Sunday, December 14, 2014

Apple #693: Removing Pine Sap

I put up my Christmas tree this weekend.  A few years ago, I learned that pine sap makes me itch, so now I wear leather work gloves when I do this annual coniferous task.  I also wear an apron, as I have to lean across the tree to drape yon tree lights around its girth.  But despite my gloves and my apron, this year I somehow managed to get pine sap on my fingers and on my clothes.

Pine sap is sticky stuff.  What's the best way to remove it?

Pine sap. Sticky stuff.  To be said the same way Elwood says, "This is glue. Strong stuff."
(Image from Poppy Swap)

What is Pine Sap?

This wouldn't be a true Daily Apple if I didn't give you a little edumacation information first.
  • Pine sap is actually resin.  
  • It's sticky stuff that the tree secretes any time it's cut into.  
  • Some scientists suspect that its purpose may be to help seal cuts in the tree bark, or to be toxic to any insects that might burrow into the tree, or both.

Amber is in a similar class of plant fluids as pine sap.  You know how bugs get stuck in amber?  They get stuck in pine sap too.
(Image from Legend Diamond)

  • Over time pine sap (resin) will harden and even crystallize, but it will soften and turn sticky again when it gets warmed up.  This is why you might not get it on yourself as you're bringing the tree into the house, but you might after it's been in the house a while and you're decorating it.
  • Various resins have various chemical structures, but in general they include a substance called terpenoid hydrocarbon.  Think turpentine.
  • By their chemical structure, resins are resistant to water.  Which means you can't just wash pine sap off your hands with soap and water.  You have to use something else.
  • On the other hand, resins are generally soluble in alcohol or in oils or fats.  Which means to remove pine sap, you'll want to use a cleaning agent that is one of these types of things, and that also won't harm your skin or your clothing.

Turns out, lots of people have lots of suggestions for things that will remove pine sap.  Probably any of these products will work on whatever surface has the pine sap on it.  But some are better in certain situations that others.  For example, nail polish remover might work to take sap out of your hair, but you wouldn't really want to put that all over your head.  Or, peanut butter might take the sap out of your carpet, but then you'll have a peanut butter stain.

Products that Remove Pine Sap from Skin

  • Nail polish remover
  • Rubbing alcohol 
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Margarine
  • Corn or vegetable or olive oil

Rubbing alcohol. Do what the name says: rub it on your skin, and the pine sap will come off.
(Photo from HubPages)

Products that Remove Pine Sap from Hair

Put a gob of peanut butter or mayonnaise in your hair where the sap is, comb through carefully, then wash with warm water and shampoo.
  • Peanut butter
  • Mayonnaise
  • Olive oil

Don't be shy with the peanut butter -- or the mayonnaise or the olive oil.  Put in a nice big dollop and comb it through carefully.  It will wash out.  Plus, your hair will feel nice and conditioned afterward.
(Image from Huffington Post)

Products that Remove Pine Sap from Clothing

As with any stain, try the removal product on a small area first to be sure it won't change the color of the fabric.

Rub the removal product into the sappy area, rinse with the warmest water possible, allow to air dry.
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Nail polish remover
  • Hand sanitizer
  • WD-40 / rinse with vinegar and water
  • Deep Woods Off! bug spray
  • Pine Sol
  • Goo-Gone
  • For additional abrasive assistance, add baking soda to any of the above

If you use nail polish remover, you'll want the kind that comes in a bottle like this, not the pots you dip your fingers into.
(Photo from Redbook

Products that Remove Pine Sap from Carpet

As with any stain, try the removal product on a small area first to be sure it won't change the color of the fabric.
  • Nail polish remover
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Dawn dishwashing detergent

Dawn. I love this stuff.  Has so many uses.  They have lots of varieties that say "antibacterial" on the front. Stay away from those, and get the blue kind.
(Photo from One Good Thing by Jillee)

Other Removal Products

These products will remove pine sap, but they might also bleach your clothes or your carpet, or remove paint from your floor or walls or car.  Or they could render your fabric flammable.  So if you do use these, use them with much caution and rinse them out very well with water.
  • Paint thinner
  • Mineral spirits
  • Lighter fluid

Mineral spirits and paint thinner are essentially the same thing. Mineral spirits have been refined further, so they have fewer additional elements you might not want, and they are not as stinky as paint thinner.
(Photo from Mineral Spirits Information Blog -- it's a crap site, but I needed the image)

Is it going too far to say that putting up a Christmas tree is a sappy tradition? Har har. 

Oxford English Dictionary, resin
Cyberlipid Center, Terpenoids

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