Best Bug and Tar Removers: Don't Bug Me

Vivek Nayyar
by Vivek Nayyar

Top 8 Best Bug and Tar Removers

There’s a marked difference between having to wash a car and wanting to wash a car. The former is a chore that is assigned to sullen teens in the wash bays of countless car dealers across the nation. The latter is a task enjoyed by gearheads on a Sunday afternoon.

Since there is no end to the products and accessories being hawked by retailers purporting to make your ride shine, we’ve selected a segment of the bucket that helps with the most flummoxing of cleaning details – removing bug splatter and tar spray. Many insects have found themselves pasted all over the front of a speeding Cayman or GTI, causing the owner to grumble after they’ve parked on the driveway after a day of canyon carving.

Hey, it’s like J.R. Ewing used to say: some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug.

Table of Contents

1. Meguiar's Bug & Tar Remover

We're starting the list with this product since, quite simply, it's the one on which your author spends his own money. Advertised as a "heavy-duty" bug cleaner (though I think they're all marketed with those terms, negating their effectiveness), it does a bang-up job of loosening the bug guts off the grilles and headlights of various vehicles that have darkened my driveway over the years.

Its claim of being "easy on paint" is one which I can personally verify as it has never, in my experience, removed anything more than the dead bugs I am trying to evacuate. The foam-type action apparently adds moisture to the offending bugs/tar, which is seemingly the key in getting them to release off the surface. Use it before washing the car or in between for a quick fix after arriving at the canyon's halfway point.


  • Decent price, convenient to use, fits in the spare tire well


  • Barry Meguiar doesn't personally appear to wash your car

Bottom Line

  • Great to have on hand

2. Armor All Car Bug & Tar Cleaner

The Armor All brand has been around for, what, several epochs? This extension of the brand removes bugs, tar, and bird $#!+ from the paintwork of your pride and joy. In a fit of practicality, it is also said to work on glass; just don't forget to give it a final buff after application.

Like the Meguiar's product that takes up residence in your author's arsenal, this Armor All spray can be used for spot cleaning or as a pre-wash treatment. Cross-promotion being the cornerstone of marketing, the seller notes that it will also preserve wax protection - Armor All wax, of course.


  • Well-known name, positive reviews


  • Needs the addition of elbow grease

Bottom Line

  • Hard to go wrong here

3. Safe Scrub Bug & Tar Pad - 6 Pack

Not all products on this list are foams or sprays. This sponge takes care of sticky bug and tar messes on the front of your car - just dunk it (the sponge, not the car) in soapy water first. It is sized to fit in the palm of your hand, measuring 5 inches by 3.5 inches.

Real-world feedback says that very little pressure is required to remove bugs with these sponges. The trick, apparently, is to allow them to soak fully in the aforementioned soapy water. In a bizarre but hilarious bit of feedback, one customer says they also work well removing stuck-on food from pots and pans.


  • No need to find a rag, elbow grease not required


  • Requires soap and water

Bottom Line

  • Interesting alternative

4. Chemical Guys Bug & Tar Heavy Duty Car Wash

This product is formulated as a pre-wash concentrate to remove squashed bugs from windshields, grilles, hoods, bumpers, and headlights without harming the car's paint. Note that it's a concentrate and should be treated as such. In other words, don't pour this directly on the car.

Three caps full of this stuff are sufficient to make a gallon of wash liquid. This product can also be diluted to a lesser amount and sprayed directly onto specific areas such as the bonnet and/or the lower half of the car and wheels, left for about 30 seconds then hosed down, thus making the whole wash process much easier.


  • Professional-grade strength


  • You gotta find water with which to cut it

Bottom Line

  • Read the instructions

5. Turtle Wax Power Foam Bug & Tar Remover

Your author remembers Turtle Wax as one of the first "fancy" brands of car care he ever saw being used by his father's gearhead friends. Since my ungrateful offspring regularly point out that I'm older than time itself, I decided to look up when the company was founded. Wanna guess? Nope; it's older than that. Try 1941.

This foam will take care of bug and tar splatter without the need for any additional soap and water. Simply shake the can well and spray on a light layer of product. For bugs, instructions say to leave it on for about a minute before wiping it off with a microfiber cloth. Up to 3 minutes should do the trick for tougher stuff like stuck-on tar.


  • Just spray and wipe


  • Size and volume of the can

Bottom Line

  • Doesn't get any simpler

6. Adam's Bug Remover Combo

This brand does a good job of simple but recognizable branding. Most of its spray bottles are the same, transparent in appearance and showing the color of the product inside. In a tremendous example of doing exactly what it says on the label, Adam's describes the product in tall, white-on-black Helvetica lettering. If you mix this stuff up for dashboard cleaner, that's on you.

This is a water-based, high sudsing formula that contains co-solvents and other ingredients to aid in the breakdown of bug bodies and remnants. It is said to be safe on painted surfaces, plastic bumpers, and glass. As an aside, it's not totally clear if the microfiber mitt shown in several promotional images is included with the spray, though the addition of the word "combo" is a good indicator. Contact the seller to be certain.


  • Does what it says on the bottle, smells like grape


  • Is that mitt included?

