Pine tar

Pine tar[1]
Other names
Pine tar oil, Wood tar oil
  • none
ECHA InfoCard 100.029.429
EC Number 232-374-8
Appearance Blackish-brown viscous liquid
Density 1.01–1.06
Boiling point 150 to 400 °C (302 to 752 °F; 423 to 673 K)
Solubility alc, chloroform, ether, acetone, glacial acetic acid, fixed/volatile oils, solutions of caustic alkalies
R-phrases (outdated) R43
S-phrases (outdated) (S2) S24 S28 S37 S46
NFPA 704
Flash point 90 °C (194 °F; 363 K)
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
Infobox references

Pine tar is a sticky material produced by the high temperature carbonization of pine wood in anoxic conditions (dry distillation or destructive distillation). The wood is rapidly decomposed by applying heat and pressure in a closed container; the primary resulting products are charcoal and pine tar.

Pine tar consists primarily of aromatic hydrocarbons, tar acids and tar bases. Components of tar vary according to the pyrolytic process (e.g. method, duration, temperature) and origin of the wood (e.g. age of pine trees, type of soil and moisture conditions during tree growth). The choice of wood, design of kiln, burning and collection of the tar can vary. Only pine stumps and roots are used in the traditional production of pine tar.

Pine tar has a long history as a wood preservative, as a wood sealant for maritime use, in roofing construction and maintenance, in soaps and in the treatment of carbuncles and skin diseases, such as psoriasis, eczema, and rosacea. One niche application has been in Major League Baseball (MLB) where pine tar is used to enhance the grip of a hitter’s bat. Pine tar is also sometimes used by pitchers to improve their grip on the ball in cold weather.


Pine tar has long been used in Scandinavian nations as a preservative for wood which may be exposed to harsh conditions, including outdoor furniture and ship decking and rigging. The high-grade pine tar used in this application is often called Stockholm Tar[2] since, for many years, a single company held a royal monopoly on its export out of Stockholm, Sweden.[3] It is also known as "Archangel Tar".[4] Tar and pitch for maritime use was in such demand that it became an important export for the American colonies, which had extensive pine forests. North Carolinians became known as "Tar Heels."


Pine tar was used as a preservative on the bottoms of traditional Nordic style skis until modern synthetic materials replaced wood in their construction. It also helped waxes adhere, which aided such skis’ grip and glide.

Pine tar is widely used as a veterinary care product,[5] particularly as an antiseptic and hoof care treatment for horses and cattle.[5] It also has been used when chickens start pecking the low hen.[6] Applying a smear of pine tar on the wound acts as a natural germicidal/antibacterial and discourages continued attacks on the affected hen due to its foreign texture.[6]

Pine tar is used as a softening solvent in the rubber industry, for treating and fabricating construction materials, and in special paints.

As a wood preservative

Pine tar is combined with gum turpentine and boiled linseed oil to create a wood preservative. First, a thin coat is applied using a mixture with a greater proportion of turpentine. This allows it to permeate deeper into the oakum and fibre of the wood and lets the tar seep into any pinholes and larger gaps that might be in the planks. The tar weeps out to the exterior and indicates where the boat needs the most attention. This is followed with a thicker standard mix. Such treatments, while effective, must be continually reapplied.

Weatherproofing rope

Traditionally, hemp and other natural fibers were the norm for rope production. Such rope would quickly rot when exposed to rain, and was typically tarred to preserve it. The tar would stain the hands of ship's crews, and British Navy seamen became known as "tars."

In baseball

Pine tar is applied to the handles of baseball bats to improves a batter's grip.

Rule 1.10(c) of the 2002 Official rules of Major League Baseball restricts application to the lower 18 inches of a bat. The most famous example of the rule being applied is the Pine Tar Incident, which occurred during the July 24, 1983 game between the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees.

Pine tar is also sometimes used by pitchers to improve their grip on the ball in cold weather. This is allowed in spite of a regulation prohibiting the application of any foreign substance to a ball (except grip-improving Baseball Rubbing Mud applied by the umpires).8.02 Nevertheless batters feel it gives a pitcher any competitive advantage.


Pine tar has historically been used for treating skin conditions, usually in soap form. This was banned by the FDA along with many other ingredients due to a lack of proof of their effectiveness.[7]

Some pine tar products contain creosote, a probable carcinogen. Creosote potentially may be produced when the pine wood is heated up to high temperatures in the creation of pine tar.[8]

Pine tar is also used in veterinary medicine as an expectorant and an antiseptic in chronic skin conditions.[1]

See also


  1. 1 2 Merck Index, 11th Edition, 7417. p. 1182
  2. "Stockholm Tar". Retrieved 23 Sep 2012.
  3. Theodore P. Kaye. "Pine Tar; History And Uses". San Francisco Maritime Park Association. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
  4. Hugh Chisholm (1911). "Tar". The Encyclopædia Britannica. 26 (11 ed.). p. 414. Retrieved 2010-08-01.
  5. 1 2 Wickstrom, Mark. "Phenols and Related Compounds". The Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck Manuals. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  6. 1 2 Laura Bryant. "Chickens: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising and Keeping Hens". Cedar Fort, Inc. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  7. Bonnie Aikman (1990-11-07). "Clean-Up of Ineffective Ingredients in OTC Drug Products" (Press release). Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
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