Thursday, August 26, 2010

How to Get Beach Tar Off Your Feet

If you are from or have visited coastal California, chances are you have experienced tar on the feet.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's a black, sticky goo that is the result of natural petroleum seepage.  In fact, tar is so common here that the famous Pismo Beach is actually named after tar in the native Chumash language.  Depending on the area and the tide, a walk on the beach can get you anything from a few spots of tar on your feet to essentially a new pair of sandals.

There are three things to remember when visiting a beach that is littered with tar.  The first is that you should not wear shoes.  This sounds counter intuitive, but it is much easier to get it off your feet than your shoes.  Also, it will show that you are clearly a tourist, because no local of any beach town will every wear shoes at the beach unless they're going for a run (maybe).  The second thing is that you are better off planning for getting tar on your feet before you leave the house, just in case.  The third is that NO amount of soap and water will effectively remove tar.

So what does?  Tar is most easily removed by scraping off the excess on a nearby rock or curb and then dissolving the rest with oil and a paper towel or cloth.  Any cheap oil will do.  Baby oil is great if you have it laying around.  Canola oil works beautifully.  I would avoid using anything else that is more expensive or actually good for cooking because you may need to use a lot of it.  Simply drip a spot of oil on a paper towel (maybe a teaspoon if you only have a few spots) and polish the bottom of your feet until the tar is removed.  It is best to fold up the paper towel first so you can refold it in another direction and use both sides.  It will still be effective and it will reduce waste.  Once the tar is removed, dry your feet off with a clean paper towel or wash your feet with soap and water so as not to slip or leave oil stains on your patio, which are difficult to remove.

There are products sold specifically for removing tar and they honestly work no better than simple cooking or baby oil.  Plus, they are expensive.  It is best to leave oil and paper towels or an old T-shirt in your car or outside your house so that you can remove the tar before tracking it everywhere.  Oil will also work on hair and flooring.  It may save clothing and carpet, but I wouldn't count on it.

Awesome Tip of the Day:  So why not wear shoes?  Because shoes are expensive and feet come standard. ;)  The skin on your feet is constantly growing and shedding.  Even if you did nothing to remove the tar from your feet, it would eventually come off.  Your shoes, however, do not change.  Once tar is in there, it's in there.  The oil trick may work on your shoes but it may still stain an ugly brownish black color and the oil itself can be corrosive to the rubber soles, causing accelerated wear.  Walking barefoot is good for you anyway.  Just watch where you walk.

If a bottle of oil is not available, you can always use grass and sand.  The juicy plants like grass and other plants commonly found near the beach are pretty good in a pinch.  From standing, remove tar from one foot at a time by pressing your foot against the grass in a twisting motion.  A round tuft of grass fits foot arches quite well.  Once the majority of tar is removed, a quick sanding will get rid of the rest.  Voila!  Clean feet.  The photo at the top of this post was taken after a quick rub in the grass.  As you can see, there isn't much left.

While you are visiting our beaches, please remember to pick up after your dog and do not leave cigarette butts, bottle caps, or other trash behind.  Such pollution can leave our local surfers and other wild life sick or injured.  We take our beaches very seriously, but we are usually friendly and will kindly welcome back respectful visitors.

18 comments:

  1. Hey M! Just got my feet covered in tar, and now uncovered. Thanks, chica! - Alexis

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  2. my dad put turpentine on my feet. you just scrub it off easily. it takes no scrapping on sidewalks, etc. done this a dozen times. takes like a couple minutes, maybe... its been awhile.

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    1. AND UNFORTUNATELY TOXIC!

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  3. Butter works very well on skin and fabric.

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  4. gracias! born in east la and grew up in long beach...been a while since had "tar" feet. was barefoot on hot pavement. ouch!

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  5. Thanks! Used olive oil and it worked great. Took only a few minutes. Some other sites said leave the oil on for 30 minutes but this was quick and easy.

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  6. I can't believe I've lived in LA all my life and never new this great trick. 10 minutes and some grapeseed oil and I'm 95% clean. The rest will work itself out. :)

    You rock - thanks!

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  7. FISH OIL / CUT OPEN THE FISH OIL CAPSULES.. WORKS SUPER WELL

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    1. I think pretty much any kind of oil will work, so there are other options that don't smell like fish oil.

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  8. Thank you so much. I just.got a new pair of tar shoes. Thanks again and going home to your advice.

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  9. I used a tiny bit of olive oil and it came right off! Thank you so much ❤️

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  10. Use gas it may smell but wash it off and it's gone

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  11. Use gas it may smell but wash it off and it's gone

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  12. I just came off of a Santa Barbara beach with the bottoms of my feet covered in oil. I tried your trick with olive oil & it worked great!! Thank you so much!

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  13. I went to the beach as a kid 15 years ago and got rocks and sand in the lining of my trunks. My John was brown after that and had been stained for years. Did I need to do these techniques when I was younger? I feel like I am stuck with a brown john

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