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How To Remove Bugs and Tar

How To Remove Bugs and Tar

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.

Other Sticky Contaminants

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 intended!).

Bug & Tar Removal

As soon as you notice bugs, tar, or anything foreign on your vehicle, take action. Here’s what you can do: 

Step 1:

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.

Step 2:

If step 1 didn’t work, you need a stronger solution. BLACKFIRE 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. BLACKFIRE 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, BLACKFIRE Bug Remover is a good choice.

Pinnacle Advanced Insect Remover is another great option for tough insect remain removal. Pinnacle Advanced Insect Remover is a safe and effective alternative to the other harsh and risky insect cleaners that are on the market today. Instead of using solvents or acids, Pinnacle Advanced Insect Remover uses cleaners that are guaranteed safe for all paint, glass, chrome, and plastic surfaces.

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.

Step 3:

Let’s say 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.

Yet 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 is perfect a removing old, baked-on contaminants.

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.


After you’ve removed the bugs, tar, and sap, protect the vehicle with a quality wax or paint sealant. Look for a slick one, like Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant 3.0 or Pinnacle Signature Series II Wax.Insects will have a tough time sticking to a slippery bumper and, if they do manage to stick, their bond is often much weaker because there’re no surface tension. Therefore, the bugs are easier to remove.

Headed out on a road trip during love bug season? Armor up before you go! BLACKFIRE Bug Blocker is a uniquely formulated temporary shield that provides your paint enhanced protection from insect remains. BLACKFIRE Bug Blocker is formulated using thick and effective polymers that will stand strong in the face of even the heavy swarm of love bugs that come around every May. Because the remains are unable to penetrate the defensive barrier BLACKFIRE Bug Blocker creates, they never get the chance to pose a threat to your paint!

Spray Blackfire Bug Blocker onto the surface you want to protect,
Spray Blackfire Bug Blocker onto the
surface you want to protect
Spread it out evenly
Spread it out evenly, and let it dry to a haze!

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