Every season comes with its own automotive challenges. During the winter, those challenges include driving on ice. Summer, on the other hand, comes with a different set of challenges — driving through clouds of bugs, which inevitably leaves us with scores of bug corpses on our vehicles. So today I’m going to be sharing some easy home remedies and products you can use to get bugs off your car.
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How to Prepare Your Car for Bug Season
There are several ways to prepare your car and make things easier for yourself later on. For one, you can make sure to wash your car and apply a few coats of wax at the beginning of summer.
Some people even rub a bit of petroleum jelly on the front of the car as a temporary defense against bugs. The petroleum is invisible and slick, which will make it much easier for you to clear the bugs away at the end of the day.
If you want to protect your windshield as well, you can spray on some Rain-X if you don’t want to put jelly on your windshield. In fact, if you’re having more serious issues with your windshield, you may want to look into other ways to stop water from leaking in.
Many people also put front-end covers, affectionately known as “bras,” on their front bumpers. If you’ve never seen them, they’re essentially big plastic add-ons with headlight holes. Using them allows you to be a bit rougher when you’re scraping the bugs off. However, many people also complain that front-end covers fail at their only job.
Before summer really gets going, you’ll also want to check the general condition of your car. Focus on the air conditioning — you’re going to need it. After all, if your car is getting blasted with bugs, you definitely won’t be able to keep the windows open.
Easy Ways to Get Bugs off Your Car
Now that we know a bit more about preparing your car for the bug season – let’s talk about what you can do if you just forgot it.
1. Bug Remover Sponge
Before I start talking about the different types of home remedies and products you can use to remove bugs from your car, I should mention bug remover sponges. These microfiber mesh products are soft enough to avoid damaging your car and abrasive enough to get the bugs off. Since they’re so thick and dense, they can also hold a lot of water or cleaning solution. Because you won’t have to dip into your bucket too often, you’d actually be using less product.
Honestly, sometimes just using some water and this sponge will do the trick. At the same time, you can use something like this with every one of the following tips.
Alternately, you can also use microfiber rags or rips of your old cotton tees. You should avoid terry cloth towels, though, since they’re much too abrasive. So keep that in mind as we go through all of my tips.
2. Warm Water and Soap
Everyone has warm water and soap in their home, so we might as well start with the low-budget tip. You could either mix these two in a spray bottle for an easier application or in a simple bucket or a bowl – whatever you have at hand.
Then, you can gently scrub away the bug residue with a microfiber rag – or a bug remover sponge. Remember, we don’t want to damage the car paint and the clear overcoat. So just keep the pressure minimal and rely on the gentle cleaner to do its thing.
You don’t have to use regular hand or dish soap, though. Additionally, baby shampoo would work just as well, and you can even add a bit of elbow grease in there. In fact, if you feel like experimenting, you can mix several of the home remedies on this list to create a personalized bug remover liquid.
Windex is a great cleaner to use both inside and outside the car. It won’t leave a greasy residue, and it should be fine to use on windows, dashboards, and upholstery, as well as the outer surface of your car.
In fact, it should even get rid of the sticky tree sap that tends to appear on the cars around the same time as when the bugs start popping up. Best of all — you probably already have Windex in your bathroom.
If you want to make the most of this magical cure-all, you can spray it on the bug carcasses and let it sit a while before wiping it off. You can even mix it with dish soap if you want to give it an extra boost, then gently wipe it off with a microfiber rag. But Windex is an incredibly effective degreaser on its own, so you don’t need to mix it at all.
On the other hand, if you don’t have Windex on hand, but you do have that bottle of degreaser liquid sitting on your kitchen sink, you could just use that. If you’re afraid that a degreaser would damage your paint, I understand where the concern is coming from. Well, if you want to try out any of these products before you commit, I’ve got a few suggestions:
- You can try out the degreaser (or any other product on this list) straight from the bottle on another metal surface.
- Or, you can water it down and spray it onto a less visible part of your own car, then wipe it off after 5 minutes.
Again, I wouldn’t be too worried about these methods damaging your car — as long as you don’t use harsh fabric, that is. But, if you need to, you can test out the products before you slather them all over your bug-spotted car.
5. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser
While we’re on the subject of kitchen tools, here’s another one you can use to get rid of bug residue. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is pretty much a “one-stop shop” for a lot of your cleaning problems. However, you should be really careful when you’re using it on your car.
Although many people recommend using the Magic Eraser sponge for detailing on cars, I haven’t actually seen many people explain how to use them.
You see, Magic Erasers are melamine foam sponges, which is the same material you might use to insulate pipes or even do some soundproofing work. The foam is pretty soft to the touch, but it’s also similar to higher-grit sandpaper. Of course, the sponge does soften when you wet it. You can either run it under a tap and squeeze it until it’s soft or use a cleaning solution.
