Opening up your truck bed to load or unload items, only to find sticky tree sap plastered across your tonneau cover, can be incredibly frustrating. That stubborn, gooey mess not only looks unsightly, but it can also damage your cover over time. Getting rid of that troublesome tree sap ASAP is key to keeping your tonneau cover looking its best.
But where do you start when it comes to removing dried, caked-on tree sap? Is it as simple as just washing it off? Will you need heavy duty cleaners to break down the sap? And most importantly, how can you remove the sap without ruining your tonneau cover in the process? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered (pun intended).
Here’s everything you need to know about safely and effectively removing stubborn tree sap from your tonneau cover, using items you may already have at home. Let’s tackle this bothersome truck bed dilemma once and for all!
How Does Tree Sap Damage Tonneau Covers?
Before jumping into sap removal methods, it helps to understand exactly why that sticky tree sap can wreak havoc on your tonneau cover over time.
The main culprit is the sap essentially acting as a binding agent. As sap drips onto your cover, it seeps into fabric fibers and builds up between creases or textures in vinyl covers. Once hardened, it almost acts like a glue, causing the material to stiffen and crack.
Tree sap also has a sugary consistency that provides food for bacteria and fungi. So if left for too long, the sap residue can promote mold, mildew, and premature deterioration. Not exactly what you want just hanging out in your truck bed!
Removing tree sap as soon as possible is key to keeping your expensive tonneau cover looking and functioning like new. Now let’s explore your sap removal options.
Method #1: Warm Water and Mild Soap
For light tree sap deposits that are still relatively fresh, warm water and a mild soap solution is a simple place to start. This method works well for soft tonneau cover materials like canvas fabric. Here’s how to do it:
What You Need
- Warm water
- Mild liquid dish or hand soap
- Clean soft bristle brush
- In a bucket or large container, mix a few tablespoons of your mild soap into warm water. The soapy solution should be sudsy but not overly so.
- Dip your soft bristle brush into the warm soapy water. Gently scrub the bristles over any sap on your tonneau cover, concentrating on one area at a time.
- As the sap softens, continue lightly scrubbing to allow the soapy water to break down and lift the sap from the material. Avoid any harsh scrubbing.
- Once the sap is removed, dip your brush in clean warm water and rinse the area well. Make sure all soap residue is removed.
- Repeat the process over any remaining sap deposits. Let the tonneau cover air dry completely before replacing onto your truck bed.
For extremely delicate canvas or fabric covers, you can also use just warm water and your soft brush to gently lift sap away. This may take longer but is less risky for easily damaged material.
Method #2: Isopropyl Alcohol
For tree sap that is being stubborn against soap and water alone, isopropyl alcohol is another effective cleaning option. The alcohol helps quickly break down the sticky sap residue. This method works well on vinyl tonneau covers.
What You Need
- Isopropyl alcohol (70% solution or higher)
- Clean cloths or soft towels
- Liberally apply isopropyl alcohol directly onto a clean cloth, instead of pouring it directly on your tonneau cover.
- Gently rub the alcohol-soaked cloth over the sap deposits in circular motions. Apply light pressure.
- Keep rubbing until you see the tree sap dissolve and lift from the vinyl cover surface. Avoid any harsh scrubbing.
- For extremely stubborn deposits, you can let the alcohol sit for 5-10 minutes before rubbing again. This allows it more time to penetrate and break down the sap.
- Once sap is removed, use a fresh clean cloth dampened with water to wipe the area and remove any alcohol residue.
- Allow your tonneau cover to completely air dry before replacing onto your truck bed. The alcohol evaporates quickly, speeding up drying time.
Isopropyl alcohol can also be used on canvas fabric tonneau covers in small amounts. But take care, as excessive alcohol may damage canvas over time. Test on an inconspicuous area first.
Method #3: Automotive Tar Remover
Another chemical-based option for removing stubborn tree sap is an automotive grade tar remover. Products like Stoner’s Tarminator or even turpentine work well to break down and dissolve pine sap.
What You Need
- Small bottle of tar remover like Stoner’s Tarminator
- Clean cloths or soft bristle brush
- Shake your tar remover bottle well before using. Test the product on an inconspicuous vinyl area first.
- Apply a small amount of tar remover directly onto the tree sap deposits. Use a brush to spread it evenly over the area.
- Let the tar remover sit for 2-3 minutes to penetrate and break down the sap. Do not let it dry completely.
- Use a clean soft cloth to gently wipe away the dissolved sap residue. Repeat process as needed for stubborn deposits.
- Once sap is removed, immediately rinse the area well with clean water to remove any tar remover residue. Wipe dry.
- Allow tonneau cover to completely air dry before replacing onto truck bed.
While tar removers work quickly, they are harsh chemicals. Use sparingly and only if necessary. Rinse immediately and follow up with a vinyl protectant to prevent drying and cracking.
Method #4: Specialty Tree Sap Removers
For a tonneau cover-safe sap removal option, look for specialty cleaners formulated just for removing tree sap. These are made to break down and dissolve sap without damaging your cover.
What You Need
- Specialty tree sap remover like Goo Gone Sap Remover
- Clean cloths or brush
- Start by reading the product label and testing on an inconspicuous vinyl or fabric area first.
- Apply a small amount directly onto the sap deposits. For sprays, hold 6-8 inches away to avoid over-saturation.
- Allow the sap remover to sit for 5-10 minutes. This gives the active ingredients time to penetrate and loosen the sap.
- Use a clean cloth or brush to gently wipe away the loosened sap residue. Repeat process as needed for stubborn deposits.
- Rinse the tonneau cover well with clean water to remove all sap remover residue. Wipe dry.
- Let your cover completely air dry before replacing onto the truck bed.
The key is finding a specialty sap remover specifically made for your tonneau cover material. This ensures it effectively removes sap without risk of damage.
5 Tips for Preventing Tree Sap Build-Up
Once you’ve finally tackled that troublesome tree sap, it’s time to prevent a repeat sticky mess. Here are 5 handy tips for keeping tree sap off your tonneau cover:
- Park in sunlight when possible – This helps keep your cover warmer so sap does not stick as easily
- Wash frequently – Use soap and water to wash your cover every few weeks
- Wax vinyl covers – Adds a protective barrier layer that sap has trouble sticking to
- Avoid parking under trees – Stray drips are less likely to land on your cover
- Remove sap ASAP – Fresh sap is easier to remove before it dries and hardens
Get Your Tonneau Cover Back to Tip-Top Shape
Dealing with a tonneau cover plastered in stubborn, dried-on tree sap is no fun. But armed with the right techniques and cleaning methods, you can safely remove that troublesome sap without damaging your cover.
Test products first, allow plenty of drying time, and follow up with vinyl protectants as needed. Your patience will pay off with a clean tonneau cover that looks brand new again!