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Bird Poop: How to Remove it, and Prevent it

We have all been there, returned to the car after a hard day's work only to find that an albatross, or so it would seem, has chosen your pride and joy to deposit their waste all over.

Worse still, it has had all day to bake onto the body in the hot sun and now seems like it's eating its way into the paintwork, like a powerful acid.

Why Bird Poop is Harmful to Car Paint

bird poop on car

The way that birds create and dispose of their waste is different from you or I. As they don't have a bladder, both liquid and solid matter are stored in the same place.

The bird makes large amounts of uric acid which serves to break the waste down. This compound reads between 3-4.5 on the pH scale, which is a relatively high acid level.

When it is exposed to the air, such as on the hood of a car, the acid reacts with the air's natural hydrocarbons.

With such high concentration levels, it is easy to understand how it can eat through the surface layer of paint with such speed and voracity.

Other Mitigating Factors

Warm seasons – As paint heats up, it softens and expands. Any particles that haven't been cleaned away can get trapped in the paint molecules as they cool down and contract. The acid can then work from both beneath and above the layer of paint.

Dry wiping – The temptation to use an old rag or piece of kitchen towel to dry wipe bird poop is a definite no-no. Often the bird will have been eating tiny stones or seeds which don't digest well. Rubbing this across the car might have the same detrimental effect as using a piece of sandpaper.

Delaminating metal – Paint is not only there to give your vehicle a colored finish, it also acts as a protective layer and keeps the metal safe from the dangers of sunlight and moisture. If the acid in the bird poop is left to eat away at enough of the paint, the metal will become exposed. This leaves it susceptible to corrosion and a much shorter life expectancy.

How to Remove Bird Poop From Your Car

cleaning bird poop

Birds carry disease and airborne particles of bird droppings can be harmful if ingested. We recommend wearing gloves before you begin trying to remove it.

Time is of the Essence

The quicker you can remove bird poop the better chance you have of the paintwork remaining unharmed.

If you see the crime committed and the mess is still soft, grab a microfiber towel and gently wipe it away. Clean the area with a sponge and car wash solution.

If the mess has had a chance to dry, wet a cloth and lay it over the stain. Pour a solution of warm, car wash solution and water over the cloth and wait a minute or two for the liquid to be absorbed. Then wipe and clean the affected area.

Neutral pH car shampoo is the best. You shouldn't need to apply any heavy pressure if you apply it and leave it to soak in first. Also avoid using household soap.

Detailing Spray or WD-40

Both are effective methods of cleaning providing they are sprayed generously and left to soak into the mess. They are very effective at softening and loosening difficult to remove stains.

Homemade Cleaners

If you're wary of using chemicals on your paintwork, there are cleaning sprays that work effectively with no harmful side-effects.

  • Fill a spray bottle with 2-tablespoons of baking soda, a squirt of dish soap, and hot water.
  • Shake it all together and spray as you would any other cleaner.

Talk to a Professional

If the staining is particularly bad and has been allowed to set or bake onto the paintwork, you might want to seek out professional help. Most car detailers will have come across this situation before and have their methods, including power washers, to restore the paintwork.

Whichever clean method you choose, always give the lubricant plenty of time to soak into the fecal matter, once it is fully absorbed you can wipe the area clean.

Never use abrasive cloths or brushes as car paint scratches easily and you could make the situation worse.

It's for that same reason we noted to avoid using dish soap as it can contain abrasive ingredients that can scratch paint. The homemade cleaner is good in a pinch if nothing else it available.

How to Remove Bird Poop from Upholstery

Birds don't only leave gifts on the bodywork of cars, if you're the owner of a soft-top car and have left it open in the sun, you might have found a disgusting stain on the seat.

Don't be tempted to try and get it off immediately, it may spread over a wider area and the acid could discolor the fabric or eat away at the stitching.

Let it dry thoroughly and chip away at the excess with a plastic edge, and dispose of the waste.

Work in a few drops of unscented laundry detergent with a gloved finger and a clean towel.

Give it a good scrub, add a few drops of warm water if required, and then let it dry thoroughly.

How to Prevent Birds from Pooping on Your Car

Sadly, we have no control, and whilst we can't prevent the birds from dropping their waste at will, we can definitely deter them.

If the problem occurs when the car is parked at home, try a reliable decoy method.

Birds are terrified of snakes so a toy rubber snake placed in a prominent place on the car just might send them in the opposite direction.

Resin models of birds of prey have a similar effect. An owl is a natural predator of most smaller birds and models, particularly those with moving parts, scare the birds. It is easy to make the owl a feature of your outdoor space, on a tree, pillar, or carport, very close to where the car parks, as long as birds can see it from all directions.

Birds are vain creatures and are often found perched on wing mirrors, preening and admiring themselves. Cover the mirror with an old sock each time you leave the car. This will deter the birds from leaving you any unwanted gifts.

If you have no choice but to park beneath a tree, it might be worthwhile investing in an ultra-sonic device that lets out a sound that only the birds and some animals can hear. They will steer clear, however, so will the garden birds and many people enjoy feeding them.

These devices can be expensive. Tying reflective tape around the branches of the tree can have a similar effect and send the birds packing.

Car covers are relatively inexpensive and are a brilliant way to protect your vehicle from all of the elements. They are a tough, waterproof, and washable piece of fabric with an elastic rim. Simply stretch it over the car and the elasticity will hold it in place.

Car covers have the added advantage of being portable as they roll small enough to store easily in the trunk. They are foolproof and foil the birds every time.

Keeping your car clean might not prevent the birds from messing on it, however, regular washes will prevent the build-up of harmful detritus, even particles too small for the eye to see.

Wax your car often. A smooth, shiny surface not only looks great and adds a protective barrier, but it is also difficult for the bird poop to grip onto.

Final Thoughts

Many people believe a bird choosing to leave its mark on your car is a sign of good luck. I don't agree with that sentiment.

With its highly acidic properties and worrying health implications, it is useful to know how to clean bird poop from your car.

If you really can't bear the thought, invest in a car cover, and hide your vehicle away every time you park up.

Richard Reed
I've been a General Manager of a moving company and I've also been a Professional Mover for over 30 years. I've driven flat beds, reefers, dropdecks, moving vans, heavy machinery, etc. In my time as a Mover I've driven over 1,000,000 safe miles. My days of moving and driving truck are past me but The Vehicle Lab allows me to share the knowledge I've gained over the past 40 years.
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