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Safely Removing Pollen Will Save Your Paint

by

Ah…Spring.  Birds are chirping, bees are buzzing, and flowers are starting to bloom- Love is in the air. But as I start looking around all the splendor nature has provided, I am reminded that love isn’t the only thing in the air during Spring.  Pollen has turned my black sedan into a yellow submarine, and unless you’re a fan of the Beatles or hoping it will help my car “bloom” you’re already thinking like me- Get it off!

Pollen covered car

It seems as though as soon as you finish washing a car in the Spring, the pollen that you couldn’t see floating by as you washed and dried has started to lay itself down on your smooth, silky, shiny paint.  But believe or not, that really isn’t a problem.  Sure, pollen gives black cars a nuclear green glow, and white cars look like yellow, but the pollen just laying there isn’t all that bad. The problem comes after you decide how to best remove it.  There are a few ways you could do it, but only one guaranteed to not ruin your paint.

Pollen is something you want to remove as often as you can.  While there are many forms of pollen, two popular forms around this time of year are flower (like Morning Glorys) pollen and tree (like pine) pollen.  Although it is mighty small, a single pollen grain can cling to the various pores of your paint.  Once there, it’s the acidity of the grain that can cause damage. The acidity is often activated in pine pollen (for example) when it rains can cause staining and premature oxidation over time.

So how does it cling and how do I avoid damage when removing it? Both of those answers could be answered by taking a microscopic look at pollen.

Microscopic look at pollen

Microscopic view of a pollen particle

Microscopic view of a pollen particle

Yes, that Flail looking thing is pollen.  It uses the prongs to hold on tight to bees, mites, and your car’s paint in hopes of doing its job.  Those same prongs are the reasons you should avoid two popular pollen removal techniques: The Wipe and The Rinse.

Using the wipe seems “okay” at first, but even one swipe on dry paint with no lubricant could start the viral streaks and light scratches that ruin your perfect paint.  Think it’s too light to do damage?  Maybe, but that Flail look-a-like is just one at a microscopic level.  Multiply that one times a lot, add some pressure, and dry paint…now that is a disaster waiting to happen.

Another popular technique is simply “hosing” the car at the house or spraying it off at the carwash.  While you do in fact remove much of the pollen this way and don’t threaten the paint in any way, you do miss the pollen closest to the perfection.  Even with hot water and a pressure washer, the pollen is still there, hanging tight.  Not only is it not gone, but you have now activated some of its acidic qualities.

So what to do?  Do it right and take your time.  A good old wash: soapy water, gentle agitation, and dry.  The soap will encapsulate the pollen and loosen its grip on the paint.  Light agitation will move it out of the pores and leave you with a glossy, scratch free finish.  While you may not be able to wash your car every night, when you do take the time you’ll end up with one that allows you to enjoy the love that’s in the air and not hate the scratches in your paint.

32 comments on Safely Removing Pollen Will Save Your Paint

  1. Mo says:

    David, Thanks for the write up. I washed my car this past saturday and on sunday, my white car was yellow. since i did not feel like washing it again (and again and again), i decided to use the forced air out of my metro vac to blow some of it off. i am assuming this method is no good?

    • Mo,

      You’re welcome! Thanks for taking the time to read my article. My personal suggestion is to wash the vehicle as much as time (and your elbows) permit. I usually keep my washing to 1 or 2 times a week during pollen season to avoid any side-effects from both the pollen and too much washing. That is actually a pretty good idea in using the Metro Vac. It will greatly reduce excessive pollen, but the stuff closest to the paint will probably stay there. However, I see it as a good maintenance idea between washes as long as both the air outside and the pollen are dry.

  2. Joe says:

    Great article, David! And definitely timely.

    Would you recommend against using ONR for pollen removal? Just curious what your thoughts are.

    • Thank you Joe. I am a big fan of ONR and this instance is no exception. I fill up two buckets as with a traditional ONR wash, but I also fill up a spray bottle with some ONR mix. I use the spray bottle to pre-treat the panel prior to washing in order to further minimize the chances of any marring.

  3. Although I am a big fan of the Beatles (Abbey Road my favorite Beatles album), I don’t care for the yellow submarine that I have been driving around in lately. It was once a very nice black Acura TL-S, but has been consumed by pollen. Between sneezes, I’ll be sure to follow your advice!

    Thanks for the great article.

    Todd

  4. Tom Danzig says:

    How about using a quick detailer for light pollen removal? Any issues with that? Unfortunately, my car sits under trees in the driveway and I am continually battling sap and pollen.

    • Hi Tom. Those are definitely my least favorite places to park my car. Ever consider moving? Just kidding. I don’t recommend using a QD for this type of cleanup. I only use QD’s after a wash when I’m not going to wax, or when I am removing light garage dust (i.e. from sitting in the garage for a day or two). Although QD’s are slick and may have cleaning agents, they don’t have the encapsulating properties of soap or ONR which is what you want when dealing with the kind of fallout you experience.

  5. irfan says:

    Great article! I have posted this on our jeep site

    thank you!

  6. Ralphy says:

    Very nice article, i was just thinking about this this morning after i washed my car before i went to work, luckly i park in the garage so the pollen was not that bad, but today at lunch a co-worker started dusting off his car with those Cali duster. I particularly do not care for them and i think it creates more potential for paint surface scratch.

  7. Zeta Detail says:

    Excellent advice there, David! And the pollen microscopic view certainly looks scary.

