Professional Carwashing & Detailing

The Science of Bug Removal

July 14, 2011

You might have seen the television commercials by a leading exterminating company where giant, and very creepy looking insects, try to gain entry into a home under the guise of delivering pizza or a piece of furniture. Once encountered by the exterminator, they flee the scene, (no pun intended), speeding away behind the wheel of a vehicle. As weird as these ads seem, bugs and cars have had a very long relationship; more so with these organisms stuck on the grill, not behind the wheel. And getting rid of these seasonal pests is paramount in providing a clean car.

Think "Bug Removers" not "Bug Detergents"

In the car wash chemical business we generally lump soils into two major categories "Organic Soils" and "Inorganic Soils". In general anything that is or was once alive falls into the "Organic" category and is best attacked by an alkaline detergent. While anything that was never alive like sand and clay particles are often removed with the assistance of a low pH or acidic detergent. Insects obviously fall into the "Organic" category and are best attacked using an alkaline product. Our interest is not necessarily to apply a "detergent" product as you are not trying to "clean the bugs" but you are trying to "remove the bugs". The best bug removers are products that have two different functions, 1. Penetrate the residue left by the bugs' impact. 2. Soften and retain moisture in the bug remains to make it easier to remove from the surface during the normal wash process.

There's a Soup in My Bug!

Insect residue on your vehicle can be one of the toughest soils to remove. The longer the residue sits on the surface the more difficult it can be to remove, especially as the hot summer sun bakes it on. The bugs themselves are living organisms which on point of impact become a soup of all of their body parts and fluids. In some cases the bug residue can permanently affect the paint and/or plastic parts on a car if not removed in a timely manner.

The first questions that wash operators ask us about our bug remover is "Can I apply the bug remover on a hot finish?" The answer to these questions depends upon the product being used. A properly formulated bug remover applied as directed can be applied on a hot car and allowed to sit for extended periods. However, if an operator were to think that "this is just a normal alkaline detergent and my standard presoak should work just as well", they would be taking a big risk as those products are made to work fast to remove soils and be rinsed off in short order. Using the wrong product and have it dry on the surface could leave a difficult to remove residue or even cause damage to the finish.

Choose the Right Product at the Right Ratio

A good bug remover will retain some moisture in the insect residue even though the product appears to have dried on the surface. The product will quickly re-wet itself and can be easily washed/rinsed off during the wash process. In hot arid climates or weather, it is best to dilute the bug remover a little more to the lean end of the recommended ratios and apply a greater volume of the product over a larger area. This will help cool the greater surface and allow more time for the product to act on the bugs. If too little diluted product is sprayed on just a small area of a hot surface, it can dry too quickly and not be as effective.

Bug removers generally come in two versions, one would be a "standard strength" product, the other being "ultra concentrated". Be sure to read the directions for the product that you are using and follow them. All car wash products are extensively tested to determine the best dilutions and use rates as well as any special application tips which will help you get the maximum performance from your chemical products.

Customers Need to do Their Part

Operators should encourage their customers to take two important steps to help them battle the bugs. 1. Wash their vehicles frequently. This is the most important step as it will prevent excessive build up of the increasingly harder to remove residue. 2. Encourage the application of a premium sealant product. These products leave a substantial coating on the surface that will keep at least some of that bug residue from directly contacting the vehicle itself.

Make Customers Aware

Good marketing will inform customers of the importance of bug removal not only for the appearance of the car but also for proper preventative maintenance of the paint finish. Offering a bug product on the top wash will encourage customers to "buy up" for that added feature.

For more information go to Lustrabear.com.