Removing Tar and Oil From Surfaces Can Be a Challenge. In this article, we’ll discuss removing tar and oil from wood, masonry, painted surfaces, unpainted metals, synthetic hard surfaces, glass, cotton laundry fabrics, canvas, synthetic laundry fabrics, carpets and hand cleaning.

How to Clean Oil and Tar From Wood Surfaces

Using Low Pressure Spraying

Rinse away any surface dirt which may interfere with deep cleaning.
Apply a general purpose degreaser (dilute per label directions) to the wood using a low pressure sprayer.
Work in manageable sections; the degreaser should not be allowed to dry on the surface.
On vertical surfaces, such as a fence, apply the cleaner from the bottom to the top to avoid streaking.
Agitate area with a deck brush.
Rinse thoroughly with a low psi (less then 1000 psi) pressure washer with a wide angle spray* or with a garden hose sprayer.
On vertical surfaces, rinse from the top down to avoid streaking.

* Using high pressure with a low angle nozzle may damage (cut) wood surfaces.

Using Brush and Bucket Method

Rinse away any surface dirt which may interfere with deep cleaning.
Apply a general purpose degreaser to the wood using a mop or deck brush.
Work in manageable sections; the degreaser should not be allowed to dry on the surface.
On vertical surfaces, such as a fence, apply the cleaner from the bottom to the top to avoid streaking.
Agitate the area with a deck brush.
Rinse thoroughly with a low psi (less then 1000 psi) pressure washer with a wide angle spray* or with a garden hose sprayer.
On vertical surfaces, rinse from the top down to avoid streaking.

How to Clean Oil and Tar From Masonry Surfaces

Using High Pressure Spraying

* If oil is pooled, use an absorbent to remove the pool of oil.  Properly discard absorbed material.

Pre-treat heavily soiled area with a heavy duty degreaser before general pressure washing.
Dilute product according to label directions and apply directly to the visible oil stains.
Agitate area with a stiff bristled brush.
Apply a low foaming degreaser using a low pressure spray or high pressure sprayer depending upon equipment capabilities and manufacturer’s recommendations.
Dilute product according to label directions and equipment manual.
If it is a vertical surface, such as a wall, apply the cleaner from the bottom to the top to avoid streaking.
Certain types of pressure washers are equipped with a low pressure soap application which typically involves a nozzle change to a “soap” nozzle. This method is most beneficial on vertical surfaces where extended contact time between the degreaser and surface is achieved through a “clinging” foam.  Specific foaming equipment may also be utilized.
Pressure wash and rinse thoroughly.

NOTE- Biological degreasers may contain bacteria which will penetrate deep into the pores of the concrete to actually digest the oil over time.  Follow label directions for best results.

Use a neutral to moderate pH degreaser formulated with a blend of emulsifiers, surfactants and/or biological (bacteria-based) additives targeted for the digestion of petroleum based oil.
Rinse thoroughly with high pressure (typically 1500 psi or greater for best results).
On vertical surfaces, rinse from the top down to avoid streaking.

How to Clean Oil and Tar From Painted Surfaces

When cleaning painted surfaces, use caution to avoid the paint from becoming damaged, discolored or removed.
Products and methods of cleaning should be tested in an inconspicuous area for compatibility before general cleaning.
When using a pressure washer for washing or rinsing an appropriate temperature and pressure must be maintained to avoid damage to paint.
For sensitive paints or coatings that may be harmed by high pressure and high temperature water, use a low psi (less than 1000 psi) pressure washer with cold water or carefully hand scrub.
For more durable paints and coatings, a high pressure spraying method (greater than 1000 psi) may be used.
Rinse away any surface dirt which may interfere with deep cleaning.
Apply a mild general purpose degreaser (dilute per label directions) to the surface using low pressure.
Work in manageable sections.  Do not allow the degreaser to dry on the surface.
If it is a vertical surface, such as a wall, apply the cleaner from the bottom to the top to avoid streaking.
Use a moderate to high foaming general purpose degreaser through the spray washer set up for low pressure “soap” application.  Dilute degreaser according to label directions and equipment manual.
If a sprayer is unavailable, add clean cool water to a bucket and apply to the surface.
Agitate area with a soft bristled brush.
Rinse thoroughly with a low psi pressure washer with a wide angle spray or with a garden hose sprayer. On vertical surfaces, rinse from the top down to avoid streaking.
If desired, use a sponge, rag or paper towel to wipe the cleaner and the oil from the surface.

How to Clean Oil and Tar From Unpainted Metal Surfaces

Rinse away any surface dirt which may interfere with deep cleaning.
Apply a general purpose degreaser (dilute per label directions) to the metal using a low pressure sprayer.
Work in manageable sections.  Do not allow the degreaser to dry on the surface.
When cleaning a vertical surface, such as a wall, apply the cleaner from the bottom to the top to avoid streaking.
Use a low foaming general purpose degreaser through a pressure washer. Dilute product according to label directions and equipment manual.
Agitate area with a stiff bristled brush.
Rinse thoroughly with low psi (less than 1000 psi) pressure washer or with a garden hose sprayer.
On vertical surfaces, rinse from the top down to avoid streaking.

