How to remove tar stains from clothing

Written by julie christensen
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How to remove tar stains from clothing
Used in laying ashphalt, tar leaves a sticky, black mess. (tar,roofing image by Greg Pickens from

Tar originally was made from pine sap but is generally created from petroleum products today. Removing it from clothes is difficult but not impossible. Tar stains are a combination of oil and dye, so you must use more than one stain remover. The first task is to remove the sticky oil residue left from the tar. Once you've removed the tar solids, you can tackle the black stain.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Dry cleaning solvent
  • White cloths
  • Stain stick
  • Heavy-duty liquid detergent
  • Colour-safe bleach or chlorine bleach

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  1. 1

    Review your garment labels for care instructions. Apply dry cleaning solvent to an inconspicuous area, like an inside seam. If the fabric remains unaltered, proceed to step 2.

  2. 2

    Scrape as much of the tar residue off as possible with a dull knife or a spoon.

  3. 3

    Apply dry cleaning solvent to the stain with a white cloth. Wait a few minutes, and blot the stain with another clean cloth. Rub the garment with a stain stick. Pour 1/8 cup of heavy duty liquid detergent on the stain, and rub it in. Wash the garment in very hot water. Repeat if a sticky residue remains.

  4. 4

    Treat the dye stain. Apply another 1/8 cup of washing powder to the stain. Soak the stain in a sinkful of very hot water. Add 1/2 cup colour-safe bleach to the water for coloured garments, or add 1/2 cup chlorine bleach to the water for whites.

  5. 5

    Soak the coloured garment for 30 minutes. Soak your white garment for only 15 minutes. Chlorine bleach won't remove more stains after 15 minutes but may weaken fabric fibres.

  6. 6

    Rinse and wash in very hot water.

Tips and warnings

  • Treat the stain as quickly as possible.
  • Always check care labels, especially before using solvents or chlorine bleach.

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