How To Remove Tar From Fabric: A Step-By-Step Guide

Getting tar on your clothes or other fabric items can be annoying and difficult to remove. If you’ve ever stepped in tar or gotten it on your clothes in some other way, you know how stubborn it can be to get out.

But don’t worry – with the right techniques and products, you can get tar out of fabric fairly easily.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: To remove tar from fabric, start by scraping off excess tar gently with a dull knife. Then apply an oil, butter, or margarine to the tar to help break it down.

Let it soak for 10-30 minutes before rubbing it with a paper towel to lift the tar. Repeat as needed until the tar is gone. You can also use baby oil, WD-40, or commercial tar remover products to help get rid of tar on fabric.

Assess the Tar Stain and Fabric

Look at the size and thickness of the tar stain

Before you start removing tar from fabric, it’s important to assess the stain itself. Take a close look at the size and thickness of the tar stain. Is it a small spot or a larger area? Is the tar stain thick or thin?

These factors will determine the best method to remove the tar and the level of effort required.

Identify the type of fabric

The type of fabric plays a crucial role in determining the appropriate cleaning method for tar removal. Different fabrics require different approaches to avoid damaging the material. Check the care label on the garment for any specific instructions or restrictions.

If you are unsure about the fabric type, it’s best to consult a professional cleaner or refer to reliable sources such as fabric manufacturers’ websites or for guidance.

Once you have assessed the tar stain and identified the fabric type, you can proceed with confidence to the next steps in the tar removal process.

Remove Excess Tar

When it comes to removing tar from fabric, the first step is to remove any excess tar that is sitting on the surface. Here are a couple of methods to help you with this:

Scrape off loose tar gently

Using a blunt object such as a spoon or a butter knife, gently scrape off any loose tar from the fabric. Be careful not to press too hard or use anything sharp that could damage or tear the fabric. The goal here is to remove as much of the tar as possible without spreading it further.

Avoid damaging or spreading the stain

While removing excess tar, it’s important to avoid damaging the fabric or spreading the stain. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Work from the edges: Start scraping from the outer edges of the tar stain and work your way towards the center. This helps prevent the tar from spreading further onto the fabric.
  • Use a gentle touch: Be gentle while scraping to avoid causing any damage to the fabric. Apply light pressure and let the spoon or knife do the work.

Remember, the key is to remove as much of the excess tar as possible without causing any additional damage to the fabric. Once you’ve successfully removed the excess tar, you can move on to the next step in the tar removal process.

Apply a Solvent to Break Down the Tar

Try oils, butter, margarine, or mayonnaise

When it comes to removing tar from fabric, applying a solvent is often the most effective method. Surprisingly, common household items such as oils, butter, margarine, or mayonnaise can work wonders in breaking down the tar.

These substances contain natural oils that help to dissolve the tar and make it easier to remove. Simply apply a generous amount of your chosen solvent onto the tar-stained area and gently rub it in using a clean cloth or sponge.

Allow it to sit for a few minutes to let the solvent penetrate the fabric.

Use baby oil, WD-40, or commercial tar removers

If you don’t have any oils, butter, margarine, or mayonnaise on hand, there are alternative solvents that can also do the trick. Baby oil, WD-40, or commercial tar removers are readily available options that work effectively in breaking down tar stains.

Baby oil is gentle on fabrics and can be safely used on most types of fabric. WD-40, on the other hand, is a versatile household product that is known for its ability to dissolve tough stains. Commercial tar removers, specifically designed for this purpose, can also be purchased from stores or online.

Let it soak for 10-30 minutes

After applying the solvent, it’s important to let it sit and soak into the fabric for a sufficient amount of time. This allows the solvent to effectively break down the tar and loosen its grip on the fabric fibers.

Depending on the severity of the stain, you may need to let it soak for anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes. During this time, you can gently agitate the stained area with a soft brush or cloth to aid in the removal process.

Once the tar has been sufficiently loosened, proceed to the next step of the cleaning process.

Wipe Away the Tar

When it comes to removing tar from fabric, the first step is to gently wipe away as much of the tar as possible. This can be done by using a paper towel or a clean, white cloth. Place the cloth over the tar and press down gently, allowing the fabric to absorb the tar.

Avoid rubbing the tar too vigorously, as this may spread it further or push it deeper into the fabric fibers.

Rub gently with a paper towel

Start by gently rubbing the tar stain with a paper towel. The goal is to loosen and lift the tar from the fabric. Be careful not to apply too much pressure, as this could cause the tar to spread. If the tar is still fresh and soft, it should come off relatively easily.

