OUTDOORS

How to Get Sap Out of Clothes: A Quick Guide to Common Outdoor Stains

sap out of clothes featured
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

Working in or just experiencing and thoroughly enjoying the great outdoors pretty much necessitates that you get a bit dirty. It’s part of the experience. You can’t expect to keep your pricey outdoor apparel to stay pristine. Otherwise, you might as well have just worn them indoors.

If you’re the outdoorsy type (and have to deal with the laundry afterward) you’ve at one point or another probably thought about how to get sap out of clothes as well as how to deal with other common laundry concerns caused by outdoor activity.

Some of the most persistent stains can make their way onto your clothes while you’re enjoying outdoor activities. But don’t get too stressed out about the stains. They can be dealt with. Though it can take a bit more effort than what you regularly put in for the laundry.

Sap Stains

Probably among the most annoying and difficult to manage among common outdoor stains is sap.

sap on crinkle shirt.JPG

It’s a pretty common concern not only for hikers but even for gardeners working in domestic locations as well.

What is Sap?

Sap is a viscous fluid that is transported via a plant’s xylem cells. Xylem Cells serve as vessels for liquids, nutrients, and minerals necessary for plant life. Sap is a combination of these substances and is necessary for plant survival. So don’t be surprised if you see your garden tree is leaking sap. Sap flows through wood.

As it flows through the plant, the movement creates a build up of carbon dioxide. As the amount of carbon dioxide increases, the air pressure within the plant increases as well. The increased pressure pushes the sap outward. This is why when there are wounds on a tree’s trunk, it isn’t unlikely for you to see sap slowly oozing out.

Aside from breaks in a tree’s trunk, high temperatures can also cause a tree to secrete sap. The higher temperatures can also cause an increase in pressure resulting to sap secretions.

tree sap

This is very common in spring where trees that are still dormant from the cold of winter begin to experience a relatively rapid increase in temperature, which builds pressure on xylem cells, inevitably leading to secretions of sap.

Getting Rid of Sap

Winding up with sap on your clothes is pretty straightforward. Getting it off your clothes is also pretty straightforward. Here are a couple of methods.

Method 1

Here’s a pretty easy way to get rid of sap stains on your clothes. This will generally do the trick for most shirts and blouses.

Materials:

  • Isopropyl Alcohol (Rubbing alcohol)/ hand sanitizer (alcohol based)
  • Peanut Butter / WD-40
  • Cloth
  • Landry Detergent
  • Knife

scratching sap out with knife

Steps:

  1. When the sap dries, it will usually manifest in a clumped drop of sap on your clothes. To start the process (and to finish the process faster) you’ll want to scrape this excess sap off of your clothes via the dull portion of a knife. In the absence of a knife, other common eating utensils will do, i.e spoon or fork. The more you’re able to scrape off the less work you’ll have to do later.
  2. When you’re done scraping off you’ll want to check whether or not your alcohol or hand sanitizer has any adverse effects on the fabric of your clothes. You’ll want to test these out on a hidden bit of cloth like under a hem. If there is no damage you can proceed.
  3. Lather on the alcohol or sanitizer onto a piece of cloth. Then begin to blot the sap. With the chosen liquid.
  4. Once you’ve thoroughly blotted around the area, the sap should be relatively clear. If not, you may choose to do the same process with peanut butter.
  5. Clean out the peanut butter or WD-40 if you used some with a cloth. Apply a bit of laundry soap on that portion to remedy oil stains that might be left behind.
  6. Wash the clothes in the way you normally would in warm water and your usual laundry detergent.
  7. Before you hang out your clothes to dry or put it in the dryer, be sure that all of the sap stains have been removed. If there remains a sap stain repeat the above (ideally there won’t be any trace of sap) If there’s an oil stain from the application of peanut butter or WD-40, you can wash the article of clothing again and you should be fine.

Method 2

Here’s a way to get rid of more stubborn sap stains on tougher pieces of clothing, like jeans for example.

