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Safely Removing Pollen Will Save Your Paint


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.

56 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.


    • Ron says:

      Todd, like the yellow submarine analogy Funny. I’m 58 and remember that song “We all live in a yellow submarine.”

  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 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 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:


    What is ONR wash?


  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 says:


      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?

  23. Greg says:

    Someone earlier commented on NOT using the California Duster. I haven’t had an issue yet on scratches and it takes the pollen off in no time. I enjoy detailing my cars and use quality products from Griot’s Garage that can rival even products such as P21S, Pinnacle, ONR, etc. All a matter of preference and knowledge I suppose rather than people just believing in what other people say. A good warm soapy wash once a week and maybe a QD once or twice during the week will not harm your vehicles at all, AS LONG AS IT IS A QUALITY QD, that’s the thing.

  24. D. Gerali says:

    Should I wax my truck after I wash it? Also should I use cleaner or compound after I’ve washed it?

  25. N. Lennon says:

    I just got my car back with A fresh paint job(clear coat) Wednesday. Someone recommended not washing for 30 days. The temptation is strong now as the Pollen stacks up on her out here in Tx. Will everything be OK? I’ve been hearing different things online like rinse off with water only etc… But no combination of info. for New Paint & Pollen season.

    Thanks in Advance

  26. Jonathan Looez Perez says:

    Dang. Now I know how to take care of my paintjob on my new Audi Q7… I really don’t want to ruin the paintjob on that car.. Thanks for the tip David.

  27. Russ says:


    O K, my van is a bit of an issue. Because of illness and all, I don’t get a chance to get out, all that much. My van, is COVERED in the stuff and all;… for A LONG PERIOD OF TIMES(over a year or so). So, it’s pretty ENCRUSTED with the stuff.

  28. Frank says:

    after reading many comments, I never saw a Clorox solution used to remove baked on pollen. Will it harm the paint and considered a NO NO?

  29. Pssst3 says:

    The easiest way for me is to use a inline soap dispenser, a variable garden nozzle with a mist setting, a wash mit and a blower.

    Because my area has so many different types of trees and grasses, there is no time between May and November when pollen or seeds AREN’T falling. I periodically treat my suv with Maguilars paint protect off label as a ‘base coat’, and use a combination wash soap /wax product between thorough cleanings. The downside of the wax product is the need to clean the glass.

    A fall treatment of MPP is adequate to protect the roof through our snowy winters. The front and sides need a mid winter reapplication, which is simple using wipe on/wipe MPP. My suv will never win any prizes, but looks better than most everyday drivers.

    Start with the roof and work towards the rear.

    Mist the entire car with plain water, insert the soap dispenser and mist it with ‘soap’. Wipe down gently the top and the sides from the windscreen back, while continuing to mist so no panels dry off. When you reach the rear bumper, flush with water.

    Start over with the roof.

    Mist the car with plain water, insert the soap dispenser and mist it with ‘soap’. Wipe down gently the panels that you didnt get in the first phase, while continuing to mist so no panels dry off. When you reach the front bumper, flush with water.

    Using the blower, work from the roof down, circling the car. One microfiber towel for the glass and another for the rogue droplets that the blower misses.

    If you can reach the center of your roof while standing on the ground, this is a 15-30 minute job. If you need a ladder to reach the top of an SUV or van, add 15 minutes.

  30. Chris says:

    Can you use a drive thru car wash?

  31. Rita Nurdin says:

    I would like to know if bleach in the wash water will ruin the paint

  32. Wilma says:

    How about w-d 40 for pine tar and window rubber and bird poop?

    • Richard Comroe says:

      I know this is a little late, but here’s the best way of removing bird poop. Make a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar. Spray it on the poop. Wait about 30 seconds. Wipe off. I own several parrots and it’s what I use to clean their cages and the other messes they make.
      For tree sap, you can use straight hand sanitizer if it contains alcohol. Or, just put some rubbing alcohol on a cloth and the sap will easily come off.

  33. Sarah Curtis says:

    Thanks for sharing this tips.

  34. Waipioboy56 says:

    I washed my black truck todsy but it seems to br baked in the paint. I have used straight simple green in the past.Is that ok for the paint?

  35. Waipioboy56 says:

    sorry..My keyboard seems to be messed up right now…LOL..I washed my truck today and the pollen seems to be baked on in the paint. I have used straight simple green in the past and it seemed to work. Is this bad for the paint?

  36. Ryan says:

    I hate spring. Thanks for post.

  37. HELENE says:

    I have found the perfect solution. Anyone heard of the white MAGIC SPONGE? Costs a few euros. Wet it slightly – little painstaking, and a lot of rubbing – but it does the trick without attacking your paintwork.

  38. Gary Wolfe says:

    Baby wipes from any store are great for removing bee poop from your car paint. I was too about it by my neighbor and it is a very good solution because the wipe lubricates as it removes the bee poop.

  39. Gary Wolfe says:

    Please let me know if you have success with the baby wipes if removing the bee poop is your problem.

    • Laura says:

      Gary Wolfe-
      THANK YOU for the suggestion of using baby wipes to get bee poop off a vehicle. Having a black car dotted with bee poop is annoying (wish all my problems were just annoying), and my car seems to be a target lately. I bought a name brand baby wipes at the 99C Only Store, and tested it on the vertical part of my trunk. It worked like a charm, but some spots were a little more stubborn than others. The paint looks great. I’ll tackle the full job in the cool of the early morning. THANK YOU for such a great suggestion. Much appreciated.

  40. Ronnie says:

    I let my Ford 250 sit for three months last year after pollen fell and have washed it with everything I could think of and still have some in various spots? Guess I’ll scrub it with mineral spirits next!

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