Bottom Line

  • Well-known name with great reviews

7. Sea Foam Bugs-B-Gone Cleaner

Here's a product that is provided in a spray bottle but does need water to be activated. In other words, think of it as a pre-treatment to be used before you wash the car. According to the ad, it chemically neutralizes acidic bug remains, a feature of the little critters which makes it so important to get them off your car's paint as quickly as possible.

Overall ratings are good for this product, with a few complainants carping about its inability to perform as advertised. Your author thinks this may be a case of user error, one in which the person did not RTFM and expected this product to work straight out of the bottle. Customers who are slightly more switched on report better results.


  • Plenty of positive feedback, handy spray bottle design


  • Requires a spritz of water

Bottom Line

  • Please RTFM

8. Gunk Heavy Duty Tar-n-Bug Remover

This brand is generally targeted at drivers of trucks and big rigs, explaining the Ford Super Duty they've chosen to appear on the can. It comes in an old-school aerosol can, an upright cylinder full of right edges and bold font. If there is such a thing as a 'traditional' style for a spray can, this is it.

One customer says they can "tell by the odor" that it's the same bug/tar remover they've used in past years, indicating that this product may have an industrial smell. Others report they've used it to get tar off garage floors in addition to trucks and bikes.


  • Apparently also gets rid of tree sap


  • Might smell a bit strong

Bottom Line

  • Could be your new Old Reliable


What can I use to remove bugs and tar from my car?

You can either use a bug and tar remover solution that you can buy from your nearest auto shop or online, or prepare a homemade cleaner if you are more of a DIY person.

If you wish to pick the latter approach, the ingredients that you will need are:

Spray Bottle or a Bucket

This will work as a container. You are advised to use a spray bottle as it will be easier for you to apply the homemade solution over the affected areas with it.

Baby Shampoo

To ensure that the solution doesn’t damage the paint on the body of your car.


To get rid of bugs and/or other unwanted elements.

Warm Water

To loosen up the stubborn stains, tar, and bugs.

Cotton Rag or a Microfiber Cloth

To wipe the car after applying the bug and tar remover solution.

The Process

Mix baby shampoo and vinegar with warm water and shake the solution well

Fill the spray bottle with the solution

Spray the fluid over the affected area and leave the car for a couple of minutes

Use the microfiber cloth or cotton rag to gently scrub the residue and wipe those elements off your vehicle

Even if you plan to buy a readymade bug and tar removal solution from the market, the process of cleaning your car with it remains the same.

What is the best cleaner to get bugs off your car?

Many bug removers are available in the local markets and online these days. In addition, you can even prepare a bug and tar removal solution at your home as well. However, if you want to have something that is designed particularly for the purpose and guarantees that it won’t harm your vehicle, the following products are worth consideration:

McKee’s 37 Road Kill ( Buy here!)

This is a kit that comprises a bug remover spray bottle and two pieces of sponges for wipe cleaning. The solution is gentle on clear coats and therefore keeps the integrity of the body intact.

Gtechniq – W8 Bug (Splatter) Remover ( Buy here!)

This solution removes stubborn bug splatters without damaging the finishing of your car. However, the remover is more compatible with Gtechniq coatings.

Is bug and tar remover safe for car paint?

A short and quick answer to the question is, yes. Although no two bug and tar removing solutions share common composition of ingredients, because they have been engineered specifically for the purpose, they are quite safe for car paints and clear coats.

However, while using such a remover, make sure to follow the instructions carefully to avoid any unpleasant results that your car may encounter otherwise.

For best results, always use a microfiber cloth or soft cotton rag to scrub and wipe clean dead bugs and other contaminants from the body of your vehicle.

Will tar remover remove bugs?

Some of them do.

Bugs and tree saps are natural elements and can be easily removed with enzymes. On the other hand, tar is comparatively more stubborn, and therefore a harder solution is required to clean it off. With that said, if you choose any random cleaner, you may damage the paint of your car. Therefore, before buying, you must check what the solution specializes in and then invest your funds to make sure that the finish of your vehicle remains intact.

To answer the question, yes, some tar removers can remove bugs but it’s quite unlikely to be the other way around.

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main photo credit: goodmoments / Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

Vivek Nayyar
Vivek Nayyar

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2 of 7 comments
  • Thehyundaigarage Thehyundaigarage on Jul 02, 2022

    Carbrite had a product for years called “beetlejuice” that is now called “omnibrite” Spray it on, wait a few minutes, and the bugs just slide off with a hose or pressure washer. Great product, and very reasonably priced.

  • Jose carlos Jose carlos on Jul 05, 2022

    to pdanny22: With the panty hose on? On a more serious note: after the car is rinsed, scrub a fabric soaked in querosene; works fine. Rinse after. Do one spot at a time and do the job on a shade.

  • Kcflyer hang in there Lexus. Keep making the IS with the V8 and sooner or later I will buy a new one :)
  • 1995 SC I'll take Mystichrome. And a different car
  • Wolfwagen I wish I could afford one of these except that stupid short master. Has no one learned from the Hummer H2 SUT?
  • 1995 SC Any Tom Petty album
  • Wolfwagen Another Democratic green energy boondoggle. Have they even paid for the clean up at Solyndra yet? I wish some investigative journalist would follow the damm money to see how much is going into the pockets of the DNC and Politicians and donors