trick.

Apply the mineral oil to the affected hair and allow it to sit for approximately ten minutes. It will soak into the sap, making it more pliable and easier to remove. 

Gently pull out as much sap as possible and reapply more mineral oil if needed.

When you are done, wash your hair as usual with your normal shampoo.

Baby Oil

Baby oil is also a good option for attempting to remove sap from your hair as long as you don’t mind the fact that most baby oils are scented. 

Apply a small amount of oil to the sap and allow it to soak in for a few moments. Once it has had the chance to penetrate the sap and to begin breaking it down, gently try to pull out as much of the sap as possible with your fingers, taking extra care not to damage your hair shafts. 

Wash out any remaining sap with your regular shampoo.

Dish Soap

A degreasing dish soap, like Dawn dishwashing liquid, should work well at removing sap from your hair. It contains a special formulation that has been designed to remove tough grease and can work wonders on sticky substances like sap as well. 

Separate the sappy portion of your hair from the rest and wet this section only. Apply the dish soap onto the sap and work into a lather. Allow the soap to sit on the sap for approximately twenty minutes and reapply more soap if necessary.

Using a detangling comb, gently work through the sap, trying to remove as much as possible but being careful not to break the hair as well. Once most of the sap is gone, use your normal shampoo and wash your hair well.

Heat

If the sap has already hardened into your hair, using the heat from a blow dryer may help to soften it up, making it easier to remove. 

Turn the blow dryer to the max heat setting and heat up the sap. Take extra care to keep the blow dryer moving all the time so that you don’t burn or damage your hair

Once the sap turns back to a soft, sticky consistency, use a detangling comb to gently try to brush it out. Remove as much of the sap as possible this way, and then, if necessary, use another method (such as oil or peanut butter) to remove the rest.

Rubbing alcohol

Rubbing alcohol can be very drying and damaging to your hair, but it is a better option to remove sap than cutting your hair. This method may come in handy if the sap has been in your hair for long periods of time and has become extremely hard.

Soak a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and dab it onto the sap, trying to keep as much off of the surrounding hair as possible. 

Continue to apply to the sap until the entire mess is saturated and allow it to sit for approximately half an hour. Reapply more alcohol if necessary. 

The rubbing alcohol should make the sap easy to pick or comb out of the hair. 

When all of the sap has been removed, wash the hair as usual and apply a deep conditioning treatment.

Honey

It may seem counterintuitive to apply a sticky substance, like honey, to remove another sticky substance, like sap, from your hair, but believe it or not, it actually works! 

The minerals in honey can help to break down the sticky compounds in sap, making it much easier to remove from your hair. 

Apply a small amount of honey directly to the sap-affected areas and rub it in with your fingertips. Allow it to sit for twenty to thirty minutes and reapply if necessary. 

Next, gently try to comb or scrape out any of the remaining sap. The honey should allow it to slide right out.

When all of the sap has been removed, wash your hair with warm water as usual.

Another great thing about using honey is it works as an excellent moisturizer, meaning that your hair will be well hydrated and conditioned afterward. 

Wipes

Using either eyeglass cleaner wipes, hand wipes or baby wipes could help you to remove sap if you are in a pinch. This is an especially good technique if you are out hiking in the woods or are off on a weekend camping adventure and don’t have access to some of the other household ingredients we have mentioned. 

Using the wipe, gently dab the sap affected area, wiping in a downward motion towards the end of the hair shaft and away from the root. 

This method may take more work than some of the others but it should be effective, especially if you manage to catch the sap while it’s still sticky.

As soon as you are able, make sure that you wash your hair using your regular shampoo.

Also, be sure that you don’t use any household cleaning or disinfecting wipes. These wipes contain harsh chemicals that could damage your hair or cause severe skin irritations. 

Degreasing or Clarifying Shampoo

Degreasing and clarifying shampoos are specially designed to work well at cleaning greasy or dirty hair. They essentially strip the hair of any impurities and can be extremely harsh if used often but can be very helpful when trying to remove stuck-in substances like sap.

These shampoos can be found at most drugstores and are used the same as a normal shampoo. Be sure to condition afterwards to replenish your hair’s natural moisture.

Note: Some people have reportedly had success using hand sanitizer, nail polish remover, isopropyl alcohol on a paper towel or cotton ball, goo gone, and Murphy’s oil soap. Although we haven’t tested these items, they may work, but they’re not included within the scope of our recommended solutions.

If the sap managed to get on your clothes, we recommend putting your clothes in the washing machine with your favorite laundry detergent. Feel free to use Shout laundry stain remover (or your favorite stain remover for any oily substance).

How Can I Take Care of My Hair After Removing Sap?

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Some of the methods to remove sap from your hair can be harsh and leave your hair feeling dried out. This is easy enough to fix, however, and with a simple, at-home conditioning treatment, you can remove all signs that the sap was ever there and your hair can look thicker, healthier, and more voluminous than ever.

Banana Hair Mask

This hair mask is a great way to replenish your hair after removing sap. Not only does it smell lovely, it contains lots of hydrating ingredients, and the egg will add protein to your damaged locks. 

  • 1 Ripe Banana
  • 3 Tbsp Honey
  • 3 Tbsp Milk
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Vegetable Oil, or Tea Tree Oil
  • 1 Whole Egg

In a bowl, mash the banana until it is smooth. Next add the honey, milk, coconut oil, and egg and mix well until all ingredients are combined. 

Carefully apply this to your entire head, massaging it into the roots and combing through to the ends. 

Cover your hair with an old towel or a plastic bag and allow this mixture to sit and penetrate both the hair and scalp for at least twenty minutes. 

Next, rinse out and shampoo your hair with your regular shampoo and style as usual.

You will notice right away that your hair is healthier, shinier, and full of volume. All traces of any damage from your sap removal process will have completely disappeared. 

Getting sap in your hair can be a very sticky situation but getting it out doesn’t have to be! And you never have to worry about resorting to scissors to cut out the sappy sections of hair.

By using some very common household items that can be found in most fridges, pantries, or medicine cabinets, you can remove any remnants of sap from your hair effectively and inexpensively. Good luck!

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