  8. chris says:

    i love how scientific this article is. thumbs up! it provides that much more meaning =P

  9. Thanks everyone…I really appreciate your comment and kind words. Those microscopic pictures really got me looking at California Dusters differently too! While I hadn’t used mine in a long time, I think it may never again see the light of day.

  10. Alex says:

    Wow, I learned something new today. I recently just washed, clayed, and sealed my car so I figured a quick rinse with the hose would get rid of the pollen no problem. Guess I was wrong. I’ll stick to just washing the pollen off with soap and water from now on. Thanks for the tips.

    Is there anything out there, like a QD spray or something, than can help to keep the pollen from accumulating on the paint so fast?

    • You’re welcome Alex and thanks for taking the time to read the article. There are some QD’s in the market that are “anti-static”. While it won’t make pollen hover over your car like a science trick, I have noticed reductions in the amount of pollen and light dust that can accumulate following a wash.

  11. Joel Brauser says:

    Did I understand you correctly at the begining of the article that just leaving it on the car will not do any damage? For me, it’s really like a sprinkling every morning, and I can live with it if I don’t have to worry about any damage

  12. terri says:

    I unfortunately did not remove pollen from my car, and now it appears to be baked on. Tried everything….very gently. The only way I’ve been able to get it off is to soak the surface with warm towels and gently use my softened fingernail (from being in the water) to gently scratch it off. Takes forever to do each square foot, and I’ve only completed about a quarter of the hood in probably 3 hours of this. Is there any product out there for this?

    • Greg @ DI Greg @ DI says:

      Terri have you tried mixing a little degreaser in your wash solution? I would mix my shampoo with the P21S Total Auto Wash or directly spray some areas to help loosen some of the build ups while washing. You could also try a stronger degreasing option if that is not enough. If that doesn’t work I’d experiment with a clay bar or a paint cleaner like the P21S Paintwork Cleanser next.

  13. Tracey says:

    I work for Toyota in Perth WA AU & the cars there are covered with bee poop, we only get a certain amount of time to spend on these new cars and most of our time is takin up removing it. It is also frustratin when u havew finished the car only to see marks where the poop was. The clay bar works ok but not the best result so I will try your degreaser idea & if that dont work I will certainly either purchase or ask for the Paintwork cleanser…this has been most helpful ty :-)

    • Greg @ DI Greg @ DI says:

      Glad to hear the info was helpful. One other option I would consider using is the new AutoScrub pads from NanoSkin, these pads are a more time effective way to achieve similar results to a clay bar. I wouldn’t use this on a surface with a lot of pollen left over after washing, but it does help in many situations.

  14. Linda says:

    David-

    What is ONR wash?

    Thanks,
    Linda

  15. Julia says:

    Optimum No Rinse. A car cleaning product. (I just looked it up online). I need help getting small yellow pollen stains off my convertible top on a mint condition 1992 vw cabriolet. Any ideas?

  16. Nick says:

    Will pollen eat away at waxes/sealants?

    • Reece @ DI Reece @ DI says:

      Nick,

      It is possible! The longer you allow pollen to sit on the surface, the more likely it is to eat away at your waxes and sealants.

  17. Aaron says:

    Thx for the tips. I have to admit, the other day I tried to “dust off” the pollen layer with a california brush. Never again! Now I know…

  18. FourT2 says:

    What about using ONR mixed as QD (1:23)? I am not sure I can invest the time in washing the car twice a week, so thought about QD wipe with plush (DI Accessories) microfiber towels.

  19. diamondback says:

    Your professional advice was much appreciated! I was told that this green pollen was as dangerous to a vehicles finish/paint as ROAD SALT!! :( Believe it or not– I always use a warm, soapy mixture when washing our ministry vehicles. We attempt to get up EARLY EVERY MORNING to wash off the green pollen!! So far, bless Jesus we’ve been successful in keeping the ministry vehicles’ paint in good condition!! We were also told NOT to use QD spray on these vehicles as well—

  20. Meg says:

    I was just wondering, I have quite a bit of pollen on my black car and today when I was driving home, it was lightly sprinkling, a great deal of my car wet with the pollen still on it. I am in college and don’t have access to a hose for 4 days. I was just wondering if my paint will be in poor condition or how bad is this for my paint by then, as I saw that you said if i gets wet, the acidity is activated and is harmful to the paint. Thanks!

    • diamondback says:

      You may want to purchase a plastic bucket and a bottle of dish washing liquid. You can run water into your bucket from your tap– adding a few drops of dish washing liquid. We don’t have to use a hose to wash the pollen from our vehicles. Just ONE bucket of soapy water will do the trick– so far, so good!! :)

  21. karen says:

    I decided to try getting a bucket of hot water and adding dawn dish washing detergent and holding the hot soapy wash mitt over the pollen for a minute then scrubbing hard and it feels like most of it came off. Worth a try. :-)

    • Chris says:

      Using dish soap is the absolute WORST thing you can ever do to your car. You think you are cleaning it but you are harming your car. It’s your car but I’m saying, car wash soap is very cheap. You can buy a nice car wash here for $8.00. Decide to invest. Leave Dawn to cleaning them dirty dishes, not your dirty car.

  22. Jim says:

    I had left my car at a repair shop for a lengthy amount of time (several months – in FL), and while waiting for a warranty dispute was being settled it was sitting under several live oak trees, and came back with several months of yellow pollen stains (white car). Running it through the carwash hasn’t helped, and buckets of warm soapy water wash hasn’t removed the “baked on” pollen stain either. What else should I consider?

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