How To Remove Bugs and Tar
Remove bugs and tar quickly with our paint-safe bug and tar removers, bug sponges, and detailing clay bars. In this detailing guide to insect removal, we’ll tell you how to remove bugs, tar, and tree sap from your vehicle without scratching. We’ll even give you some tips on preventing bug stains and etching. Learn how to keep your vehicle bug-free!
What’s So Bad About Bugs?
Yes, bugs look awful
dotted across your front bumper and hood, but they’re also very destructive.
Maybe it’s revenge, but bugs can damage the paint long after they hit the
car. As insect remains decompose, they produce enzymes intended to break
down the carcass. These enzymes also break down automotive paint, resulting
in etching. (Etching requires polishing, a topic you can read about in our Dual Action or Circular Polishing Guides.)
Here in Florida and
across most of the Southeast, love bugs are the primary culprit. Love bugs
in particular have very fatty bodies, which produce a lot of enzymes. Plus,
their sheer number and affinity for busy roads make them unavoidable. And,
since they are love bugs, they hit your vehicle two at a time.
are a major problem in the Southeast. Dozens can coat a bumper in just a
Besides bugs, your
vehicle regularly encounters tar, tree sap, and bird droppings. All of these
things are detrimental to the paint and should be removed ASAP (no pun
Bug & Tar Removal
As soon as you notice
bugs, tar, or anything foreign on your vehicle, take action. Here’s what you
If the spot is
relatively fresh, you can use a microfiber towel and a quick detailer to wipe the paint clean. This is ideal because you’re
not removing any existing wax.
If step 1 didn’t
work, you need a stronger solution. McKee's 37 Road Kill Bug Remover is a step up from a quick detailer in terms of cleaning ability, but it is still very gentle on paintwork and glass. McKee's 37 Road Kill Bug Remover softens bug remains to break their bond with the surface. It DOES NOT dissolve bugs, which is a more aggressive approach. If the bug is relatively fresh or you just don't want to use a bug-dissolving cleaner, McKee's 37 Road Kill Bug Remover is a good choice.
For really stubborn isolated spots, you can use any
number of bug and tar removers that are basically strong cleaners intended
to dissolve bugs and tar. Examples are Stoner XENIT and Tarminator, Poorboy’s World Bug Squash, and Wurth Tar Remover. P21S Total Car Wash and Meguiars All Purpose Cleaner Plus are all-over exterior cleaners that
work wonders on sticky grime. The drawback to bug and tar removers and
cleaners is that you will have to reapply paint protection. However, spray waxes and sealants have made it very quick and easy to spot-wax
your car. With most, you just spray, spread, and wipe.
Stoner Xenit (above) is an
cleaner for stubborn contamination.
Stoner Tarminator (below)
tough tar deposits.
your vehicle is covered in bugs, which is the case for most cars in
Florida during love bug season. Instead of tackling each spot, it's best to
wash your vehicle. As you’re soaping down the front of your vehicle, use
the Safe Scrub to gently wash the entire area in a back and forth
motion. The honeycomb texture gets under the bug remains and lifts them
off the paint.
- Detailer’s Tip #1:
To soften the Safe Scrub Bug Sponge, soak it in warm water for 3 minutes. The
sponge will soften quite a bit, yet it’s still very effective.
You can also use a 8 Inch Montana Original Boar’s Hair Brush. The feathered bristles are
gentle yet effective at loosening stubborn grime. The 2-in-1 Wash Mitt is soft sheepskin on one side and bug-removing mesh on
the other side. This one mitt is capable of luxurious washing and gentle
A 2-in-1 Wash Mitt or a Boar's Hair Brush will help to gently remove bugs and grime.
another bug and tar removal option is detailing clay. Clay was invented to remove paint overspray, but it’s
proven very effective at removing tree sap, tar, and bugs. You’ll need a
bar of detailing clay and a bottle of clay lubricant. Pinnacle Ultra Poly Clay is a fine grade clay designed for maintaining
a slick finish. Wolfgang Elastic Poly Clay and McKee's 37 Universal Detailing Clay are both created to remove old, baked-on
Spray the desired area with clay lubricant
and then rub the clay bar back and forth. It will grab the surface at first.
As it removes contaminants, the clay will glide more easily. If you’re
claying the whole vehicle or a large area, reshape the clay bar often to
reveal clean clay. For more info on clay, see our Detailing Clay How-To.
- Detailer’s Tip #2:
Detailing Clay can be used on auto glass, too. Use it exactly the same
way as described above. As long as you use plenty of lubricant, detailing
clay is perfectly safe on glass and metal.
Wolfgang Elastic Poly Clay and Clay Lubricant safely remove bugs, tar, and sap. Always reapply wax after using detailing clay. Wax will make future cleaning easier.