How to Clean Oil and Tar From Synthetic Surfaces

Synthetic surfaces must be cleaned with caution or the item may be damaged.
Items made of vinyl, plastic and fiberglass, etc., need special care.  Always test product first for compatibility.
Rinse away any surface dirt which may interfere with deep cleaning.
Apply a mild general purpose degreaser (dilute per label directions) to the surface using a low pressure sprayer.
Work in manageable sections; the degreaser should not be allowed to dry on the surface.
When cleaning a vertical surface, apply the cleaner from the bottom to the top to avoid streaking.
If sprayer is unavailable, add clean water to the bucket and apply to the surface.
Agitate area with a soft bristled brush.
If desired, you may use a sponge, rag or paper towel to wipe the cleaner and the oil from the surface.
Rinse thoroughly with low psi (less than 1000 psi) pressure washer or with a garden hose sprayer.
On vertical surfaces rinse from the top down to avoid streaking.

How to Clean Oil and Tar From Glass Surfaces

Rinse away any surface dirt which may interfere with deep cleaning.
Apply a glass cleaner (dilute per label directions) to the glass using a low pressure sprayer.
Work in manageable sections.  Do not allow the cleaner to dry on the surface.
Apply the cleaner from the bottom to the top to avoid streaking.
Rinse thoroughly with low psi (less than 1000 psi) pressure washer or with a garden hose sprayer.
On vertical surfaces, rinse from the top down to avoid streaking.
Use a squeegee to remove excess water & reduce spotting.
Wipe with a clean towel or rag.

How to Clean Oil and Tar From Canvas Surfaces

Rinse away any surface dirt which may interfere with deep cleaning.
For heavy oil or tar stains, the canvas can be pre-treated with a degreaser.
Use a soft brush to work the cleaner into the stain.
Apply a mild general purpose degreaser (dilute per label directions) to the entire surface using a low pressure sprayer.
Work in manageable sections.  Do not allow the degreaser to dry on the surface.
When cleaning a vertical surface, apply the cleaner from the bottom to the top to avoid streaking.
Rinse thoroughly with low psi (less than 1000 psi) pressure washer or with a garden hose sprayer.
On vertical surfaces rinse from the top down to avoid streaking.

How to Clean Oil and Tar From Cotton Laundry Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics such as polyester and nylon must be treated differently than cotton fabrics.  

If oil, grease or tar is visibly present on the fabric, it must be pre-treated before going into the washing machine.
Pre-treat stains with a laundry spotter specific to oil or tar.
Use a soft bristled brush to work the spotter into the fabric.
Wash in machine with regular laundry detergent.
Check items before placing in dryer; if stains are still present, repeat the previous steps.

How to Clean Oil and Tar From Synthetic Laundry Fabrics

Pre-treat stains with a water based degreaser.
Use a soft bristled brush to work the cleaner into the fabric.
Wash in machine with regular laundry detergent.
Check items before placing in dryer; if stains are still present, repeat the previous steps.

How to Clean Oil and Tar From Carpet

Use a carpet cleaning solution made for use in hot water extraction or other type carpet cleaning units.
Product should be water based.
Remove as much of the stain as possible by blotting with an absorbent cloth.
Choose a carpet spotting product specific to oil, grease or tar removal (always test product compatibility with the carpet before general use).
Apply product per label directions.
In general, a carpet spotter should be sprayed in a circular motion, starting from the outside edge and working towards the center.
Allow a few minutes of contact time.  Be careful not to soak the carpet or leave the product on too long.
Products that are aggressive enough to break up oil may be aggressive enough to soften the glue on the back of the carpet.
Blot spot with an absorbent cloth, working from the outside edge of the stain towards the center.
Pre-treat any oil spots on the carpet as outlined above.
Dilute the carpet cleaning product per label directions and add to the solution tank of the extraction carpet cleaning machine.
Refer to the machine manual for carpet cleaning directions.
Allow carpet to dry.  If stains are still visible, re-treat carpet stain removal steps.

Hand Care While Cleaning Oil and Tar From Surfaces

Protective gloves are essential when working with oil contaminated objects and when working with cleaning chemicals.
Always wash your hands thoroughly before eating or using the restroom even if you were wearing gloves.
If clean rinse water is unavailable, use a waterless hand cleaner and/or an instant hand sanitizer.

Removing Oil and Tar From Hands

Apply waterless hand soap to hands.
Work soap into hands, making sure to clean the backs of the hands, the wrists, and in between fingers.
Dry hands with a rag or paper towel.
Wet hands with water and apply hand soap.
Work soap into hands, making sure to clean the backs of the hands, the wrists, and in between fingers.
A small brush may be used to scrub finger nails and tough areas.
Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
Dry hands with a towel or air dryer.
A skin moisturizer may be used to avoid chapping.

If using a pre-moistened hand cleaner towel, rub the towel over your hands, then discard into a trash receptacle.  Do not use hand wipes designed specifically for the use on skin for hard surface cleaning.

Contact us to discuss your situation.  We can help!