Tar removal advice please


Old 06-22-05, 12:27 AM
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Tar removal advice please


I have about 40 railway sleepers that together act as retaining walls around my garden. These were installed during the winter but now the summer has come along, most of the top ones are now exuding tar. With five children, the youngest being a curios 14 months old, they are naturally coming into contact with this tar. We have tried everything to get it off their clothes and furniture but with little success. Is there any product or technique we could use to remove the tar from the sleeper's surface, thereby removing the problem at source?

Any help greatly appreciated

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Old 06-22-05, 05:43 AM
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Tar removal

I am interested to learn whether you have discovered how to remove tar, as I too have old sleepers in my garden and they are seeping a lot of tar which is not only sticky, and unsightly, but now is recommended as not usable near children or pets as the tar is carcigenic (potentially cancer-forming) - I would advise you to look this up (there is info on the web about these substances) and perhaps think about replacing your sleepers, as you have such small children. As for removing the tar, I have not found anything that will remove it, except a road-worker recommended that deisel petrol will get it off - but I am not about to dose my garden with deisel.
I am currently having to consider getting a labourer to dig up my sleepers, and buy in new-wood ones, and get them re-laid in my garden, which of course will be a big additional cost which I am rather upset about, as I wish the garden-suppliers had been required to mention that the sleepers they were selling me would seep the tar forever and that it is actually classed as dangerous to health now.
Look forward to your reply.
Old 06-22-05, 08:43 AM
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Tar removal advice please

The material that is coming out is probably creosote that is commonly used to treat wood. Is is a petrochemical like tar and that is the reason your sovent will remove it from the surface.

It weeps out in the heat. Good railroad ties will continue to do this for many years (maybe 25?). It can be removed from the surface, but will continue to weep.They can continue doing this for many more years.

This is the reason they have been replaced as the common building material for landscape walls.

If you remove them, you have two viable economic choices:

1. Replace with wood treated in another way that will not last as long as your "sleepers" but will not weep and become a visual eyesore. The friendlier to people and bugs, the shorter the life.

2. Replace with concrete retainging wall units (Allan, Anchor, Keystone, Rockwood and VersaLok are the common names). Thes have recently become the most common landscaping materials because of color, appearance, landscape design options, and durability.

Other choices for residential gravity walls are stone (beautiful and costly) and poured concrete (utilitarian, costly & not flexible for landscape design).

Weeping will eventually decrease with time. I don't know what effect this will have on the garden.

Old 06-22-05, 09:38 AM
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Tar/creosote on sleepers

Dear Dick,
Many thanks for your message about this. As I suspected, there's no way to be rid of the tar.....and yes am considering replacing with newer wood. Or covering the old ones with decking boards, but the tar/creosote will probably seep out from underneath the decking anyhow? And continue to smell like a hot road in the summer, not very relaxing in my garden as well as the environmental issues!

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