How To Remove Tar Stains From Clothes

Are you or someone in your household frequently handling tar? If this is the case, your garments may not be a stranger to tar stains. Unfortunately, these stains can be extremely stubborn and tricky to remove from clothing.

Thankfully, removing tar stains is totally possible, and you don’t need to throw that shirt away. With the right pre-treatment, quality detergent, and the correct temp, you’ll be able to get rid of that black spot you’re struggling to lift off!

Best Ways To Pre-Treat A Tar-Stained Fabric

When your clothing is stained by tar, it’s not a good idea to wash it without trying to remove the excess stain first. By doing so, you may just be setting the tar into the fabric, which makes it more difficult to remove. 

Hence, pre-treatment is the key to making the tar-removing process easier! Here are some of the best methods you can try: 

Remove Excess Tar By Scraping It Off

The first step in treating a tar stain is to remove as much excess tar as possible. Use a blunt knife or a spoon to gently scrape off the tar. Be careful not to spread the stain further or embed it deeper into the fabric!

scraping tar off with spoon

Freeze The Tar For Easier Removal

Is the tar still soft? Freeze it! Place the garment in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer for a few hours. Once the tar hardens, it becomes much easier to scrape off. 

If you don’t want to put the entire garment in your freezer, you can always use ice or a bag of frozen vegetables. Just apply the ice or bag directly to the tar until it hardens, then start scooping it up with your knife or spoon.

Use A Pre-Treatment Solution

After scraping off the excess tar, apply a pre-treatment solution to the stained area. You can use a commercial stain remover or a bit of washing liquid. Make sure to follow the instructions on the stain remover to get the best results! 

For most products, it’s best to let it sit for a few minutes to penetrate the stain.

How To Properly Wash Tar-Stained Clothing

Now that you’re done pre-treating the garment, it’s time to wash your fabrics. Chances are, there are still some stains that have already been absorbed into the garment itself. 

Here are the things that will help you in your laundry session: 

Use Tough Detergents For Effective Cleaning

When washing tar-stained clothing, use a heavy-duty detergent. These detergents have enzymes and other ingredients that are effective at breaking down tough stains.


TIP: Use your heavy-duty detergent to pre-treat stains! Just dab the detergent on the stain, let it sit for at least 30 minutes, and then wash as normal!

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Wash With Hot Temperature for Best Results

Wash the garment in the hottest water safe for the fabric! Doing so will allow the stain to loosen up, making it easier to remove. 

60 Degree Wash Cycle

Most cotton can be washed with water that’s around 60°C, so if your clothes are hardy, you don’t have to worry about shrinking them after using hot temperature in the washing machine. It’s best to use hot water as the heat will allow your tough detergent to do its job better as it will infiltrate the fibres of your garment. 

WARNING: Before anything else, check the care label of your clothing. It will let you know whether you can wash it with hot water, or if it is only meant for cold washes. You wouldn’t want to damage your clothing!

Choose The Right Stain Remover For Stubborn Stains

If the stain is not budging, you’ll want to bring out the stronger products. One of the best ones you can use is shop-bought removers that contain bleach. 

Unfortunately, not all fabrics can be washed with bleach-containing products, especially coloured ones. This is because bleach has whitening properties, and you’ll likely stain your coloured garment and turn it into another colour. 

stained shirt and bleach

To be safe, oxygen bleach is a milder alternative that is still strong enough to remove tough stains. Just remember, there are a lot of commercial products and you can choose one that’s formulated for tar or grease stains. 

As always, follow the instructions on the product label for the best results. 

SEE ALSO: Bleach Vs Oxygen Bleach (what’s the difference & when to use them)

Other Ways To Remove Tar Stains

Is the tar stain still clinging to your fabric? Or do you just want to use fewer chemicals compared to using a shop-bought product?

Thankfully, there are a lot of household products that’ll help remove stains on your garments, such as white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide!

Distilled white vinegar has disinfecting and acidic properties that can clean and remove stains on your clothing. Just apply a mixture of white vinegar with water using a 1:1 ratio to the stain, wait for at least 30 minutes, then rinse with cold water. 

Bicarbonate of soda is not just great for baking but can whiten your garments and remove stubborn stains. Create a paste by mixing a bit of water with a few tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda. Then, apply it directly to the stain, let it sit for a while, then rinse and wash the garment. 

Do you have a bottle of baby oil lying around? It can help soften and lift the tar! Apply a small amount to the stain, gently rub it in, and then wash as usual.

Rubbing alcohol or even a nail polish remover is effective in breaking down tar. Apply the solution to the stain, let it sit for a few minutes, and then blot away. Wash as normal and repeat if necessary. 

If your white or colourfast garment is stained with tar, you can always use hydrogen peroxide. Just make sure to test it on an inconspicuous area first. Once you’re sure that it won’t leave a mark, apply a bit of hydrogen peroxide on the stain, let it bubble for a few minutes, then rinse and wash.

Of course, if your fabric is delicate or is dry-clean only, it’s best to have it dealt with by a pro. Granted, taking your garment to a professional laundry cleaner may cost a bit of money. But if you really want to save your fabric, it could be your best bet. 

Prevention Is Better Than Cure – Especially With Tar Stains!

Preventing tar stains on clothes is much easier than removing them. By taking some proactive steps, you can minimise the chances of getting these stubborn stains on your garments. 

Here are some effective ways to prevent tar stains:

  • If you know you’ll be in an environment where tar is present, wear protective clothing over your regular garments. This could be an apron, overalls, or old clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty.
  • Be cautious about where you sit, especially in public areas like parks or beaches where there might be freshly tarred benches or surfaces.
  • If you use tar-based products like sealants or asphalt at home, ensure they are properly sealed and stored. Keep them in a secure place where they can’t accidentally spill onto your clothing.
  • Clean any tools or surfaces immediately after use if they have tar on them. This prevents accidental transfer to your clothes later.

Remember, treating tar stains might require a bit of trial and error, and some patience. Always test any treatment on a small, inconspicuous area of the fabric first to check for any adverse reaction. 

With these methods, you can tackle those pesky tar stains and save your clothes from being thrown in the rubbish!

Do you have questions? Ask away!

Frequently Asked Questions

What removes tar from clothing?

To remove tar from clothing, you can use methods such as scraping off excess tar, applying a pre-treatment solution like a commercial stain remover or washing liquid, using heavy-duty detergents, and washing at a high temperature. For more natural methods, you can try white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, bicarbonate of soda, baby oil, or even rubbing alcohol and nail polish remover.

How do you remove dried tar?

To remove dried tar, first try to scrape off as much as you can with a blunt knife or spoon. If the tar is still stubborn, you can freeze the garment to harden the tar, making it easier to scrape off. Afterwards, apply a pre-treatment solution and wash with a heavy-duty detergent in hot water.

Is it OK to put clothes in the freezer?

Yes, it’s OK to put clothes in the freezer. This method is particularly useful for hardening soft tar, making it easier to scrape off from the fabric. Just place the garment in a plastic bag before putting it in the freezer to avoid any moisture damage.

Is tar toxic to humans?

Tar can be toxic to humans if inhaled or ingested in large quantities. It contains chemicals that may be harmful, so it’s important to handle tar with care. However, the amount typically found on clothing is usually not enough to cause harm, but it’s still advisable to wear gloves when removing tar stains.

How do you remove tar from the skin naturally?

To remove tar from the skin naturally, you can use baby oil, olive oil, or coconut oil. Apply the oil to the tar-stained area, gently rub it in to loosen the tar, and then wash the area with soap and water. This method is effective and gentle on the skin.

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