If you’re tired of driving your car a long distance, emerging wearily at your destination, glancing back at your trusty steed only to see her plastered in bug bodies, and feeling a part of you die inside – you’re not alone. Depending on where you live, this might be limited to certain times of the year, or it could be like this all the time (we’re looking at you, Florida…) Add to that a few hot and sunny days, and before you know it, those bugs are baked on and looking more and more like part of the paintwork. And it’s not just bugs – tar splashes, tree sap, dirt and grime can quickly make your car look a mess, and often can’t be removed by regular car soap, despite your best scrubbing efforts. So, what can be done? Will you just have to accept that squashed insect carcasses are part of your car’s decal now?
Well, no, never fear; there are products out there that are so tough they can dissolve bug guts and turn tar to butter in a matter of seconds – and as luck would have it, we’ve collected some of the best bug and tar removers in this handy buying guide. So now those bugs (and tar) will never bug you again!
Best Bug and Tar Remover
Topping our list of the best bug and tar removers is this Bug N All Multi-Use Vehicle Cleaner. As the name suggests, this effectively tackles bugs and ‘all’, with the all including dirt, grease, black marks and bird droppings. It breaks down bugs by neutralizing and releasing their organic acids in just 60 seconds (less for other types of dirt), allowing you to wipe your car clean quickly and with almost no effort.
One of the best things about this bug and tar remover is that the gentle formula is suitable for use on the exterior and interior of your car, and can be used on paint, leather, carpet, plastic, vinyl and upholstery, so it’s highly versatile. The bio-degradable formula contains no harsh chemicals or toxic ingredients, so it’s more environmentally friendly than many similar products. There are hundreds of glowing, 5 star reviews of this product, with users describing it as ‘magic’ and ‘phenomenal’ and gushing over its effectiveness at removing bugs almost instantly.
Multi-use vehicle cleaner for exterior and interior use
Breaks down bug splatter in 60 seconds or less
Can be used on paint, leather, carpet, vinyl, plastic and upholstery
Eco-friendlier, bio-degradable formula
- Weight9 ounces
The next cleaning spray on our list is this Griot’s Garage 10982 Bug and Smudge Remover. This one is also designed to remove bugs, as well as oil, road grime and scuffs, such as those acquired at track days. It works by breaking down the exoskeletons of bugs, before they have a chance to damage your paintwork.
You can either use this as a pre-treatment prior to washing your car, in which you should spray it on and leave for several minutes before washing as normal, or you can use it on its own to spot treat specific marks and bug bodies. Do this by spraying it on, leaving for 30 seconds and then wiping clean with a microfiber cloth. It’s suitable for use on exterior surfaces, but cannot be used on interiors, and at least one review warns against getting it on plastic, saying it etched their headlights. It does the job though – it’s another one that reviewers describe as ‘magic in a bottle’.
Bug and grime remover for exterior use only
Works in 30 seconds
Use on its own or as a pre-treatment
Also removes rubber scuff marks
- BrandGriot’s Garage
- Weight1.45 pounds
This Turtle Wax Bug and Tar Remover not only removes bugs and tar from your car, but also tree sap. The formula is suitable for exterior use and clings to vertical surfaces for a more effective clean. There’s no elbow grease required; just spray it on and wipe off. Once removed, you’ll also be left with a protective barrier on your car to protect against future stains.
Reviews as to the effectiveness of this spray at removing bugs and tar seem overwhelmingly positive, but feedback on removing tree sap is mixed, with some saying it works, and others saying they noticed no difference, even after several attempts. It’s also worth noting that, unlike our top pick Bugs N All, this formula contains petroleum distillates which makes it flammable and toxic. It can even be fatal if consumed, so make sure to exercise caution and keep well out of reach of children.
Bug, tar and tree sap remover
Spray on, wipe off
Leaves behind a protective barrier
Contains harmful substances
- BrandTurtle Wax
- Weight1.15 pounds
The concentrated formula of McKee’s 37 Road Kill Bug Remover is again suitable for exterior use only, but it is safe to use on all exterior surfaces, including paint, chrome, glass and plastic trims. It’s made with clear-coat safe surfactants which break down bug carcasses before they have a chance to damage your paintwork.
