How to remove bug splats, and which products to use

Aug 17 2017

Bug splats are an absolute nightmare to those of us who like to keep our car’s as clean as possible. Why? Because they’re an absolute pain in the backside to remove!

One warm evening in summer, a friend I was dropping off after a day out told me to take the scenic route home. They were right, the scenery was fantastic; an awesome sunset, empty stretches of tree-lined roads, lined by rock walls set in the beauty of true Yorkshire landscape.

Fantastic. But I’ll not take that route again in summertime. While I was driving, I could hear what sounded like raindrops on the windscreen, but there was no water there. As I rounded a corner, the sun sitting low and cutting through the trees, it lit up swarms of thousands of insects hovering in the air, right at car height – and I was driving through them!

Dirty car

I slowed down immediately, but by that point the damage was done. Getting out the car at my friend’s house, I was greeted with a horrific view; hundreds and hundreds of dead bug carcasses and guts splattered across the entirety of the front of the car and windscreen – a flying insect apocalypse, no less. Thank you dear friend, for your ‘scenic route’ home.

Now though, you have to remove those bug guts. Often, they’re so sticky that simply washing the car barely touches them, and you just end up with a sore elbow from scrubbing away for ages.

The trouble is, the bug guts bond to the paintwork, and if you just leave them there they won’t just come off over time, as you might hope.

First off – what you should NOT do and use to remove bug splats

If you use the wrong methods or products for removing those pesky bug guts off your paintwork and plastic/rubber trim you’re going to damage the area, and ruin the look of your car.

As bad as the stuff below seems, I’ve actually seen these used, and detailing forums are full of horror stories of the aftermath of them.

  • Do not use scouring pads. Some say they won’t scratch. Yes, maybe that’s the case on a pan or plate, but not your paint. They will scratch and dull your paintwork -badly enough to need the area machine polishing or touched up with paint.
  • Do not use household cleaning products that you’d normally use to clean the kitchen sink or bath. These products are designed to scrub heavy grime build-up away, and they often contain comdollars. Again, these will utterly dull paintwork.
  • Do not use oven or hob cleaners. The definition of heavy-duty, these are designed to remove properly stuck and baked-on food and grease. They’re extremely powerful, and contain chemicals that’d be extremely detrimental to your car’s paint surface.
  • Do not use anything not specifically designed for car paintwork. Why run the risk of ruining the look of your paintwork, and having to spend money unnecessarily on having the paintwork corrected, simply from using the wrong products – it’s not worth it.
    • Right, that’s those done. Now here’s the right things to do, and the correct products to use.

      Preparing the area for product application

      • If you’re already into cleaning your car, and have equipment at your disposal, great. If that’s the case, start off by using snow foam through a pressure washer. Some are more effective than others at removing heavier grime build-up, and those are the ones you want for this job.
        Isuzu car washed
      • If you don’t have a power washer yourself, go to a local garage that has one, and use the hot setting if there is one. This is at a good start as it’ll at least shift some of the lighter, less sticky bug splats. Note; don’t use the foam brush at the garage – they’re terrible for paintwork!
      • After rinsing the car to loosen any dirt and to make it safer for the wash stage, fill a bucket with warm water, add some car shampoo (here’s our article on which are best to use), then use a microfibre wash mitt and give the car a good wash
        wash mitt
      • Next, rinse and then dry the car so it’s ready for using the bug remover products
      • Bug removal products

        There are literally dozens and dozens of bug removal products out there, but obviously some are better than others. UltimateFinish.co.uk has a large selection of good quality bug, tar and tree sap removers, so take a look there.

        As well as spray versions, there are also automotive wipes designed to make removing bug splats (and more) easy work, and these are a good option as you can simply keep them in the car, plus there’s no fuss or mess either.

        If you’re trying to remove bug splatter from glass, sometimes glass cleaner isn’t enough, or it’ll take forever to remove them, so it’s probably best to go with the bug removers you’ll use on the paintwork. Always check the manufacturer’s description to see what surfaces you can use them on though.

        After you’ve finished using these products, some may require you to wash the area where you’ve used them. Always check the label or description to find this out.

        Hopefully, the next time a million bugs decide to attack your car, you’ll have the stuff ready to do the job of removing them safely and quickly.

        Written by Chris Davies – an award-winning motoring journalist writing for CarProductsTested.com

        Photo credits: Bug splats Tam; Snow Foam Ultimate Finish; Wash mitt Jamie Manktelow