Especially in the summer months, bugs are a big problem for keeping cars clean, and are really annoying in the southeastern United States where I live. Some areas experience the effects of bugs more than others and may require more intense removal techniques, like in Florida where the Lovebug is a major problem.
Keeping your car, truck, or SUV as clean is challenging with fresh bug guts all over it but even worse if you let these bugs dry or etch into the paint, and can even cause permanent damage.
So how do you remove them and prevent them from sticking in the first place? While there is no one-size fits all solution and no way to completely avoid hitting bugs, there are some things you can do to help.
In this blog, I’ll highlight a few ways to remove stuck-on bugs from your vehicle, as well as a few tricks to help prevent bugs from sticking to your grill or paint.
4 Ways to Remove Bugs from your Car
There are several DIY ways on the internet to remove bugs from your car, but I’m going to share the one’s I feel are the best option for most vehicles. There are many products that may work, but if you are looking to maintain a natural shine throughout (without your car looking super greasy), there are a few safe methods to try.
What to Keep in mind: Always try to clean bugs off of your vehicle as quickly as possible before they dry.
Option 1: Microfiber towel and Spray Wax
If you have fresh bug splatter on your vehicle, one of the safest ways to remove them is with a microfiber towel and some detailing spray-on way. Really any type of detailing spray should work. Microfiber towels are really designed to pick up wax and other materials which makes them an effective and safe option.
Simply spray the formula on the bug itself, and wipe away. You may also want to spray some on the towel itself. With any of these methods of removing substances, always work in one direction.
You just want to lift these bug particles off your car, not work in circles as this can lead to scratching.
Option 2 : Car Soap and Bug Remover Sponge
If the microfiber towel and spray wax isn’t able to fully remove the bugs, another great method is to pour some car soap in a 5 gallon bucket and use a bug sponge. These sponges you can pick up just about anywhere, and have a textured surface which makes them great for removing stuck on substances.
Make sure you squeeze out soap (maybe use more spray wax) on the dried bugs before running the sponge over the surface. You want to make sure the surface the sponge is contacting is lubricated well, or it can cause light scratching. They work great on windshields as well.
Option 3: Bug Removal Products
In cases where you need a little more assistance in softening some hard, dried-on bugs, a bug removal spray actually works quite well. You can buy bug and tar remover just about anywhere both in the spray form any aerosol.
I prefer the liquid spray vs the aerosol, just because I think it’s easier to wipe off and apply.
Simply let the spray sit for about 30 seconds, and wipe it off with a microfiber towel. If the microfiber towel can’t remove all of it, option 2 is probably your best bet.
Bonus Tip: While there are dozens of bug removal sprays out there, they are meant to remove bugs after the fact. For summer drivers, you may want to pick up some Bug Wash.
It goes directly into your vehicle’s wash reservoir and helps break down bug guts to improve visibility when they splatter on your windshield.
Option 4: Citrus-based degreasers
Citrus-based degreasers are also good for hard-to-remove bugs. One option that I hear quite often is called Citrol.
Citrol is a citrus-based, biodegradable degreaser that is safe for clear coats, and is a product I have seen a lot of professional detailers use for this purpose instead of a ‘bug and tar’ spray. It’s ideal for breaking down organic compounds like bird droppings, bugs, etc.
Another similar product with great reviews is called 3D bug remover. This stuff is made for dissolving bug guts and is also preferred by many detailers. It comes with a concentrated formula you mix 4:1 with water into an empty spray bottle.
After applying this type of product, you will want to go ahead and wash your car like normal, just to remove any haze or film the product may have left.Free eBook: 25 Essential Detailing Products for Beginners
Why you Should Remove Bugs from Car Paint
Outside of the obvious — a cosmetic eyesore, bugs or insects can actually do more damage than you might think if not treated. Bug splatter is pretty acidic, which means that it can eat through your clear coat over time if severe.
Etching and paint damage
What’s worse is some bugs can actually etch (or dig in) to the paint itself, which can lead to even more damage if the etching is deep enough. Some bugs have super-hard exterior shells or exoskeletons which make them very sharp and capable of digging into your clear coat over time, potentially reaching your paint or sometimes primer.
Prevention is really the best course of action, but some techniques may be more effective than others depending on your situation.
7 Ways to Prevent Bugs from Sticking to your Car
Truth be told, there really isn’t a surefire way to prevent bugs from sticking to all parts of your car, but there are some things you can do to create a protective barrier or make it difficult for some bugs to stick.
If you hit a giant flying beetle at night, there’s obviously not much you can do to deflect that, but there are a few ways to help make clean-up easier so they don’t eventually effect your paint. When it comes to prevention, some products/films go unnoticed the naked eye, while others certainly do not.
