Best Bug Removers for Cars: It’s a Bug’s Life
Scrub those pesky bugs off your car with our best bug remover picks
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PUBLISHED ON July 10, 2019
Racing around the curves of a mountain road exhilarates the mind and the body. But taking care of the carnage across the front of your car’s bumper afterward is not something most people look forward to. Take a look at our top picks for the best bug remover below and you may just change your mind—and go for another spin around those mountain roads.
- Best OverallMother’s Speed Foaming Bug & Tar RemoverSummarySummaryIf you’ve ever wanted a bug removing solution you can simply spray on and rinse off, Mother’s has answered your call.ProsProsMother’s Speed Foaming Bug Remover can be used on any exterior surface without having to worry about damage. Better yet, it neutralizes bug acids to leave a streak-free shine.ConsConsStubborn bugs will require a bit more elbow grease than the Speed Foaming Remover can offer.
- Best ValueThetford Premium RV Bug BustSummarySummaryThetford’s Premium RV Bug Bust is the perfect solution to bugs on all your toys, from the car and the boat to your ATV or UTV.ProsProsFully biodegradable, non-toxic, and non-flammable, this product comes in a spray bottle complete with an ergonomic handle and adjustable nozzle.ConsConsThough it can be used on a variety of surfaces, this product may still require some scrubbing after application, especially for baked-on bugs.
- Honorable MentionGriot’s Garage Bug & Smudge RemoverSummarySummaryChances are you’ve got just as many smudges on your car as you do bugs. Use Griot’s Garage’s Bug & Smudge Remover to take care of both.ProsProsGriot’s Garage packages their bug remover in a convenient spray bottle you can refill as necessary. The potent formula works deep below the surface to break loose stubborn bug guts.ConsConsYou’ll have to provide your own microfiber towels if the bug guts on your vehicle need more than just a nudge from the pressure washer.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, and practical experience with each product we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Bug Remover for Cars
- Prevents etching in your paint. Bug stains, when left on painted surfaces for long periods of time, can actually etch into the surface and cause lasting damage. Using bug remover on a consistent basis helps prevent against paint defects that might otherwise occur.
- Make the most of your scrubbing power. Your typical car wash isn’t going to help much when it comes to removing bugs from your car’s paint. However, using bug remover before and as a touch-up solution can make the most of your elbow grease.
- Touch-up or full-body solution. Just like spray wax, bug remover can be used alone without a car wash or in addition to a car wash for optimum results. Whether you scrub certain spots or douse your entire bumper with bug remover, it’ll get the job done right.
- A clean car. This is the most obvious benefit of bug remover, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Maintaining the exterior of your vehicle is just as important as sticking to a maintenance schedule for your engine and transmission.
- Cleaning solution safe for nearly every surface. If you know anything about car care, you’re careful to make sure the products you’re using are safe for every material they come into contact with. Bug removers can be used on any exterior surface without worrying about possible damage happening.
- Quick improvement on exterior look. If you’ve only got a few moments to clean up the exterior of your vehicle, bug remover can be just as handy a tool as a spray wax. In fact, many bug removers target road tar and tree sap as well.
Types of Bug Remover for Cars
Most bug removers will come in a spray bottle. You can adjust the nozzle on some products to spray in either a concentrated stream or a misted fan pattern. Spray bottle bug removers can get tiresome if you’ve got a lot of bugs to remove but they work well when you need to refill the product after it’s nearly gone. Spray bottle bug removers aren’t necessarily weaker or stronger than other types we’ll discuss below.
Pressurized bug removers often spray on and foam up, which can be incredibly useful if you don’t want to sit there and squeeze the trigger for minutes at a time. As with any aerosol can, you want to make sure you don’t knock the nozzle off the can itself, because then the product within is useless. However, aerosol bug removers can also reach the smallest of surface areas and store well for later use.
There are a select few manufacturers who produce bug wipes which are meant to be used to wipe bug guts off by hand. These wipes are hardly an effective solution for a bumper full of bug debris but do work well if you’ve got a bothersome streak on your windshield. Bug wipes are more of a touch-up solution than they are necessarily a go-to product you can use to tackle big jobs.