You can use it by spraying directly onto the bugs, tar or grime marks, leaving to work for a minute or two, then washing your car with a sponge or the McKee’s 37 Bug Scrubber (purchased separately) and rinsing with water. If you prefer, the concentrated formula can be diluted with water (ratio 1:1), or just added to your regular car washing solution to give it an extra bug-dissolving boost. McKee’s 37 bug remover for cars is said to be ideal for removing those pesky love bugs, and many reviewers agree that it rises to the challenge!
Clear coat safe cleaner
Spray on, wipe off
Safe to use on paint, glass, metal, rubber or plastic
Can be diluted 1:1 with water
If you’re worried about using a bug and tar remover which contains toxic ingredients, this 3D Bug Remover Concentrate Cleaner has an enzyme based formula which naturally dissolves bugs without the need for harmful chemicals. It works on paint, plastic, windows and grills, to rapidly remove protein-based stains. To use, make sure your car is cool, wet the surface, spray on the remover and leave to soak in for 1 – 2 minutes, then wash your car as normal, or take it through a car wash.
The bright orange formula is concentrated and can be diluted with water at a ratio of anywhere between 1:1 and 1:20, depending on how baked on your bugs are. Some reviewers comment that it takes a bit of experimenting to get the dilution just right, and if you’re not seeing good results, it might be worth trying a stronger concentration. It’s also worth noting that, unlike similar products, this cleaner doesn’t claim to remove tar and grime – but if it’s just bugs and insects that are your problem, you can’t go far wrong with this formula, especially at such a competitive price.
Enzyme based bug remover
Works on glass, paint, plastic and metal
Can be diluted up to 1:20 with water
Natural, non-harmful formula
- Brand3D Auto Detailing Products
- Weight9.55 pounds
This B.E.S.T Bug-Off Spray claims to instantly remove all types of bugs, including love bugs, as well as road grime and tree sap from your car’s exterior. The manufacturer recommends it for use on all types of automobiles, including RVs, trucks and boats. To use, spray it onto the affected area, wait no more than 30 seconds, than wipe away the dissolved bug bodies with a cloth, and rinse with water.
The formula is biodegradable, so more eco-friendly than some, and it contains no acids or caustics, which means it won’t harm your paint or decals. There are plenty of reviews that attest to its effectiveness, with many saying that this worked even on bugs that had been baked onto their car by the sun over many months. Some do comment that the remover is strong, and will strip the wax off your car, so you should be careful not to exceed the recommended 30 second processing time.
Removes bugs, grime and tree sap
Spray on, wipe off
Works in less than 30 seconds
Contains no acids or caustics
- Weight2 pounds
Meguiar’s is a highly respected name in the world of automobiles, with quality assured, and their Bug & Tar Remover is no exception. This foaming formula features clear coat safe surfactants so you can use it on all paint and exterior surfaces. Unlike some of the other bug-focused formulas on this list, this is designed to remove both bugs and tar.
You can apply this bug and tar remover before washing your car, or use it alone as needed – simply spray it on, leave for 5 minutes, and wipe off. The 5-minute development time is comparatively long, and some reviewers mention that it dries too quickly to allow this, and doesn’t stick properly to vertical surfaces – despite the Xtreme Cling foaming technology which is designed to prevent it sliding off. There are multiple 5-star reviews though, and many happy customers who state this did a good job and is a typical high-quality Meguiar’s product.
Clear coat safe formula
Powerful foaming action
Works on bugs and tar
Safe to use on paint and all exterior surfaces
- Weight15 ounces
Chemical Guys Heavy Duty Car Wash Shampoo is a concentrated formula designed to be mixed with water (1 capful of shampoo to 1 gallon of water) and used as your regular car wash to help remove bugs, tar and tree sap. If you want to use it to spot clean, you can increase the concentration to 1:6 and spray it on instead. The water-based formula is safe for clear coat and single stage paint finishes, and can be used to clean all the exterior surfaces of your car, including plastic, chrome, glass and aluminum.
Overall reviews of this product are positive, although there are some that question its effectiveness. Such reviews say that the recommended dilution is too weak, and the wash needs to be more concentrated to work. Others say it cleans, but no more so than regular car soap, and isn’t effective at removing tar. The gentle formula purposely doesn’t contain any harsh cleaners or solvents, to minimize risk to your surfaces, so this might explain why it’s a little less effective than some other bug and tar removers.
