How do birds seem to know when we've freshly cleaned our cars? Their aim is impeccable! The truth is bird droppings aren't just unsightly – they can damage your paint, and car owners need to remove droppings promptly to prevent damage.
To clean bird poop off your car: Rinse the area for lubrication, remove droppings with a cleaning product, and dry with a microfiber towel. Optionally, applying wax or synthetic sealant products can add a layer of protection.
Tools & Materials
The list of tools you’ll need to remove droppings effectively includes:
- Hose or water bucket(s)
- Microfiber towels
- Bug Eraser or a standard car shampoo
- Wax or sealant product
Dried vs. fresh bird droppings
Cleaning methods differ between fresh and dry droppings. Identify which droppings you’ll be working with before applying cleaning products – it will save you some time. If you can wash while the stain is new, a microfiber cloth and seltzer water should remove the mess. Seltzer water is an effective cleaner, breaking down the droppings' natural acidic properties.
Note: Seltzer water is safe to use on the exterior of a vehicle, as the liquid consists of water infused with pressurized carbon dioxide. Do not use any other carbonated drink such as soda, or you risk leaving behind a sticky residue that can cause potential damage.
If you are removing older droppings, a more thorough cleaning is required.
Rinse area for lubrication
A bird's diet primarily consists of hard-shelled insects, seeds, and berries – all composed of or containing rigid objects. To complicate matters, birds purposely swallow sharp pebbles and grit to help their digestive process. All these items pass through a bird's digestive tract and produce excrement containing both uric acid and abrasive sediment. (Picture someone blending sand with some acid and then allowing the paste to dry on your hood.)
Many people might be inclined to scrub away bird droppings with a towel, but this can lead to deep scratching. We recommend rinsing the area with water to provide additional lubrication, which will help avoid scratching with applied pressure in the coming steps.
This rinsing step aims to remove loose debris, not fully clean bird droppings.
Remove droppings with a cleaning product
Various methods may remove bird droppings, but we'll touch on two: standardized washing and bug erasers. Both cleaning routines are effective, so the choice comes down to detailer preference.
Prepare two wash buckets: one containing a solution of water and car cleaner and another of clean water for rinsing.
Standard removal involves dipping your microfiber towel or washing mitt into a hot, soapy water bucket. Next, lightly glide over the surface using horizontal and vertical passes. Do not use excessive pressure; let the soap do the work for you to ensure that the dropping's hard contaminants won't damage your exterior.
Use a liberal amount of cleaning solution for etched-in droppings. As you clean, frequently dip your wash mitt in a designated rinse bucket to avoid reapplication of grit or grime.
Conducting up a two-bucket wash system and hose can add serious time to a car detailing. Consider Stoner Car Care's Bug Eraser <LINK> to remove bird droppings quickly.
A bug eraser for bird droppings? This product works well to tackle bird droppings, baked-on bugs, and road grime. The Bug Eraser is synthetic microfiber pad that contains softening agents that lift debris and lubricate your exterior. Application is straightforward: wet the eraser to activate softening agents, wipe, and discard.
The Bug Eraser is a viable option for beginners or those working with delicate/older exterior finishes. You won't have to worry about scratching or harmful chemicals remaining that may damage your exterior. The cost, ease of application, and portability make this an excellent option for cleaning bird droppings off your car – in your driveway or on the go.
Dry with a microfiber
Once clean, dry the area with a fresh microfiber cloth. This step is crucial if you use a strong cleaning product with a high acidic value. Over time, chemical residue lingering on the exterior may eat away at your finish and paint coating, and sun or excessive heat will only speed up the process. A few quick wipes with a microfiber will remove any hazardous liquid that may linger post-cleaning.
Optional: Apply a wax/sealant product
Bird droppings are inevitable: they're never a matter of if, only when. We recommend taking another step to protect your finish with a wax or synthetic sealant. Each product offers unique benefits and drawbacks.
Wax products are the go-to for those who prefer using natural products on their vehicles. Wax's main ingredient is carnauba wax, derived from palm trees in Brazil. In nature, this wax coats palm leaves and protects them from intense heat and moisture found in tropical regions.
Farmers harvest raw carnauba into hard flakes – eventually grounding them into a fine powder. The powder is added to other waxes, oils, and petroleum derivatives to become the product found on shelves.
Wax products come in various forms: paste, liquid, or spray. Paste waxes are typically the most expensive, containing the most carnauba wax. While pastes produce the deepest color and shine, they degrade rather quickly and are the most time consuming to apply.
Those seeking durability prefer liquid waxes. Liquid waxes contain more synthetic ingredients than the other types. While they last the longest, these waxes can be more difficult to apply in comparison to spray waxes.
Spray waxes are the easiest to apply -- spray and wipe on -- but these have the shortest lifespan of most wax products. Spray waxes are the most affordable option on the market, and these are a viable option for those who need a basic touch-up.
Waxes require more care and consideration than most sealants, and they have a lower melting point – meaning that you'll have to consider the temperature of the car exterior pre-application. However, some argue that the extra time and consideration are worth it. Wax products bring more depth and color to your paint than synthetic products.
Synthetic Sealants, on the other hand, aren’t a natural byproduct -- chemical engineers create them. The ingredients vary from product to product, but you'll commonly find a mix of petroleum derivatives, polymers, and resins within these products. Sealants produce a hard, durable shell that protects your paint from contaminants.
Synthetic products typically come in liquid forms engineered for convenience and effectiveness, which are much easier to apply than most wax products. The application process varies from product to product, so always read instructions before using.
Synthetic products won't produce the same depth of shine as wax; instead, it creates a glossier, futuristic shine that appeals to some. In the end, it all comes down to user preference.
Regardless of which product you choose, we recommend applying an additional layer of protection if you haven't done so already. Click here for our in-depth guide to cleaning and preparing an exterior for protective coatings.
How bird droppings are harmful to your exterior
Over 2,000 species of birds live in North America, with a population estimated at around 7 billion. You can’t avoid birds, and there’s a good chance they’ll eye your car as a potential landing spot for their droppings. Their small projectiles will ruin your exterior with the addition of time and heat.
Bird droppings contain high uric acid levels, with most droppings reaching a pH level of three to four-and-half. For context, orange juice and soda have a pH level of three.
Unlike humans or other mammals, birds don't have bladders or guts capable of separating solids from liquids. The bird's kidneys produce uric acid to break down food, and the remnants of uric acid remain after digestion. Eventually, everything birds ingest gathers in an organ called the cloaca for excretion.
Once deposited on your vehicle, the sun accelerates the damage bird droppings cause. Harsh UV rays and heat bake on droppings – speeding up the process of the acidic elements and making them harder to clean. Because heat causes materials to expand, the sunlight also causes your finish's paint molecules to open, allowing acids to permeate. These molecules close back up when temperatures fall, trapping the acids and corroding your paint over time.
Bird free -- for now
All that is left to do is enjoy the shine -- while you can. Sadly, as long as there are birds, there will be droppings. Take comfort in knowing that when the outlook gets "fowl," you can clean and keep your car looking brand new with these simple steps: Rinse the area for lubrication, remove droppings with a cleaning product, and dry with a microfiber towel.