Bug Removing Accessories
Though not necessarily bug removers in their own right, the accessories often used in conjunction with cleaning solutions can be just as useful as their liquid counterparts. For example, the many sponges, scrubbers, microfiber towels, and pads are sold to help agitate bug guts. If you’ve got stubborn bugs to remove, you’ll get better results if you pair these accessories with one of our top pick products.
Bugs N’ All
Bugs N’ All Multi-Use Vehicle Cleaner a great solution to consider if you’re still looking for a bug remover solution. The family-owned, Minnesota-based company has been taking care of vehicles for quite some time and continues to develop potent products for every car owner.
Over 60 years in the industry teaches you a lot when it comes to car care, which is why Gunk has such a reputation for products that work well to get the job done right. Headquartered in North Carolina, Gunk sells its own Heavy-Duty Tar-N-Bug Remover.
Started in 1997 as part of the AutoGeek empire, McKee’s 37 is the brainchild of Robert McKee. The company is based out of Florida and continues to support the McKee’s 37 name with various car care products, including the McKee’s 37 Road Kill Bug Remover.
Headquartered in Washington, Griot’s Garage was founded in 1990. Nearly three decades of service in the name of the men and women who love their cars has taught Griot’s Garage’s team that quality and service is key. Its Bug Barricade is just one example of that philosophy.
Bug Remover for Cars Pricing
- $5-$10: If you like spray and aerosol cans of bug remover, look no further than this price point. For around $5-$10, you can scrub your bugs away without lifting a finger. Most aerosol cans at this price point are typically 16 to 20 ounces, while spray cans range anywhere from 16 to 23 ounces.
- $20-$30: Bugs a prevalent problem? Stick to the concentrated amounts of bug remover you can purchase for just around $20-$30. In fact, you can buy a spray bottle of the product you like and then a gallon-sized container as a refill. There are some spray bottles priced around $20, but that price isn’t necessarily comparable with the results you’ll get.
No one wants to spend their afternoon scrubbing away at bugs when they could be driving around and having fun in that very same car. The best bug removers should go on easy and come off easy as well, taking most of the bugs with it. Spray bottles and aerosol cans typically apply easily.
Unless you run into the world’s biggest storm of bugs on the drive home, you should be able to buy a product that you can store for later use. Spray and aerosol cans of bug remover typically have a sealing setting, whether it be an “off” setting of a nozzle or a replaceable cap. Bug remover wipes typically reseal so the liquid remover within the wipes doesn’t dry up.
Just as important as being easy to apply, the best bug remover is also incredibly effective. By that we mean you shouldn’t have to scrub too hard at any spots after applying the bug remover and rinsing it off. Effective bug removers may need to sit on your vehicle’s paint for a few minutes to work as advertised but it will be well worth it when you wash it off and find a clean bumper underneath.
Safe for Exterior Surfaces
Finally, the best bug removers shouldn’t discriminate when it comes to the types of materials it encounters. Since there’s probably rubber trim and plastic trim pieces in and around the spots where bugs tend to cluster, the best bug removers should be able to clean these components as well, without creating any lasting damage.
- Local Bug Types: Though it may sound silly, some bug removers are better than others at clearing up certain types of bugs. For whatever reason, you may find that your friend has better luck with a certain brand for the bugs on their car, while you cannot believe the results you get with a different brand entirely. It’s all about removing the bugs on your vehicle, so stick with the solution that works best.
- Frequency of Use: If you find yourself using bug remover quite a lot, consider purchasing it in bulk the next time you need a refill. Many manufacturers offer gallon-sized concentrates of their bug remover, which you can easily dilute into a spray bottle to use and refill at your leisure. You can also adjust the ratio for more bugs or dilute further for less debris.