Water-based formula safe for clear coat finishes
Removes bugs, tar, tree sap, bird droppings and grime
Works on all exterior surfaces
Mix 1 capful with 1 gallon of water
- BrandChemical Guys
- Weight5.35 pounds
One of the most affordable bug sprays for cars on our list is this Bug & Tar Pre-Wash Gel by Rain-X. This clear coat safe formula can be used on all the exterior surfaces of your car, including metal, plastic and glass. It’s designed as a pre-wash, so you apply the gel, allow it to soak, and then wash your car as normal, removing bugs, tar and bird droppings in the process.
The gel formula is praised in reviews, with one claiming ‘its thickness makes it hold and work’. Another complains though that it’s ‘not a spray’ (not that it claims to be) but it might perhaps be a little more difficult to apply than some other cleaners. The formula is corrosive, and carries a warning that it is harmful or fatal if swallowed, so it’s another one to be especially careful with – and as with all cleaning products, to be kept out of reach of children.
Pre-wash gel to remove bugs, tar and bird droppings
Clear coat safe
Spray on, wipe off
Safe for use on metal, plastic and glass
- Weight1.04 pounds
Carpro’s Tar X Tar and Adhesives Remover is a professional grade, glow-in-the-dark formula which uses natural solvents from orange peel (yes, orange peel!) to gently and effectively remove bugs, tar, asphalt and adhesives from your vehicle. It might not sound convincing, but the dozens of 5-star reviews reveal that it’s a miracle-worker that dissolves thick, caked-on tar and adhesives, even when other formulas have failed.
Not only is Tar X great for removing tar and adhesive, it also helps prolong your car’s paintwork and protects it from rust, by neutralizing harmful chemicals in the environment as it cleans. Unlike some of the other formulas on this list, which specialize in removing bugs but fall short when it comes to tar, this sleek and sophisticated cleaner is the real deal, and is one of the best ways to remove tar from car exteriors.
Professional grade formula
Removes bugs, tar, asphalt and adhesives
Made with natural solvents from orange peel
Helps protect against rust
- Weight1.1 pounds
Best Bug and Tar Remover Buying Guide
Is the sheer amount of bug and tar removers on the market still bugging you? Hopefully our buying guide and FAQ will help clear things up for you - like a good tar remover should.
What to Consider When Buying a Tar Remover
- Is it safe for your surfaces?
Not all bug and tar removers are safe to use on all surfaces – for example, some contain harsh chemicals that should not be used on clear coat paint finishes. Make sure the tar remover you’re buying is suitable for use on all the exterior surfaces of your car (and the interior, if you need to use it inside).
- Does it contain harmful ingredients?
Following on from the above, consider whether your chosen formula contains harmful or toxic ingredients. Often, the ones that do are considered more effective – but you must exercise caution, as they could damage your paintwork if left on for too long, and can be fatal if consumed. Water or enzyme based formulas that contain no toxic ingredients are safer, but might not work as well on tough tar stains.
- Does it work?
By this we mean – is it intended to remove the stains that you want it to? Are bugs your main problem? If so, choose an enzyme-based bug remover that is designed to break down organic matter whilst preserving your paint. If tar is the issue, select a specialized tar remover that contains stronger solvents. Tree sap is always difficult to remove, so if you’re looking for a cleaner to help, make sure it is designed for this purpose. Check reviews to see how successful other people have been at using this product to tackle your issue.
- How long will it last?
Consider how much product you are getting for your money, and how long it is likely last. A bigger bottle doesn’t always mean longer-lasting – some concentrated formulas need to be heavily diluted with water before use, and a little goes a long way.
- How much does it cost?
Lastly, when purchasing a bug and tar remover, factor in price and value for money. Think about whether you are happy to invest a little more for a higher quality product, or whether you would prefer to start out with a less expensive formula, which may just do the trick.
