How to Remove Tree Sap from RV Roof And Do It Effectively!

How to Remove Tree Sap from RV Roof

The odds are pretty good that your RV will spend at least a little time parked underneath some pine trees. And while that cover might produce just enough shade to keep you cool, you’ll also be subjecting your RV’s roof to lots of sap and pitch.

Figuring out how to remove tree sap from RV roof panels can be a little bit of a pickle, too. Sap (sometimes called pitch) is incredibly sticky, hardens like a diamond, and can require quite a bit of elbow grease – and even some heavy-duty chemicals – to get it off.

In this detailed guide, we run through a couple of options you can use to remove tree sap from your roof quickly, relatively effortlessly, and without having to worry about destroying your roof simultaneously.

Ready to get started?

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How to Remove Tree Sap from RV Roof

Straight out of the gate, you need to confirm that you are dealing with tree sap and not some other sort of sticky substance that might be collecting on top of your RV roof.

If your RV spends a lot of time in the city (especially bigger cities), the potential for paint, caulk, glue, and other man-made materials ending up on the roof skyrockets.

If, on the other hand, your RV spends all its time “at home” garaged or away from anything that could dump on top of the roof, the chances are pretty good you’re dealing with pitch and sap.

Here’s how to remove tree sap from RV roof panels without breaking a sweat!

Soap, Water, and a Little Scrub

This “holy trinity” of cleaning works wonders on tree sap that hasn’t had time to set up and really solidify.

You’ll want to mix up a little bit of warm water with a couple of heavy splashes of dish soap (especially dish soaps specifically designed to break up oil, grease, and gunk).

Then dump the entire bucket across your roof panels, ensuring that every bit of sap has been saturated. Leave the water on the roof for a couple of minutes (10 or 15 usually does the trick), and then work with your scrubby brush.

If you want to stay off the RV roof (and that’s not a bad idea), some letters or scaffolding set up along the vehicle’s perimeter, and a stiff long-handled broom is usually all you’ll need to get the job done.

If you’re dealing with particularly resistant sap and pitch, you might need to get up on the roof and do some scrubbing – or move on to some of the other options we highlight below.

Goo Gone Works Wonders

Goo Gone (an excellent commercial product) works wonders when it comes to removing tree sap and pitch, but there is a wrinkle:

You have to be 100% certain that you are using Goo Gone specifically designed for automotive applications.

Traditional Goo Gone is a game changer when you need to (no surprise here) say goodbye to gunk and goo, but its formula is a little bit too heavy-duty when you’re working with the kind of material that most RV roof panels are made from.

The last thing you want to do is remove all the tree sap and pitch from your RV roof only to discover that your commercial cleaner, like Goo Gone, has eaten little holes in the roof panels and created all kinds of leaks for you.

Not ideal.

Hand Sanitizer Does the Trick On Sap

Hand sanitizer (something you’re probably already carrying inside your RV) can work wonders on getting stubborn and stuck on sap and pitch off your roof.

The “secret sauce” in hand sanitizer that makes it such an effective sap remover is the alcohol content. You don’t necessarily need a hand sanitizer that is 80 proof – not by any stretch of the imagination – you definitely want one that has alcohol up near the top of the ingredient list.

Squirt a little bit of hand sanitizer on each of the individual sap splats, give the hand sanitizer 15 or 20 minutes to work its magic, and then hose or scrub any of them still stuck on sap away once and for all.

If you have a rubber roof on your RV, this probably isn’t something you want to use. Harsh hand sanitizer can do a number on those kinds of roofing materials. You’ll want to try something else.

Have Any Simple Green Handy?

Simple Green is an organic, bio-friendly, and eco-friendly commercial cleaning product that promises to help you remove gunk and grime without any harsh chemicals – and it does a pretty solid job getting rid of tree sap and pitch.

Not quite as “heavy duty” as hand sanitizer, this stuff will need to be set up a little longer – maybe 30 minutes or so – but then should release tree sap entirely from your hard RV roof.

At that point, you have to jet a little bit of cold water across the top, and you’ll see those little bubbles of sap swim away.

Paint Thinner Works in a Pinch

Paint thinner (mineral spirits work well, but turpentine can work well if you’re using it diligently) is a bit of a nuclear option for getting rid of sap – but boy does it do the trick!

Turpentine is actually made from tree sap which is part of what makes its effectiveness so wild. You’d never think that something like this would be able to remove its “twin cousin effectively.” But it can chew through sap like you wouldn’t believe.

If you go in this direction, make sure you have a bucket of water on hand to flush the cleaned surface as soon as you get the sap up. This isn’t anything you want to leave lying on your RV roof for a long time.

Butter (Yes, Butter) Can Loosen Sap, Too

Okay, okay.

This one sounds a little crazy. We will give you that.

You’ll think you’re crazy when you melt a couple of sticks of butter and then drizzle it on top of all the tree sap bubbles you have on your RV roof.

Do you know what you won’t think is crazy, though?

The results are that a bit of melted butter will get rid of tree sap from your RV roof without ruining the material underneath (no matter what material it is).

This sounds wild. We really can’t reinforce that enough.

But it’s one of those tricks you won’t be able to wait to share with other people when they tell you they have sap problems on their roofs, too.

Working with an RV Rubber Roof?

If you’re trying to learn how to remove tree sap from RV roof panels but have a rubber roof on top, it might be better to learn how to embrace the tree sap look rather than fiddle around with that kind of construction material.

Rubber roof components are susceptible to most any cleaner and any chemical you might put on top of it. Turpentine will chew right through it, just like hand sanitizer and its high alcohol content might.

Even Simple Green might not be so mild, especially if you start scrubbing and rubbing it into the rubber roof.

There are commercial products available out there right now for RV owners with rubber roofs that want to get rid of sap and pitch once and for all. And we’d encourage you to research those options if that’s something you want to get into.

At the same time, just leaving that sap alone might be easier (and safer), especially if it isn’t causing any problems aside from the cosmetic blemishes we’d all love to scrub free.

Closing Thoughts

When you get right down to it, mastering how to remove tree sap from RV roof panels isn’t as challenging as many people make it out to be.

But it can be tedious, and it can be annoying.

One of the smartest things you can do is find ways to mitigate and prevent tree sap from collecting on top of your RV in the first place.

Consider where you park. Consider using a “roof covering” when you are posted up underneath a lot of pine trees. Think about what you can do to manage and (mostly) eliminate the prospects of tree sap collecting on your RV.

You might not be able to prevent all of the sap from hitting your RV – that’s probably impossible – but that’s when you want to use the tips and tricks we highlighted above.

If you’re being proactive, you’ll have much less tree sap to clean up going forward!

Don’t forget to check out our Recommended RV Equipment list!

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Hi, my name is Andy. I have been camping my whole life. I started camping with my parents as a little kid and remember hanging out around a campfire roasting marshmallows. As I got older, car camping was a regular occurrence. After I got married and started a family, we decided we wanted to share the travel and camping experience with our kids. Out of that experience, this site,, was born.

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