Best Bug Remover for Cars Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best Overall: Mother’s Speed Foaming Bug & Tar Remover
Mother’s makes bug removal easy with the foaming action of its Bug & Tar Remover. Featured in an 18.5-ounce aerosol can, the foaming solution neutralizes bug acid on contact. The professional strength formula sprays on and wipes off so you can spend less time cleaning and more time having fun.
The no-drip solution for bugs of all types, Mother’s Foaming Bug Remover can be used as a pre-wash solution for extra scrubbing power or as a spot treatment. Simply spray the solution across the entire front end of your vehicle. Don’t forget the backs of your side mirrors too! Let it soak in for a few minutes as you apply the rest of your cleaners and then wash your vehicle as normal. Alternatively, you can grab a microfiber towel and hit affected areas only. Plus you don’t have to worry about staying away from exterior surfaces—you’re safe with Mother’s.
Our only concern with the Foaming Bug & Tar Remover is that stubborn bugs will still need a bit of elbow grease to get the hint. Even a professional-strength solution can’t beat them all. However, professionals and amateurs alike can easily use Mother’s Speed Foaming Bug & Tar Remover.
Best Value: Thetford Premium RV Bug Bust
Bugs don’t limit themselves to streaking their guts across the front of your vehicle. In fact, they can cause a lot of damage to motorcycles, RVs, and boats as well. Thankfully, Thetford has come up with a bug removing solution that works for any surface, from on-road streets to off-road paths. No matter how many bugs you encounter, Thetford’s Premium Bug Bust will make a quick cleanup.
Thetford’s 32 ounces of bug removing product works well because it’s non-toxic and non-flammable. In fact, the solution itself is 100-percent biodegradable, so you won’t have to feel bad about sending those bugs to their final resting place. Thetford sells its bug remover in a standard spray bottle, complete with an ergonomic handle and adjustable nozzle tip. Simply spray away, allow the product to sit and work its magic, and then rinse off to reveal a clean surface.
The only drawback we found with Thetford’s Premium RV Bug Bust is that it’s a jack of all trades but not necessarily the best at removing stubborn, stuck-on bugs. You’ll likely need to target some areas where the bug guts are especially worked into the paint but beyond touching up a few spots, nearly any car owner should be able to make use of the Thetford Premium RV Bug Bust product.
Honorable Mention: Griot’s Garage Bug & Smudge Remover
Tackle tough bug guts with Griot’s Garage’s Bug & Smudge Remover. Though clear and seemingly ordinary, the Bug & Smudge Remover makes use of a potent formula that works deep to penetrate below the surface to remove built-up and baked-on bug smears and road grime. Within a few minutes of using the Bug & Smudge Remover, you’ll have a cleaner car and no sore muscles from scrubbing.
The best thing about Griot’s Garage’s bug removing product is that you can easily refill the bottle from their gallon of concentrated liquid once it’s gone. The product goes on easily, with just a few squirts across the front bumper of your car. Allow the Bug & Smudge Remover a few minutes to work into the paint and then rinse off for a cleaner car. You won’t have to worry about scrubbing or picking away at leftover bug guts. Best of all, Griot’s Garage knows that bugs aren’t the only thing that will deface your vehicle’s front end. Their product will remove smudges of all kinds as well.
The biggest drawback we found with the Bug & Smudge Remover is that there aren’t any microfibers included. That means if you need to add a little persuasion to get rid of the stubborn bug guts left behind, you’ll have to pick up a few rags of your own. With that said, however, it’s easy enough to pick up a package of them at your local auto parts store, just as it’s easy for nearly anyone to use this product.
- If you find you’ve run out of bug remover, check your spray wax supply. You can use spray wax in a pinch to remove bugs from your vehicle. However, spray wax doesn’t work very well when removing tar.
- We recommend letting the bug remover product you choose sit on your vehicle for a few minutes after you spray it. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations if they list any, but make sure to give the product time to work before you rinse or wipe it off.
- Spray the bug remover on your vehicle only after you rinse the car. That way, you can use the pressure washer to remove most of the debris. Then spray on the bug remover product to target those areas where the bugs are most stubborn.