Benefits of Using Bug and Tar Remover
- Remove baked on bugs
One of the primary benefits of using a bug and tar remover is that it can enable you to get rid of dried on bugs and insects from your car’s windshield, paint and grill. This is particularly beneficial if you live in a hot climate where bugs are a common occurrence. Bugs that have been baked on to your car’s surface are notoriously hard to get rid of, and need to be dissolved in order to be removed safely.
- Remove tar, tree sap and grime
Bug and tar removers can also be used to treat a variety of other tough stains, including tar, tree sap, bird droppings and rubber marks. These can often be very difficult to remove using regular car soap and water.
- Avoid damaging your paintwork
As well as improving the aesthetic of your car (no one likes bug carcass decals), one of the most important reasons to remove bugs and tar is to avoid damaging your paintwork. Many bugs contain corrosive acids that will damage your paint if allowed to remain. Scrubbing to remove bugs and tar can also scratch your paint – the best way to remove them safely is to use a specially formulated bug and tar remover that can break down and dissolve bugs, allowing you to wipe them off effortlessly.
- Better visibility
Removing splattered bugs and grime from your windshield will also improve your visibility of the road, making your driving experience safer.
- Easier than scrubbing
Last, but by no means least, using a bug and tar remover makes your life easier! Why spend your entire Sunday scrubbing your car, only to remove half of the dried on bugs and grime, when you could spray on one of these specially formulated products, wait a couple of minutes, and then wipe them away with ease?
How to Remove Tar From Your Car’s Paint
To remove tar from your car’s paint, first invest in a good tar remover – like the ones we’ve listed above. Then, follow the instructions on the label as to how to use it. The exact process will vary slightly, but generally goes something like:
- Wet the surface of your car
- Spray on the tar remover
- Leave to work for 30 seconds – 5 minutes (according to the instructions for your chosen product)
- Wipe off with a microfiber cloth, rubbing to remove any stubborn stains
- Rinse your car with water
- Enjoy your new, tar-free car!
Best Bug and Tar Remover FAQ:
Q: What is tar?
A: Tar is a viscous, flammable liquid made by distilling coal or wood, and consisting of a mixture of compounds, including resins, hydrocarbons and alcohol. It is commonly used on roads, where it creates a solid and durable surface. When a road has been newly tarred or re-tarred, it is common for small specks of tar to fling up when a vehicle drives over it, resulting in tar marks on the car.
Q: What does a tar remover do?
A: A tar remover contains chemicals or solvents which dissolve tar stains and marks on your car, making it easy for you to wipe them away. To use, you simply spray the tar remover on the stain, wait a few minutes for it to break down, and then wash your car as normal. Tar removers make it possible for you to quickly and easily remove tar, without having to scrub and risk damaging your paintwork.
Q: Can bug and tar removers harm my paint?
A: A good quality bug and tar remover will be specially formulated not to harm your paint, providing it is used correctly. To make sure your paint remains unscathed, first choose a formula that is suitable for your surface – for example, if you have a clear coat, choose one that is clear coat safe. Next, make sure to follow the instructions for use, particularly regarding the concentration of the cleaner and the amount of time it should be left to work. Be careful not to exceed the recommended time. Finally, make sure to thoroughly rinse your surface after using a bug and tar remover to remove any traces of the product from your paintwork.
Q: Can I use WD40 to remove tar?
A: Yes, you can use WD-40 to remove tar – but it isn’t as safe or effective as the specialized formulas we’ve listed here. These tar removers are solvent-based formulas specifically designed to remove tar from cars, whereas WD-40 is a multi-purpose lubricant that just so happens to work reasonably well for this purpose. Bug and tar removers are formulated to be gentle, easy to remove and not damaging to your paintwork – WD-40 on the other hand is not water soluble, so can be difficult to fully remove from your car’s surface.
Our Top Pick
There are some fabulous formulas on this list, but our pick of the best bug and tar removers has to be the Bug N All Multi-Use Vehicle Cleaner. This multi-purpose formula effectively removes bugs, dirt, grease, black marks and bird droppings from your vehicle, by breaking down bug bodies and organic material in less than 60 seconds. Not only does it take all the effort out of cleaning your car, but best of all, the gentle bio-degradable formula can be used on the interior as well as exterior of your car, so it’s great if those pesky bugs have managed to find their way inside as well. After all, as the saying goes, love (bugs) know no bounds!