Let’s face it, pollen is a flat-out pain in the rear end for humans. Beyond the reality of helping to grow plants, trees, and vegetation, allowing all animal life to breathe, pollen really doesn’t serve mankind very well. It triggers allergies, makes things dirty, and causes hell on your cars finish. So why is pollen so sticky on car paint?

Pollen is a life giver to nearly all plant life. And while our beloved Planet Earth would cease to exist without it, it’s not favored among the automotive culture. This sticky yet lightweight substance always finds a way to embed itself on top of car paint surfaces – even those that are protected with nano ceramic coatings.

There are several things about pollen that you likely didn’t know – many of which are reasons why it’s such a pain in the ass to remove from your vehicle’s paint. So, let’s explore some facts about pollen. In today’s AvalonKing blog, we’ll dive into the top reasons why pollen sticks to windows, paint, vinyl, PPF, and other car parts.

We’ll also introduce some clever ways of protecting your vehicle from pollen, how to correctly remove it without scratching your ride, and a few other helpful hints. So – let’s dive in.

Getting Scientific About Pollen

There are not many perks to owning a yellow car – except during pollen season. The yellow goodness that sticks to car paint, mainly during the spring and summer season is pollen.

But what exactly is pollen, what is its purpose, and for car owners, why is it so difficult to remove? Well, the answer to these questions lies in the scientific understanding of its composition.

Leaving pollen on your car can cause permanent paint damage

Now, I’m going to explain something – and need to ensure you don’t giggle. Pollen has another affectionate name, ‘Flower Sperm’. As we all remember for fifth grade science class, for reproduction to occur in most life, there needs to be an egg and a sperm to create a chemical rection to create life.

Pollen is male microspore from plants, trees, and other fauna that carries the gametes (or reproductive cells) of seed plants. Some species self-pollinate when the pollen moves from the male part of the plant (the stamen) to the female part of the plant (the pistil).

However, most plant life will cross-pollinate, which means the pollen will either fly to another plant via a bee or small bird or blowing in the air and simply landing on the female plant parts. To accomplish either – the substance needs to be sticky. And there introduces the crux of the issue.

The outer layer of pollen is called the Exine, is durable and will not disintegrate even in the presence of intense heat or strong acids or bases. This means pollen is easily preserved and is part of the make-up of geological sediments dating back to ancient times.

But, it’s also what makes pollen sticky, and bond to multiple surface materials found on a car – even ceramic coatings.

How Pollen Can Damage Your Car

There are several natural contaminants that can cause damage to a vehicle surface. Whether it’s bug splatters, bird droppings, tree sap, or pollen, when you examine the root “ingredient” that leads to damage – it’s always based on acidic levels. Such is the situation with pollen.

It’s a highly acidic compound that begins to burn into clear coatings, plastic trim, and other polymer materials like headlight or taillight covers within a matter of days.

When you take a closer look at pollen, specifically that derived from trees or ragweed, you’ll see that the outer edge looks like tiny hooks. Those spines help pollen to grab onto it’s intended target, the stamen of a plant. But pollen isn’t discriminatory – as those hooks will also grab onto pretty much anything.

As soon as pollen bonds to the paint surface, it will begin to dissolve. As the materials break down, more acid is introduced, which like bird droppings begins to etch into the clear coat. However, here is something that escapes most people – even car detailers.

Pollen’s harsh contaminants are accelerated with water. It’s true – as soon as pollen’s “shell” is cracked, the acidic compounds begin to do their dirty work on your car. When water (like rain, dew, or mist) is introduced to the surface, it can accelerate the speed of damage.

As such, pollen can lead to some damage to the surface of your vehicle including:

  • Etching or burning into the clear coating
  • Breaking down the clear coat
  • Causing stains on clear coat and plastic trim

It is often assumed that pollen can lead to damage on glass surfaces as well. However, there is little science to back up that claim. Mainly since glass is comprised of silicon or sand – which is less impacted by acidic components found in pollen.  

Can Pollen Cause Damage to Interior of Your Car?

Anyone who deals with respiratory allergies – which would include 25% of the global population, understands how horrible they feel when pollen enters their lungs. It triggers sinus infections, can cause headaches, dizziness, coughing, sneezing, stuffy noses, and a litany of health-related symptoms.

Pollen is easily sucked into the interior ventilation system, via vents that are found on the outside of your vehicle. This is where air is circulated into your heating and air conditioning system, and eventually spreads into the cabin – allowing you to inhale this stuff as you drive.

Inside the dashboard of your car is a cabin filter, which can block a lot of the pollen from spreading into the car. However, since pollen is very sticky and can collect quickly, that filter is going to become saturated to the point it is ineffective.

