I got tree sap on my shirt and the internet was so kind as to give me the tip to use hand sanitizer to remove said sap from my cotton shirt -- thank you internet! However, now I am completely perplexed about the chemistry behind why this solution worked. In addition to being grateful that the sap came right out. Does anyone want to elucidate this chemical mystery in semi-plain english?
You didn't mention what type or Brand of hand sanitizer you used. However, I'd guess it had a lot of an alcohol (ethanol or isopropanol - since these are regulated ingredients for this purpose) in it. Alcohol is a moderately polar solvent that would match well with the sugars/phenolics/lignins in the sap - so it dissolved it or at least emulsified it well .
It was Purell, fyi. but I'm guessing that generally hand sanitizers are created pretty equal. I wonder if using vodka would have worked the same.
I also had a pitch incident: pitch from new construction (roof joists) dripped on my pristine garaged roadster when the garage got warm inside; I had pitch drips on my car & on the ragtop. The body shop recommended tar remover, which contains "petroleum distillates"; for the most part this has removed the pitch. I used a product called Turtle wax Bug & Tar remover. I suspect that the polar alcohol in the hand sanitizer may remove the wax on the car so I will try the hand sanitizer cautiously; the Turtle wax B&T remover incompletely removed pitch but hand sanitizer may strip the wax on the car, which I do not want & which the TW does not.