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How to Remove Tree Sap from Hammock Straps

How to remove tree sap from hammock straps
It really sucks when you get sticky tree sap on your hammock or tarp suspension system. It’s hard to get off and it spreads other parts of your hammock setup quickly because it’s all stuffed together when you pack up, making it tacky to the touch. Always check for oozing tree sap before hanging your tree straps, tree huggers, tarp suspension system and pick another tree if it’s present.

But if you do get “sapped”, the stuff is easier to remove than you might realize. Hand sanitizer containing alcohol dissolves the sap and eliminates the stickiness. Make sure to use the unscented variety. It also works if you want to get the sap off your hands.

If I’ve gotten sap onto my tree straps and tarp guy lines, I segregate them from my other hammock components as quickly as possible and pack them separately. When I get home, I let the sap dry a bit so it gets flakey and scrape as much of it off with a fingernail as possible. That doesn’t get rid of all of the invisible sticky coating though.

Next, I smear hand sanitizer over areas that have come in contact with tree sap and are still tacky to the touch. This dissolves the remaining sap and neutralizes the sticky areas so they return to normal. Any residual by-products left in the straps aren’t sticky and don’t affect the function of the straps at all. They might even make it last longer. :-)

If you let the sap dry for a few days, you can scrape most of it off with a fingernail before applying hand sanitizer
If you let the sap dry for a few days, you can scrape most of it off with a fingernail before applying hand sanitizer to any remaining sticky areas.

I’ve seen reports on the internet of people who use WD40, HEAT gasoline additive, and Goof Off Remover to get sap off hammock tree straps and huggers, but I’d be wary of using those because of the damage they might do to your synthetic straps or silnylon hammocks and tarps.

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19 comments

  1. In the past I used the denatured alcohol that I carry for my stove to get rid of sap right in the field. Letting it dry at home would be good for short trips, but not sure I would want to carry sticky straps over the course of a week or two. I have not noticed any degradation in the straps. I did use hand sanitizer the last time on my tarp (which worked great) and will give it a try on the straps next time. Thanks for the post.

  2. Good tip! I like the marlin spike/ whoopee sling suspension setup, because the tree straps are already separate from the hammock. I carry them in a little silnylon bag so if they do get sappy, they don’t spread it to other gear. .

    • Funny, I use the same setup but store the straps with the hammock so I don’t lose them!

      • My hammock or hammocks, all have separate tree straps or suspension. I have yet to see a hammock system where tree straps are permanently adhered to the hammock. I always keep my tree straps separate from my hammock, even using the stuff sack they came in, just in case of tree sap issues. Thank you for the tip. I’ve always carried a small bottle of alcohol laden hand sanitizer. It ends up as fire starter on cool evenings. :)

      • Erik, all Warbonnet’s strap suspension systems are attached to the hammock and they’re the best game in town.

      • That’s not really true. The straps are separate.

      • You have to undo the buckles to remove the straps on their webbing/buckle suspensions. Running 15 feet of webbing through the buckles every time is a pain, but I guess they’re technically separate with considerable effort.

      • Josh, whether the straps are separate or not depends on which configuration you bought!

  3. Would this also work on a tent? I got some on my tent at RMNP a couple of weeks ago and I don’t know how to get it off without damaging the tent.

    • I suspect it will be fine. The waterproofing on most tents is impregnated in the fabric, not just a surface treatment. Also, chances are you just have a few spots covered in sap. I doubt that cleaning them will have any noticeable impact on the waterproofness of your tent.

    • For what it is worth, I used hand sanitizer to clean sap droppings from my silnylon and cuben fiber tarps. Neither one has exhibited any issues in any type of weather in subsequent use.

  4. Any cooking oil (canola, olive, peanut, etc) can dissolve sap completely and then you can use a biodegradable soap to wash the oil away. I’ve uses peanut butter in the past to get sap off my hands and then used my camp soap to clean up. Works every time.

    Alcohol is actually a fairly poor solvent for sap.

  5. On the trail; Scrape off what you can with a stick or rock, then apply sand, dirt or forest duff on the spot until the stickiness is abated. Apply and remove… repeat as needed. You can now pack the gear without spreading the stickiness. Clean at home with a gentle solvent like goo gone or turpentine.

  6. HEET is just alcohol like the hand sanitizer. I always use my alcohol fuel in camp to deal with it.

  7. Just got back from a trip and my bear bag line was almost rigid with sap from fir trees. While unpacking my gear in the laundry room I saw a spray bottle of Shout stain remover and figured I’d give it a shot. It worked surprisingly well.

  8. Why not just wrap the first 3 or 4 feet of your suspension? Bring an old terry clothe towel and put that between the tree and the strap. no cleaning needed and it would be great fire starter in a pinch.

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