Warning about bug spray and your car’s paint

bug spray damages car automotive paint

WARNING: Deet destroys car paint!

Lately mosquitoes are everywhere. Even in the shop, I’ll get bit by mosquitoes – sometimes even through my shirt! And we’ve got the Zika virus to worry about, so I’ve been using bug spray probably twice a day. I keep a can at the shop for when I forget.

And now for my confession. The other day, Tim finished painting some motorcycle parts and put them in the front room of the shop, to keep them safe from debris. Sigh. I later went in there and stupidly absent-mindedly sprayed on some bug spray, which ended up getting on the parts. We quickly noticed the parts were speckled with overspray and tried to wipe them clean, but to no avail. Nothing worked.

I looked it up online to see if there was some magic solution, but there was none. Only articles on how the deet from the bug spray can essentially melt the clear coat on cars.

Unfortunately we had to learn this the hard way.

deet bug spray on cars

Picture from online forum about deet & paint

We weren’t really in the picture-taking mindset when we were dealing with this, but it just looked like speckles. When we tried to wipe it off or even polish them, they just became cloudy marks. The picture to the left is from a Google search to show what it can do.

Apparently Deet has also been known to take varnish off wood tables, melt plastic, and even leave permanent marks on TV or computer screens. It’s a solvent similar to acetone (think nail polish remover), yet Deet will continue dissolving whatever material it is on.

It’s so intense on certain surfaces that nothing can really neutralize it or clean it up in any way.

buy spray harms car paintUpon reading the back of the can, it sure does say “automobiles” on their list of things to keep Deet away from.

Sadly, Tim had to re-sand the bike parts that were all done, respray clear on them and redo the stripes. I felt very bad for making him have to redo his work that was all done and looked so good.

Moral of the story: Deet may be the best thing you can use against mosquitoes. But, KEEP AWAY from automotive paint. Step away from your car, truck or motorcycle if you are going to spray down with this stuff.

If you’ve accidentally gotten bug spray on your car’s paint, the best thing to do would be to wipe it off as soon as you notice. Then bring it in to us or another body shop and see if it was just the clear coat that was damaged or if it went into the paint. We might be able to sand it out and respray just the clear coat. Otherwise, fresh paint might be necessary.

So, stay mindful of the bug spray, guys. Contact us if we can help, and know you’re not alone!

4 Replies to "Warning about bug spray and your car's paint"

  • Anonymous
    February 28, 2023 (11:04 am)

    Possibly a silly question, but what about for a car that has a complete 3M paint protection shield? I am talking about the plastic wrap that protects from stone chips/keys/UV rays etc, not just liquid paint “protection”.
    We have some of the most horrendous insects here in Australia, and as a traveller of the country, I am about to get my car wrapped with the paint protection film. It then came to me, what about if I spray around the car with a spider surface spray, surely the film would protect the paint?

  • Andrew
    October 8, 2022 (2:44 pm)

    Is there any way to neutralize the Deet once it’s soaked into paint?

  • Michael
    March 14, 2019 (5:23 am)

    Deet sure works great to clean a severely oxidized older original paint job.

    • Michael Aldridge
      March 14, 2019 (5:26 am)

      Spray heavily onto paint and wipe with clean microfiber towels. Same with headlights and other plastic bits. Spray on those heavily and wipe with microfiber towels. Headlights and trim needs to be followed up with a quality clear (of course) headlight spray to seal it.

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