A buddy of mine, Chris Minor, runs a respected detailing operation called Refined Shine where I grew up in Lively, Ontario. He’s applied professional coatings to several of my cars over the years, and is the only man I trust for the job.
In the years I’ve known Chris, he’s also introduced me to various products and procedures to help keep my finish looking tip-top.
Of all of Minor’s advice, one piece always stuck with me.
“The worst thing you can do for your paint is to touch it” he said.
From that point on, I began being using products and procedures that allowed me to wash my cars with the gentlest touch possible.
But then there’s bird poop.
Your car’s paint puts up with a lot of pain, and bird mess is among the worst. It can cause real and lasting damage to your finish if you’re not careful to avoid temptation and make the critical mistake that so many make come time to clean it off.
The thing about bird poop is that it tends to be sticky, tacky, and eventually dries to a cement-like consistency that’s not conducive to gentle cleaning. Bird poop can also be highly acidic, which is bad news for your paint, too.
Even worse is the way some folks go about cleaning bird poop from their paint.
Birds eat and poop a lot of hard and abrasive things, including seeds, shells, and even gravel, which helps them digest. Though small, these particles are often present in their poop after it’s spattered, dried, and adhered itself to your car’s paint.
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The critical mistake when it comes to cleaning bird mess is forgetting to treat it as a highly abrasive substance. To ensure a healthy life for your car’s finish, you need to treat bird poop like sticky gravel (and not a runny liquid), 100 per cent of the time.
Fight the temptation to attack and scrub and scour away at its grossness, since that will ruin your paint. To avoid damage, never ever scrub bird poop. Never attempt to dry-wipe bird poop from your paint. Never wash bird poop with anything more than the lightest possible touch of your rag.
Before all of that? Soak it. Soak that bird mess as if it was a baking pan encrusted with incinerated lasagna. You could scrub and toil and curse and scratch, though an easier alternative is an overnight soak in a sudsy sink.
To safely clean bird mess from my paint, I mix a small, concentrated pail of warm water and mild car wash soap appropriate for any finishes that may have been applied to my paint. Never use dish soap — your car’s paint isn’t dishes.
Next, I plunge a wash mitt or rag into the pail of suds to get it sopping wet. Without wringing out first, I gently place the sopping, sudsy rag on top of the bird poop. Then, I go away and do something else for an hour or two.
This keeps the bird poop wet and soapy, breaking it down and releasing its grip on my clearcoat or coating.
After returning some time later, I lift the wet rag away and use the gentlest touch possible to determine if the poop has softened sufficiently for easy removal. If it has, I’ll proceed by gently wiping and rinsing away the mess. If it’s still sticky, I’ll soak another few hours and return later to try again. The bird poop gets soaked for as long as it takes to remove it with no pressure and no scrubbing.
“Remove bird bombs as early as you can, as the uric acid content in the droppings can etch into your clear coat when allowed to sit for extended periods, leaving a permanent mark” Minor says.
“I recommend soaking the area with a rinseless wash (such as Optimum No Rinse) and gently removing with a high-quality microfibre towel. Optimim No Rinse is my go-to, but quick detailer, car-wash soap, or diluted all-purpose cleaner is ok too. It’s most important to get it off quick, and without agitating it”.