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How to Remove Pinesap

Q : What can you use to remove the sticky pinesap off of fiberglass, plastic, metal or even cloth? We have pinesap dropping on our boats, our picnic tables, vinyl awnings, decks and cars. We have tried soap and water and other products, but nothing seems to work.
– Diane Laabs, Lake Nebagamon, Wis.

A: According to the folks at the University of Minnesota’s Extension Service, the sticky stuff that’s plaguing your belongings might not even be tree sap; it is more likely insect honeydew, excreted by aphids or other insects infesting the needles and branches of trees. Honeydew is composed of sugars and other waste products that pass through the insects’ digestive systems. Honeydew hardens the longer it sits and becomes more difficult to remove.

But whether it’s pine pitch or honeydew, you can use the same method to remove it. For cars and boats, try one of the wax and grease-removing products sold at auto supply stores. Look for products labeled “enamel reducer.” Wash and dry the whole area before applying the product with a damp clean cloth. You may need to reapply it several times and the surface may be hazy afterwards; a wax job would be a good follow-up.

Alternatively – and for the other surfaces you are having problems with – try WD-40 (is there anything WD-40 can’t do?), Avon’s Skin-So-Soft bath oil (how long has it been since anyone has used Skin-So-Soft as anything other than bug repellent?), or Cabin Life’s favorite, Lestoil. Let the products soften the dew or pitch a while, then rub it off and thoroughly wash the area. You could also try rubbing alcohol.

Warning: None of these products is a surefire cure. And even if you do remove the dew or pitch, the sticky stuff is going to keep coming down every time you park your car, boat or other treasured vacation toy under the trees. If the offending substance is honeydew, a strong blast of water into the trees will dislodge some of the insects. However, this works only on aphids, not on scale insects.

You know, it might not be a bad idea to invest in a set of tarps to throw over your important stuff.

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