Bug Stains and Tar Trouble: Effective Cleaning Methods for Car Owners

fact check policy
Updated on:

October 21, 2023

Reviving Your Ride: Removing Bug Residue from Car Paint and Windows

There's nothing worse than driving over a bridge or choosing the scenic way on a summer road trip and hearing the familiar thunk of flies or mosquitoes hitting your windshield. Even worse, your windshield wipers hardly ever remove any bug stains.

One of the most difficult stains to wash off the surface of your car is bug splatter, and the longer you wait, the more challenging it is to do so. Although you can't stop insects from landing on your windshield, you can take the right precautions to stop them from staining your paintwork and making them more difficult to remove later on.

In this article, we will explore different ways you can clean bug stains with things like commercial bug remover, DIY bug remover, and more.

Key Takeaways:

  • Bug and tar stains on your car can damage the paint due to their acidity.
  • Avoid using dish soap, as it can harm your car's paint.
  • Effective cleaning methods include bug sponges, bug and tar remover, clay bars, glass cleaner, WD-40, and steam cleaners.
  • Consider Paint Protection Film (PPF) or ceramic coatings to prevent these stains.

Table of Contents (Show)

Table of Contents (Hide)

 Tar Damage and Bug Splatter

Why Does Tar Damage and Bug Splatter Increase In The Summer?

For car owners, especially those who reside in hot locations, the winter season is fantastic. When it's chilly outside, bugs can go to warmer climates or just die off, leaving a fresh crop for the summer. So, during the summer, when it is hot outside, bugs are most active and it becomes a summer bug season.

The explanation is quite straightforward: more heat means more food for bugs to devour. More food leads to more expansion and growth. Additionally, the likelihood that a bug may touch your windshield or front end increases rapidly as more bugs grow and spread.

Why Are Dead Bug Splatters Hard To Remove?

Bugs contain very acidic secretions that won't be removed by a typical, pH-balanced car wash because they are living, breathing organisms. If you give these stains enough time and sunlight exposure, they will permanently etch into your surface and damage your perfectly finished paint job.

How Can Bug and Tar Stain Damage A Car's Paint Job?

The majority of automotive damage, such as chips, stains, or scratches, is caused by contaminants that are hard, acidic, and have a strong base pH. The fact that bugs frequently fit all of these criteria explains why they can damage your paint, front grille, bumper, and headlights.

Fly, grasshopper, butterfly, moth, and other types of insects frequently hit your car at speeds greater than 40 mph. Because of the speed of the impact and the delicate makeup of the bug, internal acids, poisons, and other sticky materials frequently spatter outward.

The acids and poisons start working on eroding the clear coating or other protective layers as soon as these chemicals stick to your vehicle.

Although a bug's insides are not as acidic as tree sap or bird droppings, they can still be challenging to get rid of. The more harm that can be done the longer they stay on your car. The same holds true for road tar. At first, it will just adhere to your paint, but the longer it remains there, the more your paint will deteriorate due to the tar's corrosive compounds.

The following damage may result from bug guts and tar stains, whether as a result of impact or from becoming trapped on the surface.


Acids are found in bug guts. Likewise, road tar. These acids will start to work and start to eat away at the surface area if they are left on the car for more than a day or two. Acids can leave paint stains on automotive paint, or more precisely, clear coatings, which essentially etch into the paint surface.

Additionally stainable items are headlights and plastic bumper or grille components. These stains can only be eliminated by paint repair, which involves using a cutting compound and polishing cloth.


There are various situations where a bug impact will result in a surface chip. This typically occurs on the grille, bumper, or plastic front-end components. Large flying beetles frequently cause this because of their tough shells, which can chip the surface before splattering.

Additionally frequent throughout the summer (especially when thunderstorms are violent) is the breaking off of asphalt chunks. Larger pieces of trash produced in this way may cause your paint to chip or even dent. Your car's front end can be well-protected by installing a clear bra or paint protection film of the highest caliber.

NOT To Use to Clean Dead Bug Splatters

What NOT To Use to Clean Dead Bug Splatters

Before we continue, a word on what items you shouldn't use to remove sap, tar, and dead bugs from your car:

  • Dish soap
  • Dishwashing liquid or soap

These common objects could harm the paint job on your automobile by removing the protective wax and creating a dull patch. Automobile wax can be used to cover dull spots, but it's crucial to be aware that it contains abrasives and shouldn't be used on automobile paint.

Best Tools and Methods To Clean Bug Stains

Dead bug stains aren't only unpleasant; they also leave behind acidic secretions that can calcify and harm the paint job on your car. Without the right cleaning solution, it is common to cause paint damage when removing dried-on bug splats.

Bug Sponge

1. Bug Sponge

A handy bug sponge can provide the extra scrubbing strength needed to remove bug stains from your car. It can hold a lot more water and cleaning solution than a typical sponge because it is so thick and dense. It is also constructed of microfiber and mesh, making it both delicate and abrasive enough to remove pests off your automobile without harming it.