Some of these recommendations are more geared towards SUV or truck owners that do a lot of offroading or weekend trips, since they great for minimizing the scrubbing needed after you come home. For other vehicles, you may want to select another option.
Option 1: Wax
As you may already know, the main purpose of wax is really to protect the clear coat of your vehicle. After you remove all dried bugs from your vehicle (and wash it) always be sure to protect areas like your hood and bumper with a good coat of wax. Wax is probably the most basic form of protection for bugs, but good practice to keep on your vehicle at all times.
Wax can be effective at helping smaller insects off slide off of your car like gnats and small flys, but it’s main job is to make clean-up easier by creating a barrier between your clear coat and rain, bugs, and outside elements.
If you’re interested in protecting your car this season, but not sure of the differences between waxes, sealants, glazes, (and all these other products you hear about), check out an article I wrote: Compound vs Clay, Polish & Glaze! 7 Products to Understand.
Option 2: Bug Barricade
Bug Barricade is a water-based formula that creates a slippery surface that is ideal for offroad vehicles. After washing and drying your vehicle you simply spray it on, and take a microfiber towel or sponge to spread it evenly across the surface. Keep in mind this is a short-term bug repelling product that is meant to protect for a couple of weeks. Perfect for hunting or outdoor trips.
Unlike waxes and polishes, this product creates a opaque film to prevent bugs from sticking to your clear coat.
Option 3: Diamondite Love Bug Defense Kit
A company called Diamondite actually makes a Love Bug defense kit you may want to check out if you deal with these bugs, and contains everything from a glass shield, to bug blocker gel, to a couple of sponges.
I found this product on AutoGeek, and for around 20 bucks is a quick add-to-cart item for those of you living in Florida, Louisiana or anywhere with tons of Love bugs.
Option 4: Bug Deflector Shields
One of the most effective devices for truck and SUVs is a bug deflector shield. As pictured below, these shields are ideal for trucks and SUVs that stay in outdoor areas, but they make them for cars as well.
These shields are typically attached to the underside of your hood hood using 3M tape, and come in a few different shapes and varieties. You can check these out here on Amazon after selecting your vehicle’s year, make and mode.
Option 5: Paint protection wrap
Another temporary, yet effective approach is to apply a paint protection film to the front of your vehicle (sometimes called a clear bra). If you are at all worried about paint damage or etching, these are designed to stop small rocks, and may be an option if you are looking to preserve your paint long-term.
I would have these films or wraps applied professionally especially if you have a luxury vehicle, but they do make DIY kits you can pick up. These need to be reapplied over time, but are perfect if you are looking to protect your car’s exterior as long as possible.
Bonus Tip: For occasional weekend trips where you will be offroading or in an area where insects are common, you can apply section’s of painter’s tape to your grill, side mirrors, and bumper as an easy way speed up bug removal. Just be sure not to leave the painters tape on the surface for a long period of time, and I wouldn’t recommend it for all vehicles.
Option 6: Rejex
This product is probably the best I’ve seen at simply creating a surface too slippery for bugs to stick to your paint. It was developed for use by the Air Force, but does a fantastic job on front bumpers and side mirrors and many car enthusiasts swear by it.
Rejex works by creating a polymer film and doesn’t contain silicon oils like many products do.
It is fairly expensive, but is an industrial product that makes preventing bugs a lot easier than just a wax coating.
Option 7: Windshield Protection and Covers
If you live in an area where you can’t garage your car at night, a windshield cover may be a good option for keeping insects off of your windshield in the mornings. The one pictured above I found on Amazon, and can also help if you also deal with pollen or anything else.
Obviously there are covers or fabric bras you can buy if that’s your style, but is probably overkill for most.
If you have an old beater (or older vehicle you don’t baby anymore) you can apply bug repellent to your windshield to help keep the bugs off in the mornings. Never apply bug spray to the paint itself, as deet found in bug sprays can damage your clear coat if left on the surface.
Hopefully you now have some ideas on how to tackle bugs this upcoming season, so see what works best for you.
Of course there are some household products that may help to remove bugs like WD-40, but it really depends on what types of products you want to apply to your car. WD-40 can look pretty greasy based on my experience using it, so while I wouldn’t use it for this purpose, it is quite effective.
For prevention, some have suggested PAM Cooking Spray (if you want your car to smell like biscuits), but again I wouldn’t be applying this stuff to a Corvette or Porsche.
Feel free to leave a common if you have anything not on the list that works for you, as well as anything else to keep in mind when keeping bugs off.