Materials:

  • Hot water
  • Toothbrush
  • Detergent
  • Straight edge (knife, common kitchen implements)

Steps:

  1. As with the previous method, you’re going to have to remove as much of the sap as you can via a straight edge. You can use the back end of a knife or razor. Scrape off as much of the hardened (and soft if you were quick enough) as you can. Take extra care not to cut yourself if you’re using something sharp All that should remain to be cleaned should be the sap that has entered the fibers of your clothes.
  2. Take your clothes and soak them in hot water. This helps soften up the sap. By increasing the temperature you return the sap’s consistency to a viscous liquid rather than the gum-like hardness that it has probably reached when it dried on your clothes. Leave it for roughly half an hour and the sap will loosen on its own.
  3. Now it’s time to start cleaning the remains of the sap. This time around, you’re going to be using laundry detergent. Pour the detergent into the stain. To aid in the cleaning action, moisten a toothbrush and slowly rub it down into the soap and stain. Be sure to use a toothbrush with soft bristles, hard bristles might cause damage. This helps the soap reach those hard to access fibers and cleans away even more of the sap gunk.
  4. Rinse the jeans once more with hot water. This will help keep any remaining sap soft scrub the remaining sap stains under water with the toothbrush and that should be the end of the stain.
  5. In the event that the stain persists, repeat steps three and four. This should cover it. If it still doesn’t then you might want to consider taking the clothes to a professional cleaner.

These are a couple of simple ways to get rid of sap. Just remember to take care especially if you’re working on sensitive fabrics. You don’t want your sap cleaning session to end with discolored clothes.

Blood stains

Another reality you face if you’re not cooped up in the safety of four walls is that injuries are a reality. Cuts, nicks, scrapes, and bruises are common especially if you’re in the outdoors. During worst case scenarios you’ve also got the possibility of severe wounds.

blood stain on sweater

Needless to say this usually leads to a lot of blood flowing out. If you’re a first aider or happen to be on the receiving end of a big wound, you might want to salvage the affected pieces of clothing. Smaller blood stains probably aren’t going to be that big a problem. However, in the event of a larger stain here are a few tips.

A quick Response is Best

A small amount of blood on a piece of clothing can easily be rinsed out. Get the piece of clothing in cool water and you shouldn’t have any trouble with the stain. Be sure to do this before the blood hardens. That’ll make things a bit tougher. If the stain is especially large, water might not be enough even if the blood is still fresh.

Fresh Blood Stains

If running cold water doesn’t do it, then you can switch to hydrogen peroxide. But before you proceed, be sure to check if the fabric can take peroxide by doing small tests on portions of the fabric that aren’t visible.

Hydrogen peroxide can potentially have similar effects with bleach when applied to certain fabrics. Note that this only helps when the blood is still wet. Dilute hydrogen peroxide with 50% water. Then apply this mixture to the stained area. Be sure to contain the mixture within the affected area.

pouring hydrogen peroxide on cloth

Whenever the foam stabilizes, you will need to add hydrogen peroxide. In the event that the fabric you are treating is particularly strong, you may opt to skip the 50% moisture and go directly with hydrogen peroxide. However, be wary when doing this.

Remember that hydrogen peroxide can potentially damage your clothes due to its effect on fabrics. Once the blood stain is extremely faint, wash the stain with cold water and detergent, the way you normally would.

Fresh Blood on Delicate Fabrics

As we mentioned earlier, you can’t use hydrogen peroxide on delicate fabrics. In fact, even strong detergents will have a detrimental effect on the less rugged fabrics. So for these more stain-prone fabrics, it is recommended that you use salt.

Salt has the benefit of being abrasive but without the corrosiveness that is associated with harsh detergents. By creating a salt paste (salt and water mixture) rub this into the stained area. Saturate the affected area with salt and rub it in. The abrasive property of salt coupled with its natural dehydrating properties will help loosen blood.

poured salt

When you’ve whittled down the stain to a very small visibility rinse with cold water. Check the fabric, if the stain is practically non-existent, you can let your clothes undergo your regular wash cycle.

Dried Blood

This is a bit tougher to handle. There are several ways to go about it.

Using Ammonia

Mix 1tbs of ammonia with a half cup of water. Pour it into the stain. The ammonia functions to destroy proteins that bind the blood onto the fabric.

blood stain removal method with ammonia

However, be careful if the fabric of your stained clothes is naturally sourced (wool, linen, silk) then the ammonia can cause damage to the clothes. These natural fibers are bound by proteins. As such, using ammonia on these clothes can degrade the quality of the fabric.