To remove dead bugs off your automobile, you can also use a microfiber towel, a soft cloth, or an old cotton t-shirt. Simply stay away from using terry cloth because it can be excessively harsh and leave lint behind.

Bug and Tar Remover

2. Bug and Tar Remover

Choose your preferred bug and tar remover against tough stains. Follow the directions on the back of the bottle for best results.

A good tip for bug removal is using a microfiber with your spray.

3. Clay Bar Or Clay Mitt

It's quite difficult to remove dried-on insect and tar splatters. To do this, you must figure out a method for gradually releasing the material and the binding in order to minimize the risk of scratching. A clay mitt or clay bar is a fantastic and secure way to achieve this.

Small clay particles on a clay mitt or clay bar grab onto the surface and do an excellent job of removing minute flaws and difficult-to-move debris from difficult-to-remove regions. In addition to the clay, you'll also need a lubricant spray to make it simple to move across the surface. At the same time, it eliminates minute flaws like brake dust or industrial debris.

4. Glass Cleaner and Degreaser

Use glass cleaner or a degreaser if you're seeking for a spray product that won't be too damaging to your car's surfaces. In this instance, you're breaking the binding between the surface and the sticky substance rather than removing the dirt by breaking it into little pieces with clay and lubricant.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to avoid using glass cleaners or degreasers that contain ammonia-based compounds or have an excessively high pH. This could damage or mar painted surfaces in some way. It's also important to thoroughly wash your car after getting rid of the sticky things. This will get rid of any leftover cleaners or fluids during the cleanup procedure.

5. WD-40

You'll be surprised at how quickly WD-40 works to get rid of those bothersome creatures! Make sure you have a minute or two to spare before you begin cleaning, as well as a sponge, warm water, dish soap, and a microfiber towel. Following are a few easy steps:

Spray WD-40 onto the bug bites, then wait a minute before wiping off. Circular motions with the sponge are used to gently scrub the insect removers. Rinse out any leftover material in soapy water, then pat dry with a microfiber towel.

Spray on more WD-40 if there is road tar or other stuck-on debris present, and then wait another minute before wiping it away with dryer sheets.

Fortador Volt Mini steam cleaner

6. Steam Cleaner

With a steam cleaner you don't need to use any chemicals when removing bugs off your car. This method works better than going through an automatic car wash or any homemade cleaner. Removing bug stains with a machine like steamer becomes an easy task.

Check out Fortador Volt Mini steamer .

How To Prevent Bug Stains

How To Prevent Bug Stains

There are a few expertly created items that you should take into consideration if you'd like to lessen the discomfort and annoyance associated with trying to remove sticky bug and tar splatters.

1. PPF

Another name for Paint Protection Film is PPF. The clear coat, headlights, even a plastic bumper or grille are covered in this incredibly robust and durable polymer material. A transparent bra is a PPF that is just applied to the front of the car. Professional detailers and authorized PPF installation facilities apply them.

PPF is fantastic because it can shield your car from small rocks, tree branches, and other hard objects that might scratch or chip paint. Nanotechnology is used in some incredible PPF products, allowing any scratches or dents to quickly heal in a matter of seconds. Although the majority of professional PPFs are self-healing, they can only be repaired with heat or by trained detailers.

The drawback of PPF is that it is not extremely hydrophobic, which allows tar and insects to adhere to the coating. There are PPFs available with a top coating that makes it simpler to take off that gooey material.

2. Ceramic Coating

A nano ceramic coating is another expertly-engineered item that makes getting rid of bug splatters straightforward. For those who are unaware, a ceramic coating is made up of a highly concentrated liquid that also contains other chemicals as well as silicon dioxide, or SiO2. The clear coat on your paint is one of the many porous surfaces that it uses nanotechnology to fill in minor flaws.

It forms an incredibly flat layer of protection as it hardens, making the surface incredibly slippery or hydrophobic. This makes it harder for anything to adhere, including tar residue and bug guts. Professionally applied and do-it-yourself ceramic coatings are the two different types of nano ceramic coatings. So, if you want to work on your own car, you do have options.


Bug and tar stains on your car can harm the paint due to their acidity. Avoid using dish soap and opt for effective cleaning methods like bug sponges, bug and tar remover, clay bars, glass cleaner, WD-40, or steam cleaners. Consider preventive measures like Paint Protection Film (PPF) or ceramic coatings to minimize the impact of these stains and keep your car looking pristine.

About the Authors

Kristina Tretyakova
Distinguished as a South Florida Top-10 student in 2021. Studying Marketing and Business Administration at FIU. Proficient in daily operations and skilled in cleaning, auto detailing and copywriting.
Nick Chapman
With over 30 years of passion for automobile restoration, I was inspired by my car enthusiast father from a young age. Weekends were dedicated to working on cars, and Sundays meant detailing day. Guided by my dad, I've honed my skills and now thrive in the world of classic street rods

Learn More

Unveiling the Secrets of Tree Sap Removal: A Comprehensive Guide for Car Owners


Best for cleaning leather car seats | Cleaning leather car seats with steam


How to clean auto air filter | Cleaning air filters


Contact Us
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
This is some text inside of a div block.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.