Insects that have smashed into the windshield immediately grab your attention. But only the trained eye of people whose aim in life is world-class auto cleanliness will notice the insects that cover the front end of the vehicle when they get out of the car. At such times, these people may be overcome by a feeling – “the bugs have got to go” – and will frequently turn to a fly sponge, something that filling stations will have in cleaning buckets or sell. The fly sponge is a utensil from another area, one populated by powdered graphite that is used to lubricate door locks and deer tallow that is used to prevent door seals from freezing. Such practices continue to linger today, even though technology has moved far ahead of them. The material used in modern door locks goes into allergic shock when it is exposed to graphite. Leather may indeed be found in seat covers, but it has not been used in seals for years. But what about the fly sponge?
Vehicle conditioning professionals say it should not be used on glass because it does not collect hard substances from grime or even the exoskeletons of insects. Instead, an abrasive material that can even scratch modern windshields forms on the sponge. Topcoats are particularly vulnerable. And when it comes to topcoats, we’re not just talking about the body of the car; we mean the headlights, too. At the most, the headlamp lenses used in classic cars are made of glass. They are called diffusers here. Today, the lenses are made of a plastic called polycarbonate. Most people are unaware of one thing: The lenses are covered with a thin, clear topcoat. This topcoat is just as vulnerable to fly sponges as car paint is.
Alternative: a microfiber cloth
What should you use as an alternative to the good old fly sponge? Professionals recommend a microfiber cloth and lots of water. The water is applied first, before any wiping begins in order to moisten the remains of insects and possibly any grime that has accumulated on the lens. Let the water work for a few minutes. In this regard, experts advise people not to apply another “good tip” from the box of car-care relics: Placing a soaked piece of newspaper on the contaminated area. That may have been a great idea decades ago, an era in which different types of topcoats and inks were used. Today, these methods transfer a mirror image of the newspaper texts to the topcoats and headlights – as a complement to the insects.
The rule of thumb today is: Gently and carefully remove the remains of insects from headlights. It may be better to put up with the ugly sight for a while longer than to spring into action and cause damage by rubbing the surface too hard. The “contamination” will do less harm to the light and light distribution than a headlamp lens that has been the victim of too much polishing.