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A Step-by-Step Guide to Remove Bugs From Car Paint

Do enough driving, and you’re bound to encounter bug splatter on your windshield and hood—especially in the southeastern United States. In some regions like Florida where the Lovebug is a major problem, you need a game plan to protect your vehicle.

While there are a ton of DIY bug removal tips out there, today I’m going to share the best way to remove dead bugs in the safest way possible.

You’ll also learn what you can do to protect your paint or glass. And while spoiler alert there is no magic solution to prevent bug splatter, there are a few best practices to make clean-up easier.

Caution!

A lot of chemicals and products can remove bugs, but some homemade remedies (like dryer sheets) aren’t as safe as other methods. To avoid scratching your vehicle, never rely on ‘elbow grease’ or use a dry sponge, towel, scraper, or anything else on dry paint.

How to remove fresh bug splatter from a vehicle

Coming back from a road trip? For best results, remove fresh bug splatter immediately; the longer you wait, the more difficult bugs will be to remove…and the more likely they are to etch into your car’s paint.

1. Rinse off the affected area to remove bug guts

Use either a hose or a pressure washer to blast away bugs while they are still fresh. Usually, you can remove bugs with a bit of soapy water or a pressure washer; just be sure to never exceed or approach around 2,000 psi and keep the nozzle a couple of feet away from your vehicle.

2. Spray the area with detailing spray

If bugs remain after rinsing, apply a cleaning product or detailing spray to a medium-pile microfiber towel for lubrication. Gently graze the towel over the paint and let the towel lift these bug particles off your car.

Did You Know?

Microfiber is designed to lift particles—including bugs—which is why they are used so commonly in detailing. These piles grab wax, dirt, and other particles from any painted surface.

How to remove stuck-on bugs from a vehicle

For dried-on bugs or bug stains, follow the same process you would for fresh bugs before proceeding to other products. The fewer products or scrapers you use, the better. Whenever you have bug carcasses baked on paint, always use plenty of lubrication.

1. Apply a bug removal spray only to the affected area

Simply spray on the product and wait a few minutes to let the product soften the dried bugs.

Some bug and tar remover sprays can strip off wax, so it’s a good idea to only treat the affected area (unless your whole hood or bumper is covered).

3M makes a professional-grade bug removal spray I recommend; while there are many of these products on the market, this is one of the better ones I’ve found.

3M Bug Removal Spray

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3M bug remover spray

2. Gently scoop off bugs with a microfiber towel

With a damp microfiber towel, gently graze the towel over the area in a lifting motion. Repeat this process until bugs begin to flake off. Always start with a soft microfiber towel before proceeding to other bug-removal devices.

Bugs trapped in the pile of a microfiber towel.
Bugs trapped in the pile of a microfiber towel
Caution!

Don’t use circular motions, but instead gently ‘scoop’ the bugs off and let the microfiber towel do to work.

3. Carefully use a bug removal sponge for baked-on bugs

In some cases, you may need to proceed to use a bug removal sponge if a piece of the bug has etched itself into the clear coat. Gently graze the sponge over the area after lubricating the area properly.

Microfiber Mesh Bug Removal Sponge

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Microfiber mesh bug sponge

You can also use a magic eraser or better yet—what’s called a waffle weave towel to gently scrape bugs off.

Image of a waffle weave towel.
Image of a waffle weave towel

A waffle weave towel—sometimes called a bug removal towel—is just abrasive enough to remove love bugs, road tar, and other stuck-on particles.

4. Try Citrol 266 for bugs that won’t come off

To chemically remove hard-to-remove bugs, citrus-based degreasers work well. including a product called Citrol 266. This product should be used sparingly but can remove substances like adhesive or tree sap from painted surfaces.

Citrol 266 Cleaner and Degreaser

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Citrol 266 cleaner and degreaser.

Citrol will strip off sealants, waxes, and even some ceramic coatings, so be sure to re-apply protection. If Citrol can’t remove it, you’re probably not dealing with bug splatter at that point!

How to prevent bugs from sticking to car paint

You can either use a paint protection film or a paint protectant like a sealant or ceramic coating to prevent bugs from sticking to your vehicle’s paint.

Paint protection films and front-end covers (bras) will help protect your paint despite showing bugs; sealants and polymer-based films can protect your paint to an extent but mainly help keep bugs from sticking.

If you need temporary bug protection in the summer for the front of your car, check out a paint sealant called Rejex. It was developed for planes in the Air Force due to its extreme hydrophobic properties and many car enthusiasts swear by it.

Rejex High Gloss Paint Sealant

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rejex bug prevention for car.

Use a ceramic coating with hydrophobic properties

For a more permanent strategy to prevent bugs from sticking, use an extremely hydrophobic ceramic coating that creates a super-slick barrier.

If you’re new to ceramic coatings, check out our post, Ceramic Coatings for Beginners to learn how these coatings work and how to apply one.

How to clean dried bugs off your windshield 

Last but not least, to remove stuck-on bugs from your windshield, start with a bug sponge or waffle weave towel and a lubricant like car soap or glass cleaner. For extreme cases, you can even use a razor blade. Since glass is a lot harder than your car’s finish, you can apply pressure and use harder objects to remove the bugs without scratching.

Check out our step-by-step tutorial, How to Clean and Restore a Windshield to learn how to remove haze, bug splatter, and anything else stuck on your windshield or glass.

Many ceramic coatings can also be used on glass for bug prevention; always protect your windshield with products that won’t leave a haze.

Good luck, and happy detailing!

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Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

2 thoughts on “A Step-by-Step Guide to Remove Bugs From Car Paint”

  1. It’s great that you elaborated on how it is best to have a professional apply a clear coat to your car because they will eventually need to be reapplied. My wife and I recently bought a new car, and we want to keep it in good condition for a long time. Having a clear bra applied seems like a good step in the right direction.

    Reply
  2. I’m glad that your article mentioned how a clear bra is designed to stop small rocks from damaging your vehicle’s paint. My brother and I are interested in going offroading in the future. We’ll be sure to get clear bras for our cars before then.

    Reply

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