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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Pine Tar from a cotton sweatshirt

By Dr. Laundry December 10, 2012

How can I remove pine tar from my cotton sweatshirt?

Pitch, tree sap, pine tar—whatever you call it, this is a very challenging stain to get out. Try treating the stain directly with DeSolvIt or Goo Gone, which you can find at hardware stores. You should first test for colorfastness (apply a drop to a hidden part of the garments, rinse, and blot dry) if you want to be sure the product is safe for the sweatshirt. If there is no color change, rub a little into the sap/pitch and then wash with detergent in the hottest water allowed (check the care label). Allow to air dry and then check for success. You may need to repeat the treatment to remove the stain fully, so it’s very important to keep the item out of a hot dryer to avoid heat-setting any residual stain that would otherwise come out with a second treatment. If you want to lengthen the time you pre-treat the stains before washing, you may want to check colorfastness again with a longer contact time—just don’t let the product dry on the fabric. Pine tar is difficult to remove but it is worth a shot!