When this occurs, it can cause damage to your AC system by restricting the efficient flow of air through the vehicle. This can trigger your AC system to work harder than it needs to, leading to premature wear and tear – and possibly expensive repairs.

Can Pollen Stick to a Ceramic Coated Car?

Yes – in fact, most issues leading to dirtier than normal cars occur thanks to pollen sticking to ceramic coatings. A ceramic coating hardens to an exceptionally smooth and flat surface. This makes the coating very hydrophobic, which repels water, dust, dirt, and light debris. However, it’s not ‘stick proof’.

Materials like tree sap, bird droppings, bug splatters and yes – pollen can stick to the top layer of a ceramic coated vehicle. When this happens, the sticky substance now becomes the top layer of the painted or coated surface. It will cause dirt or dust to stick easier to the pollen – not the coating itself.

It’s similar with the way that wax collects dirt and debris. In fact, you’ve likely seen the ‘candle test’ with some ceramic coating products, showing how wax basically attracts dust, small rock particles and more – as they roll a candle down the street. Basically, when pollen sticks on the coating, it produces the same results.

This is a major reason why you’ll notice your car dirtier than normal during high-pollen producing seasons. You’ll also see an increase of water spotting – as the calcium deposits in water will stick to the pollen – again – not the coating itself.

How to Remove Pollen from Your Vehicle

Depending on where you live, pollen season can range from early spring to early fall. That’s nearly half of the year. As such, when pollen is floating in the air heavier than normal, there are a few proven methods for removing it from the surface of your ride.

Weekend Wash Ep.7 Pollen Season // Special Guest Tony From Ralda's Details // Detailer's Cord Snaps

Wash Your Car Correctly

The best way to remove pollen from your vehicle is by washing it correctly. And by correctly, we’re talking about the two-bucket method. This is a proven hand washing technique that uses two different buckets, one with soap, the other with fresh clean water.

If you’re car has pollen covering the surface, simply wash your car like normal – except add one additional primary task.

Pre-Wash the Vehicle

Pre washing is a technique that basically uses a foam gun that is attached to a normal spray nozzle of a garden hose. For those with high-pressure washers, you can use a foam cannon to accomplish the same task.

Essentially, here is what you’re trying to accomplish by pre-washing.

  1. Spray off the entire vehicle with fresh water. This will remove a lot of the standing debris on top of the paint surface, windows, and other parts of your ride.
  2. Load the Foam Gun/Cannon. Use a high-suds producing automotive car shampoo that is pH neutral and wax-free. Follow the instructions provided by your shampoo manufacturer for the correct ratio of water to shampoo.
  3. Spray the Shampoo Solution on the Vehicle. Once the mixture is set – spray the foam on the entire vehicle surface. Let the soap sit on the vehicle for a good 3 to 5 minutes – and make sure not to do this in direct sunlight. The soap will help to loosen the stuck pollen, which makes the rest of the washing process easier.
  4. Rinse the Entire Vehicle with Fresh Water. After the foam sits on the car for a few minutes, spray it off with fresh water from your spray nozzle or high-pressure washer. This will remove most of the pollen from your vehicle.

How to Protect a Ceramic Coated Vehicle from Pollen

Pollen is one of those natural elements that we simply can’t remove. The growth of plants, trees, and other fauna depends on pollen blowing in the air. If you have a ceramic coated vehicle, there are a few tricks you can follow that will help you reduce the potential of damage to the coating.

  1. Wash Your Car Once Per Week. When pollen is at its height, you’ll want to wash the car more frequently to reduce pollen from building up on the surface. Once per week is OK.
  2. Use an SiO2 Boost Spray. A ceramic boost spray is a spray-on version of a ceramic coating. It’s usually a much lower percentage of SiO2 and TiO2, that includes higher percentages of solvents. This allows this type of coating to layer on top of each application.

It’s best to use the boost spray every two months, only after you’ve completely washed the vehicle surface. Apply every two months so it can start to layer – which improves hydrophobic effects and protects the coated surface itself.

Wrapping it Up

There is no getting away from pollen. While parking in a garage as often as possible is a great way to reduce exposure, it’s going to find a way to stick to any vehicle.

They key is to ensure you have a strong paint protection product to reduce damage to the vehicle surface and wash the vehicle frequently during peak season.

If you enjoyed this article, then you'll love AvalonKing's automotive care products for Do-It-Yourselfers. We create "No B.S. products" for an affordable price. And the best part, we treat our customers like family, so if you have any questions or just looking to chat about cars, we're only an email or call away. Check out our homepage here.