How to Remove Tar from Your Skin

If you have ever done roofing work or sealed a driveway, then you probably know what it feels like to have tar stuck to your skin. For those of you familiar with this frustrating feeling, you also know how utterly pointless it is to try to wash it off with regular soap and water. In this article, I will give you some tips about how to safely and easily remove tar from your skin, using items you probably have in your house already.


Naturally, the easiest way to remove tar from your skin is not to get it on you in the first place. This is often easier said than done, but there are some measures that you can take to lessen the amount that you get on you. The easiest way to avoid getting tar on you is to wear gloves and long sleeves. It is also helpful to use tools to spread your tar.

And if you Didn’t Prevent It…

Okay, so maybe you didn’t have gloves and tools handy. Maybe you did your best and tar still got on your skin. Don’t panic! Yes, it’s sticky and gross, but with a little patience, it will come off. I’m going to offer solutions with increasing levels of intensity, so try the first one first and if that doesn’t work, try the next thing.

First of all, I know this seems counter-intuitive, but step one is to let the tar dry as much as possible first. The more you try to remove wet tar, the more you’ll just spread it around and it will be much harder to remove (seriously, trust me on this). If it’s just a small area, rub an ice cube over the tar to harden it more quickly, then you can try peeling the tar off.

Next, if you can, soak the area in hot soapy water until the tar softens a bit (I know I just told you to let it dry first, but stay with me…). Your first course of action should be scrubbing it with a kitchen scouring pad, a pumice stone (like the ones often used for buffing the rough, gnarly skin on your heels) or a bar soap with pumice in it, such as Lava Soap.

Still Not Working?

Try adding an oil like vegetable oil or baby oil to loosen the tar and make it easier to scrub off. Don’t have either one in the house? Peanut butter or mayonnaise have oils in them which might help.

Nail Polish Remover

If you still have tar on your skin, take some acetone-based nail polish remover and a washcloth and rub the area where the tar is. Once the tar is gone, there might still be a bit of a stain. Simply add more nail polish remover and the stain will come off. Be careful not to get it on anything else, because the acetone will take off all kinds of things, and you might not want it to.


This should only be used if all else has failed, and you will definitely want to be especially careful with this idea. Specifically, you will want to make sure there are no open flames or children around before you start, and you will want to be sure to clean up your mess thoroughly when you are done.

Pour some turpentine in a glass bowl and wash your hands off. The turpentine should take the tar off your hands quickly. This method should only be done if you have a lot of tar stuck to your skin.

Once you have washed off using the turpentine, make sure to safely dispose of any that is left over, and then wash again in hot soapy water.

Although in the moment it’s certainly frustrating, and it might even feel like you’re just going to have to live the rest of your life with tar stuck to you, if you can be patient and work your way through these simple suggestions, the question of how to remove tar from your skin is not that hard after all.

Betsy Cline

Betsy Cline has been a professional house cleaner for 15 years and also a mother of 4 amazing kids (who make lots of messes). She is the founder of How to Clean It and loves to share tips and advice for cleaning up anything life throws at you.

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