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How Should I Remove Tree Sap from a Deck?

Mineral spirits, which can help remove sap from a deck.
Trees produce sticky sap, which can be difficult to remove from a deck.
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  • Written By: N. Phipps
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 April 2014
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Trying to remove tree sap can be difficult and annoying, especially from decks. However, there are many ways to easily and effectively remove sap. In fact, many of these methods include the use of common household products. For instance, one of the most common household items for removing sap from various surfaces is rubbing alcohol, which acts as a solvent to break up sap, dissolving it away.

To remove tree sap from wood decks, most people simply apply heavy-duty stain remover. This is available at most home centers or paint stores. While there are different types of stain removers, it’s best to find one that is specially formulated to work on tough stains, such as tree sap. Because sap is similar to oil-base finishes, it should come off easily. Use a mop to apply the stain remover or just pour it onto the surface.

Wait about fifteen minutes before scrubbing the area with a brush, and then rinse it off. An exterior deck stripper can also be used to remove tree sap and involves less scrubbing. Simply apply the stripper with a brush onto the affected areas in the direction of the wood grain. Allow to stand for ten to fifteen minutes and then hose off. As a bonus, most stripper products are deactivated with water, so any runoff will not harm the environment.

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As an alternative to stain removers on finished or stained decks, many people prefer to use non-diluted Murphy® Oil Soap. This too is generally applied with a mop or poured directly onto the affected area. As with other tree sap removers, allow this to soak for about fifteen minutes, at which time the area can be scrubbed with the grain of the wood and rinsed clean. Since this is an oil-based solution, it will soften the sap, making it easier to remove.

Other people have successfully used cement cleaner, which is normally used for cleaning up Formica®. Unlike other methods of tree sap removal, this does not need to soak into the wood. Some people have also had success with using mineral spirits to remove tree sap. After scrubbing the area, make certain to rinse it well, then follow up with an all-purpose cleaner, and rinse again.

Turpentine can also be used to remove tree sap from decks. This method is said to be both fast and effective. Although turpentine should not harm an existing finish, it should only be used in small amounts, just enough to soak the affected area. Then the area can be scrubbed with a wire brush. The downside to using turpentine is that it can leave an oily spot on the wood. In addition, turpentine is not environmentally friendly, as it does not break down with water.

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anon278363
Post 1

Thanks for the info on the Murphy's Oil Soap. I have a painted deck that sits directly under a large tree and boy does it get sapped. I dread cleaning this every year since it used to take hours using other chemicals that were somewhat caustic and not environmental friendly, and only did a mediocre job at best. I think I skipped the job last year. I just used the Murphy's Oil Soap and it made the job so easy and quick, and my deck looks great again! It is as clean as when I painted it, and the finish has a sheen. I was even able to dilute in my case and get great results (1 cup/gallon water). Cheers!

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