Removal of tree pitch and forest debris from boots

6:24 p.m. on May 17, 2015 (EDT)
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28 forum posts

I call upon the expertise of the readers to advise me of a means to remove evergreen tree pitch and debris adhering to it from the lugs of hiking boots without damage to the soles of the boots.  Most pitch is dissolved with petroleum hydrocarbons like WD-40, but I do not want to damage the boots in the process. What is your experience?  Thank you for helping.

9:27 p.m. on May 17, 2015 (EDT)
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I have had good results using Goo Gone for boots, clothes (including synthetics), and mostly the car (we have lots of fir trees around here - beautiful, but they drip a lot (esp sugar pines). I get it by the bottle at Home Depot.

10:01 a.m. on May 18, 2015 (EDT)
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4,026 forum posts

I went to forestry school and worked in the woods for years but never have thought about this topic before. Petroleum products like those mentioned would have a good chance of breaking down the hydrocarbon chains in tree pitch.

My great uncle Hite was in the logging business most of his life, sometimes running logging trucks. He used to talk about the amount of defect in the old growth timber in SE Washington. The old trees especially the true firs, "Abies" had pitch pockets sometimes in the stems. When you hit a pitch pocket in an old grand fir there could be a couple of quarts of pitch that would shoot out of the cut from a saw covering the operator, his saw and his clothes in pitch. Usually people were done for the day.


11:06 a.m. on May 18, 2015 (EDT)
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I'd try to soften it with a hair dryer, then remove it manually with a stick. I can think of almost no solvent that wouldn't adversely effect the sole compound.

11:52 a.m. on May 18, 2015 (EDT)
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396 forum posts

Denatured alcohol.

5:37 p.m. on May 18, 2015 (EDT)
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I use kerosene to clean my saw. That would work on your shoes without hurting the Vibram type soles. It does not hurt the plastic covering on a chain saw engine.

8:03 a.m. on May 19, 2015 (EDT)
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195 forum posts

Rubbing alcohol works great on pitch.

8:06 a.m. on May 19, 2015 (EDT)
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Give rubbing alcohol a try and use a cotton rag.  I've cleaned tree sap from softshell pants and that was the only thing that would work that didn't stain the material.  

10:14 a.m. on May 19, 2015 (EDT)
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4,026 forum posts

I have a set of "woods clothes."  They have some tree pitch on them, but I have never tried to remove any of it. Filson pants frequently go for decades without being washed.

10:02 a.m. on May 22, 2015 (EDT)
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485 forum posts

Boot makers go to great lengths to fabricate "sticky rubber"and sell it for a premium to climbers obsessed with doing a harder grade.  You've got sticky rubber for free!  Go try a 5.15d....

1:05 p.m. on May 26, 2015 (EDT)
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1,508 forum posts

I would first try Turpentine before all other options already mentioned. I've been led to believe it is a very effective yet gentle solvent for most things one might encounter in the woods, without negatively effecting the adhesive properties of cements. I use it monthly to renew my woods boots.

Then Goo Gone, then rubbing alcohol, then WD-40.

10:24 a.m. on May 30, 2015 (EDT)
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4,026 forum posts

Turpentine is a great choice, since many people no longer have kerosene around for lamps and heaters. Paint thinner, lacquer thinner and acetone would all probably work pretty well. See what you have in the garage before you buy anything.

January 22, 2020
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