Switch to a clean section frequently

As you work on removing the tar, be sure to switch to a clean section of the paper towel frequently. This will prevent any residue from being transferred back onto the fabric. Continue to blot and gently rub the tar stain until you see it starting to lift.

Repeat process until tar is removed

If the tar stain is persistent and doesn’t come off completely with the initial wiping, don’t worry. Repeat the process of gently rubbing with a paper towel until the tar is fully removed. It may take a few tries, especially for larger or older tar stains.

Note: If the tar stain is particularly stubborn or if it has already dried and hardened, you may need to try alternative methods such as using a stain remover or seeking professional help. Remember to always follow the care instructions on the fabric and test any cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area first.

Wash the Fabric

One of the first steps in removing tar from fabric is to wash the affected area. This will help to loosen and remove any surface-level tar residue. There are a few different methods you can use to wash the fabric, depending on your preference and the level of tar stains.

Machine or hand wash with detergent

If the fabric is machine washable, you can simply toss it in the washing machine with your regular laundry detergent. Be sure to check the care instructions on the fabric label to ensure that machine washing is safe.

Use a normal or heavy-duty cycle, depending on the fabric’s durability, and wash it at the recommended temperature. Adding a stain remover or pre-treating the tar stains with a laundry detergent can help to enhance the cleaning process.

If the fabric is not machine washable or if you prefer to hand wash it, you can do so in a sink or basin. Fill the sink with warm water and add a small amount of laundry detergent. Gently agitate the fabric in the soapy water, focusing on the areas with tar stains.

Rinse thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue.

Air dry the fabric

After washing, it is important to air dry the fabric instead of using a dryer. High heat from the dryer can set any remaining tar stains, making them more difficult to remove. Hang the fabric outside or lay it flat on a clean towel indoors to dry.

Make sure the fabric is completely dry before moving on to the next step.

Check for any remaining tar stains

Once the fabric is dry, carefully examine it for any remaining tar stains. If there are still visible stains, you may need to repeat the washing process or try alternative methods to remove the tar. It is important to address any remaining stains before attempting any further cleaning or treatments.

For more information on removing tar stains from fabric, you can visit websites such as The Spruce or Cleanipedia which provide detailed guides and tips for tackling this type of stain.

Try Other Cleaning Methods for Stubborn Tar

If the previous methods didn’t completely remove the tar from your fabric, don’t worry! There are a few more techniques you can try to tackle even the most stubborn stains. Here are some alternative cleaning methods that can help you get rid of tar:

Use an iron and paper towels

This method involves using heat to soften the tar and absorb it with paper towels. Start by placing a few layers of paper towels over the tar stain. Then, set your iron to a low heat setting and gently press it on top of the paper towels.

The heat will melt the tar, causing it to stick to the paper towels. Repeat this process with fresh paper towels until the tar is completely removed from the fabric.

Freeze the fabric overnight

Another technique you can try is freezing the fabric overnight. Place the stained fabric in a sealable plastic bag and place it in the freezer. The extreme cold temperature will harden the tar, making it easier to scrape off.

Once the tar is frozen, use a blunt object, such as a spoon or a butter knife, to gently scrape it off the fabric. Be careful not to damage the fabric while doing this.

Commercial dry cleaning

If all else fails, you can take your fabric to a professional dry cleaner. Dry cleaners have specialized solvents and equipment that can effectively remove tough stains like tar. They will be able to assess the fabric and choose the appropriate cleaning method to ensure the best results.

Note: It’s important to let the dry cleaner know beforehand that the stain is tar, as this will help them determine the most suitable treatment.

Remember, different fabrics may react differently to these cleaning methods, so it’s always a good idea to test them on a small, inconspicuous area before applying them to the entire stained area. Additionally, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for care and cleaning of your specific fabric.

For more information on tar stain removal and fabric care, you can visit websites such as Cleanipedia or WikiHow for detailed step-by-step guides and additional tips.


Tar stains can be annoying, but with the right solvents and techniques you can successfully remove tar from fabric without too much hassle. Start by gently scraping off excess tar, then apply a solvent like oil or butter to break down the tar.

Wipe it away gently with paper towels, washing the fabric when you’ve removed the stain. For really stubborn stains, try alternative cleaning methods like ironing, freezing, or taking it to a dry cleaner. With some time and effort, you can get rid of tar on clothes and other fabric items.

Just be patient and use the proper solvents and techniques outlined here to lift even stubborn tar stains.

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