Tar is an essential part of construction work—whether you are working on a roof or road repairs, tar is a necessary part of the job.
But when the tar follows you home or into your car, it can be a completely different story.
Although tar is perfect for roads and roofs, it is unsuitable for upholstery and can leave some stains that seem impossible to get out.
Luckily, we’ve done the research, and learning how to remove tar stains from upholstery is not nearly as impossible as it may seem.
All you need are a few household cleaning items and a little patience to keep your upholstery looking clean and tar-free.
What You’ll Need
Here are the few items and materials you will need to remove tar from your upholstery.
- Bag of ice or can of compressed air
- Dull kitchen knife
- Vacuum cleaner
- Liquid dish soap
- Hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol
- Paper towels
Now that you’ve assembled your cleaning arsenal, read on to learn how to get tar off your upholstery.
1. Solidify the tar
Although removing the tar as soon as possible is essential, this is easier to do if the tar is stiff.
If the tar is still soft, place a bag of ice on the tar to solidify it.
If you do not have a bag of ice, you can also use some compressed air to harden the tar.
2. Scrape up as much tar as possible
Once the tar is solidified, use a dull table knife or another dull edge like an old debit card to begin scraping up the tar.
The goal is to remove as much of the tar as possible without damaging your upholstery.
Start from the outside of the stain and gently work towards the middle to avoid accidentally spreading the tar farther on your upholstery.
Once you have scraped up as much tar as possible, vacuum the area to remove any loose pieces of tar.
Doing this will make removing the rest of the stain easier.
3. Wash the stain with soap and water
In a bowl, mix 1 cup of water with one teaspoon of liquid dish soap.
Use a cotton ball or a soft cleaning cloth to apply the soap mixture to the tar stain.
Wash the area gently, and then rinse with cool water.
You may need to do this several times to remove a significant portion of the tar stain.
Pro tip: As you wash the upholstery to remove the stain, be careful not to oversaturate the area. Too much water in your upholstery can lead to mildew issues, so only use as much water as necessary to remove the tar stain.
4. Treat the tar stain with hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol
Once you have washed away as much of the tar as possible, apply a little hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to the affected area.
Allow it to sit on the tar for a minute and then blot.
Continue to blot and apply the rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide until the tar stain is gone.
You should see some of the tar begin to lift off your upholstery.
Pro tip: If you find the tar stain is not coming out of your upholstery right away, you can apply the hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol and then cover the affected area with paper towels. Put a lightweight on top of the stain and allow it to sit overnight. In the morning, you should be able to remove the paper towels and the rest of the tar stain.
5. Dry the area thoroughly
Once the tar stain is completely gone, dry the affected area thoroughly.
Allow the upholstery to air dry or to sit in the sun.
The sun will help to prevent any mildew from forming on your upholstery.
Here is a video demonstrating how to remove tar from carpet.
Although carpet and upholstery are different surfaces, the procedure to remove tar from both surfaces is very similar.
0:09—If the tar is still soft, place a bag of ice on it to solidify the tar.
0:15—Scrape at the tar to remove as much as possible.
0:20—Vacuum the tar stain.
0:25—Mix 1 cup of water with one teaspoon of dish soap and apply to the tar stain.
0:42—Rinse and repeat with the soap solution until the tar stain is gone.
0:53—If the tar stain is difficult to remove, pour a little hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol on the stain.
0:59—Allow to sit for 1 minute and then blot.
1:07—Lay a few paper towels on the stained area and allow them to sit overnight with a weight on top.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will WD-40 remove a tough tar stain from my upholstery?
If you are hesitant to apply hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol to your upholstery, you can also use WD-40.
After scraping away as much of the tar as possible, spray a little WD-40 on the tar stain and work it in with your fingers.
Allow the WD-40 to sit for a couple of minutes, and then use a cleaning cloth or a paper towel to wipe the stain away.
You may need to apply the WD-40 a couple of times to remove the tar stain.
Once the tar is removed, clean the area with soap and water to remove any residue from the WD-40.
After cleaning the area, allow the upholstery to dry completely.
Can I use dry-cleaning solvent on tar stains?
You can use dry-cleaning solvent instead of hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol.
After scraping up as much of the tar stain as possible, apply a bit of dry-cleaning solvent to a cleaning cloth.
Dab the stain, working from the outside towards the middle to avoid spreading the stain.
Continue dabbing and blotting until the tar stain is gone.
Then rinse the area with clean water and allow it to dry.
Does Alcohol Remove Tar?
Alcohol is probably your best bet at removing tar from upholstery.
Follow the steps above using alcohol instead of hydrogen peroxide to remove the tar.
Does White Vinegar Remove Tar?
If you don’t have any alcohol, try white distilled vinegar.
Start by creating a 1/2 cup warm water solution and 1 tablespoon each of white vinegar and grease-cutting dish detergent.
I’ve always loved to use Dawn but any grease-cutting detergent will work.
Blot and saturate the stain with the solution.
Blot the stain with cold water until the stain is lifted.
Does Acetone Dissolve Tar?
Acetone is a paint-thinner and is successful in dissolving and removing tar.
It can also be used to remove glue residue and even permanent marker.