- It’s important to wash your vehicle on a regular basis but you should wash it more often if you find bugs on your bumper. Bugs that are left on your paint can bake under the sun’s heat and etch into the painted surface. You should wash your car thoroughly, especially after a road trip.
- Use a soft microfiber towel to remove stuck-on bugs. Don’t put too much pressure on the paint as you could scratch it. If you’re having trouble removing a bug, allow the bug remover solution to soak in before trying again. You can also use your fingernail if you feel comfortable doing so.
- If you know how to wet sand your car, you can use this technique to remove bugs that unfortunately have etched into your paint. Simply use 1,500 or 2,000 grit sandpaper to remove the etching and then compound and polish your paint back to match the surrounding paint. Just don’t go past the clear coat.
- Invest in clear bra to save the entire front end of your vehicle from harmful road damage. A clear bra can cover the entirety of your vehicle’s hood, front bumper, fenders, headlights, and the backs of your side mirrors. Bugs will come off a lot easier from clear bra than they will from paint.
- If there are quite a few bugs built up on your windshield, use a razor blade and some glass cleaner to remove them. Just be careful not to razor blade the glass on your side mirrors.
- As you rinse your vehicle before and after applying the bug remover, direct the pressure washer’s spray into hard-to-reach areas. That way you won’t have to worry about getting into those places to remove any stuck-on bugs.
Q: Can I use bug remover on my boat, motorcycle, ATV, or UTV?
A: Yes, you can. Just be sure to test areas you’re not sure about by applying the bug remover solution to a microfiber first. Don’t leave the bug remover solution on the painted surface for long periods of time. Make sure you rinse it off if you apply it.
Q: Does bug remover leave a film or residue?
A: Some products may leave a film, even after a rinse. We recommend using a bug remover and then wipe the area clean with a spritz of spray wax afterward. That way, you’ve applied at least a little bit of wax to the area and you’ve removed any leftover bug remover solution.
Q: What can I do to remove bug debris that won’t come off with bug remover?
A: Some bugs just don’t want to come off easily. Try a few rounds of bug remover with added pressure each time. If that’s not working for you, check to see if the bug has etched itself into the paint. If this is the case, we recommend wet sanding the area if you’re comfortable. Otherwise, you can also use a paint remover or lacquer thinner but use caution.
Q: How long should I leave the bug remover on my car before washing it off?
A: Every manufacturer will have their own guidelines as to how to use the product. However, we recommend leaving the product on your vehicle for 3-5 minutes. This will allow the product to soak into any contaminants and allows you time to do other things as you wait for the product to work.
Q: What products can I use to agitate the bug guts to remove them?
A: There are a number of products out there that will remove bug guts. The most popular are bug sponges designed not to scratch your paint but still remove bug debris. You can also purchase pads wrapped in microfiber that are designed in a similar way.
Q: Is it true that citrus-based products work well to remove tar and bug debris from car paint?
A: Yes, citrus-based products use the natural citric acid to dissolve bug guts and tar. Citrus-based products are also often used to remove tree sap as well, mostly because the acidic solution eats away at the sticky sap, allowing you to remove it without getting sticky fingers.
Q: Will bug removers discolor the paint on my black car?
A: If they’re left on the paint long enough, they might. That’s why we recommend using the bug remover after you rinse but before you wash your vehicle. Alternatively, use the bug remover product on your black vehicle in the shade, so that you can easily remove any residue with spray wax soon after.
Q: Will a clay bar remove bug guts?
A: Yes, clay bars can be another way to get rid of stubborn bug splatter. However, because clay bars are meant to remove harsher chemicals and debris that are discoloring your paintwork, we suggest seeking other alternatives before using a clay bar.
Our top pick for the best bug remover is Mother’s Speed Foaming Bug & Tar Remover because it’s a simple solution to a nasty problem, and it doesn’t necessarily require elbow grease.
The Thetford Premium RV Bug Bust won our pick for the best value because it’s useful on a variety of surfaces.