Ultimately, if you want to try out the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser tip, do it with a light hand. But even if you do overdo it with the Erasers, you may be able to fix the damage with a coat of polish.
6. Dryer Sheets and Water
Let me just stop you before you start haphazardly rubbing dryer sheets on the insect cemetery that is your car. For this tip, you’re going to need a spray bottle, some water, and a single dryer sheet. First, you can slip the dryer sheet into the bottle. Then, add warm or lukewarm water into the bottle, and let it sit.
In 10 or 20 minutes, depending on the amount of patience you have, you can spray your car with the mixture. Let that soak through the bug residue for a while. Then, wipe it off with a microfiber cloth or a soft cotton rag. Repeat as needed until all the bugs are dealt with.
7. Baby Oil
But do you know what will work through all that grime even better? Oil! Everyone has baby oil somewhere in their homes — it’s great for controlling frizzy hair or moisturizing dry skin. It’s also useful for helping machinery run smoothly, and even polishing shoes, among other things.
Well, as it turns out, baby oil can even help break down dirt and dead bugs. And oils won’t damage your paint job at all. Just pour it onto your hands and saturate the areas where you see the most bugs. The oil will penetrate through the mess, allowing you to simply wipe it off.
In fact, baby oil would work just as well as petroleum jelly as a protective film. If you know you’ll be taking a road trip through a bug-infested area, you can rub some baby oil on the hood, the grill, and the bumper. Then, once you reach your destination, you can clear off the bugs easily. That is, if any of them managed to stick to the car at all.
However, be aware that most oils leave unsightly streaks on cars. After you’ve let the baby oil do its thing and wiped it off, you can wash the car as you usually would if you’re bothered by the effect. Or you can hit it with some Windex. That should get rid of the sliminess.
WD-40 is one of those magical multi-purpose products everyone keeps making up more uses for. Between WD-40 and duct tape, you should have everything you need to solve any mechanical issue. As they say, “if it shouldn’t move, and it does — use duct tape. If it should move, and it doesn’t — use WD-40.”
Well, if we had to think of bug corpses in these terms, I’d say that they belong firmly in the latter category. Since this product is oil-based, you can let it sit on the surface of the car, and then wipe it off. However, you should also expect to see that slimy residue I told you about.
9. Cooking Oil Spray
Now, this tip takes us back into the kitchen. Even if you don’t have a bottle of baby oil or WD-40, most people have some type of cooking oil in their homes. For application purposes, having a cooking pan spray would be the best, but you can also use the regular bottled oil.
Just like with the previous two products, you’re going to saturate the dirty surface with the oil. Wait a minute, then wipe it away with a microfiber or cotton rag, and you’ll be left with a clean car. Well, you may have some oil streaks left over, but you can either buff those away or clean them with soap and water.
10. Bug Remover Spray
When in doubt, go for the good stuff. If you really don’t want to risk your paint job with home remedies, you can always get a real bug and tar remover. The Turtle Wax one comes highly recommended. That product can break down bug carcasses, tree sap, and asphalt tar in one fell swoop.
Once again, I should say that you can really go for any of the home remedies I’ve mentioned. After all, this bug spray remover contains petroleum too. As you can see, oil is an essential part of this equation. Basically, it’ll break down the filth without you having to scrub and potentially scratch the car.
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When Is a Bug Season?
Typically, the bug swarms are at their worst from mid to late summer. During that time, they’re pretty much unavoidable, especially if you live in humid areas.
Usually, the swarms are made up of either love bugs or flying ants. Fortunately, both of those species are fairly harmless. However, termites also swarm before they ditch their wings to go to the ground to build a nest. So you should learn to tell the difference, especially if you see swarms in your neighborhood.
When you see these insects swarming, you’re actually watching their mid-air mating dance. So, when you think about it, you’re kind of putting a big damper on the mood by driving through the swarm. You’re also taking out a chunk of the population, but that’s neither here nor there. In any case, I’m sure their population can recover.
Still, if you want to avoid swarms altogether, you’re out of luck. Although these flying insects are at their most active in the early evenings during the summer – you’re bound to have to scrape a bug or two off your windshield in the colder months, too.
Final Thoughts on Removing Bugs
Even after painstakingly scrubbing away every insect splattered on your car, there’s still one more thing to do. Many of the home remedies I’ve mentioned will leave some kind of residue. So after the bugs are taken care of, you may also want to wash your car properly.
You can make a day of it, play some music, have a drink, and give your car some TLC. But don’t forget to apply car wax or polish when you are done. It’ll make it a bit easier to deal with the bugs the next time.
Now all you’ve got to worry about is the next step — taking care of the interior! But that’s a challenge for another day.