For Delicate Fabrics

For linens and other similar soft materials, you can use a toothbrush and toothpaste. Pretty nifty right? Apply toothpaste on the affected area and brush it in. Let it settle and dry.

Once the toothpaste is dried up wash it off by rinsing with cold water. If there is still a stain, repeat. That simple though it could take a bit of work if you’re dealing with a large stain.

For tougher fabrics

If you’re working on tougher fabrics like jeans, you could try meat tenderizer. Meat tenderizer makes meat softer by breaking down proteins and other organic material. By this same principle, you can weaken the bond between the dried blood and your fabric via the meat tenderizer.

To apply, you make a paste with cold water and work it down into the stain. Leave for fifteen minutes and rinse. That should take out the stain. Note that this is a bad idea for softer fabrics and for natural fabrics such as wool which have a composition that might be affected by the tenderizer.

Motor Oil Stains

So if you ever have to work with anything that has an engine, you run the risk of getting a bit of motor oil on your clothes. This is especially the case if something breaks down.

For example, your car breaks down or if you work at a plant or if you work with heavy equipment, then you will at one point or another have to deal with motor oil stains.

Motor oil stain removal

Now, these can be pretty intimidating, and if you’ve tried cleaning them up with just regular detergent, then you might have a hard time. So here’s a way for you to get that oil out of your clothes.

Materials:

  • Toothbrush
  • Vinegar
  • Dishwashing soap
  • Talcum powder (baby powder) / Cornstarch
  • Paper Towel
  • Spoon

Method

First, you want to blot out the stain with a paper towel. Be sure not to rub that around or exert too much effort. That’ll just make things harder. Be sure to get as much oil out as you can with this method. Next, you’ll want to cover the stain with talcum powder or cornstarch.

powder on stains

This functions as an absorbent to help suck up the oil that’s sunk deep into the fabric of your shirt. When that’s done slowly scrape off the powdered substance off the oil stain. And avoid spilling it on the rest of the clothing to avoid any spread of the stain. From there you make a vinegar and water mixture, roughly 50-50 should do.

Rinse the fabric with the mixture and leave it in the mixture for 15 minutes or so. The stain should have significantly subsided by this point. Should the stain be gone from the fabric you can proceed to put it through its prescribed wash cycle alone (check the tag to be sure). If not yet sufficiently clean, rinse out the vinegar mixture.

If the clothes being cleaned still have vinegar it will nullify this next part. Now, you will want to rub in dishwashing soap into the stain. Dishwashing soap is formulated to fight grease this is why we’re using it. Rub it down with a toothbrush on the affected area. At this point, the stain should be all but gone.

dishsoap and toothbrush on stain

Now, you will want to put it through a regular wash cycle with your usual laundry detergent. Be sure to follow the instructions found on the tag of the affected clothing.

Try to wash it alone as any remaining oil might damage other clothes you wash along with it. Also, air dry it afterward, as putting the clothes in a dryer may cause any remains of the stain to set in. You wouldn’t want that.

Grass Stains

Grass (and by extension a bit of mud) is a common stain you have to deal with if you are outside a lot. If you have kids and you set them loose on a lawn this is pretty much guaranteed.

jeans with grass stains

Grass stains are a mix of protein and organic matter. What makes these stains challenging is the fact that the pigments found in grass are very similar to the color on clothes. Plus there’s the dried mud.

Materials:

  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Liquid detergent

Method

A very simple way to get through this is by creating a vinegar & water mixture. The acid in the vinegar should be enough to weaken the bonds of the grass pigments allowing you to clean up the stain. To do this simply let the stained portion soak in the vinegar mixture and let it rest for 15-30 minutes.

a cup of water and a cup of vinegar

Afterward, rinse out and rub some liquid detergent onto the affected area. Once that’s done, the stain should be gone or nearly invisible. At this point, you can let it undergo a regular wash cycle and you’re done.

Go away staines!

So that’s how to get rid of sap and other common stains from your clothes. Hopefully, you won’t have to bother with the methods above on a very tough stain. Nevertheless, it’s pretty good to know how to deal with these stains if they do wind up on your clothes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

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