Tree sap, salt and sand: How to get your car clean again after a holiday

12. Sep 2021 | Industry + More

I don’t know about you, but when my family and I return from holiday in our own car, the vehicle is in need of a deep clean. And even travelling south on a plane is no guarantee that the car will stay clean. This happened a few weeks ago: We travelled to sunny Spain and the car stayed at home under some shady trees. Not a good idea at all! Tree sap and hot temperatures are a very poor combination and lead to stubborn spots on the paint, as I discovered.

If sap on the beautiful paint wasn’t enough, it was also covered in lots of stubborn dirt. After a week under these trees, my car looked like a wreck. True story. It looked as though I had left it there months ago and not moved it since. The appearance is one thing. The other problem: Tree sap is harmful to the car paint because it can cause blistering in the paint in the worst-case scenario. So it had to come off!

Removing tree sap from paint

But that’s not as easy as it sounds. It took several attempts to remove the sap from the car. A car wash can usually remove fresh sap marks, after pre-washing by hand if necessary. For dried-on sap, we need to get a little more creative.

With a sponge, warm water and a little cleaning agent, you can carefully soak the bodywork and sap. With a bit of luck, the sap will also come off with a sponge/cloth and water with cleaning agent after a few minutes. If that doesn’t work – as in my case – special tree sap remover can help. The best way to remove sap is with a microfibre cloth. This is what worked for me: Wet a microfibre cloth with tree sap remover and press on the spots for a few seconds. In my case, I was then able to remove the sap by rubbing gently. The cleaned surface should then be wiped down with a damp cloth so that the solvent does not remain on the paint after the sap has been removed. If tree sap remover doesn’t work for you, you could try WD40 or other oils/greases.

Tree sap is a really challenging opponent when cleaning the car. Everything else is almost easy in comparison. But we also have a few tips here.

How to get your car clean again after a holiday

Let’s start with the best tip of all: Take your time, be positive, and tackle the annoying task with a good mood. Personally, I always find that good music helps.

I always remove the coarse dirt first: The mess from the children, sand etc. Then I vacuum the car completely and wipe the cushions, leather and plastic surfaces with a damp cloth. Special cleaners help to remove stubborn dirt such as insect residues on the windscreen or the headlights.

You’ll already have realised: windows aren’t just dirty on the outside after a long journey. Especially when you travel with children, you may have a film of dirt on the inside of the window, which must also be removed thoroughly.

If you were by the sea, you should give your car an intensive wash. If you clean your car in a car wash, you should have the underbody cleaned too. After all, salt water and sand can cause corrosion.

After returning from holiday, I always use the first petrol stop to check the tyre pressure, oil level and coolant water level.