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  1. #1
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?

    How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?


    Copyright ©PBMA - AutogeekOnline.net® All Rights Reserved


    Question: How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?

    Answer: A few minutes.


    Remove Bird Dropping Etchings ASAP!
    It's important that you remove a bird dropping off your car's finish as fast as you can before it can cause any damage. Bird droppings contain Uric Acid and Uric Acid is corrosive enough to eat past a coating of wax or paint sealant and then begin to etch your car's paint.

    Here's a tidbit about the make-up of a bird dropping from AskTheExterminator.com

    Unlike mammals, birds have no bladder because they do not store liquid wastes. Birds pass their urine into a common chamber used for digestive and urinary wastes. This chamber, called the cloaca, also contains reproductive by-products. So, when a bird lets go with a "bomb" it contains white uric acid crystals and a bunch of digestive wastes like insect parts and seeds.



    Two Types of Bird Dropping Etchings
    • Type I Bird Dropping Topical Stain Etching
    • Type II Bird Dropping Fractured Wrinkled Etching
    There are two common types of damage associated with bird dropping etchings;

    Type I Bird Dropping Topical Stain Etching
    Type I Topical Stain Etchings are usually only topical, that is shallow enough that they can be completely removed or at least greatly improved to the point where they are difficult to see.

    This type of etching can be removed using a clear coat safe compound or polish by hand or machine. Hand removal is almost always more efficient as you can exert more pressure to a small area and thus keep your work area isolated to just the affected area. By machine you can use a Spot Repair System, again to keep the work area isolated to just the affected area.

    Photo courtesy of MeguiarsOnline.com




    Type II Bird Dropping Fractured/Wrinkled Etching
    Type II Wrinkled Etchings are usually too deep to fix safely. The problem is the paint fractures, (splits apart in tiny lines,), or wrinkles as the paint swells and bunches together. In both instances, the resulting defect is throughout the clear layer of paint and not topical. Thus trying to remove it will require removing so much clear paint that you will likely expose the basecoat, or colored layer of paint which has a dull appearance. For this reason it's not safe to try to remove a Type II Bird Dropping Wrinkled or Fractured Etching.

    Photo courtesy of AutogeekOnline.com





    A little story...
    Here's a real-world example on how quickly a bird dropping can cause damage to a clear coat finish from my own first-hand experience. For the 2002 Bimmerfest, I did a side-by-side, before & after on this black 1991 e34 BMW M5 with the original basecoat/clearcoat paint.

    Here's what the paint looked like at the Bimmerfest







    Here it is on display at the Meguiar's booth at the 2002 Bimmerfest




    At some point during the day the hood was down and I just wiped off the entire hood to remove any light, accumulated dust to make sure it looked clean as people kept coming over and inspecting the before and after results.

    After wiping the hood down, someone asked me a question, I was standing by the drivers front tire with my back to the car facing the person and answering their questions.

    We talked for less than 10 minutes, probably less than 5 minutes.

    After talking to the person I turned around to look at the hood that I had just wiped down previously and lo and behold there was a fresh bird dropping on the polished and waxed side of the hood.

    I quickly used a spray detailer and an microfiber polishing towel to remove the bird dropping. After removing the bird dropping I inspected the area where it had landed for any signs of etching. To my surprise, the bird dropping had started to etch the paint, there was a spot where the paint had a definite stain and imprint from the Uric Acid in the bird dropping.


    Less than 10 minutes and probably less than 5 minutes!
    Don't know what the bird had been eating but this opened my eyes as to how fast the acid in a bird dropping can cause damage to a car's finish. The time I spent answering a question for an attendee of the show wasn't very long... but it didn't take very long for the acid to go to work corroding the clear layer of paint.


    What's the best wax or paint sealant to protect against bird droppings?
    This incident really drives home the point that on the topic of protection and that's ANYTHING corrosive enough to harm or etch a modern clear coat paint is strong enough and/or corrosive enough to eat through and obliterate any micron thin layer of wax or paint sealant from any company.

    Think about it... the clear layer of paint is harder and thicker than the thin layer of whatever wax or paint sealant you apply, let dry and then wipe off your car's paint to protect it.

    That's why it's so important to keep a bottle of spray detailer and some clean, soft microfiber polishing cloths behind the seat or in the trunk for emergencies because if you love your car and you actively maintain a show car finish, then bird droppings that land on your car's paint are emergencies!


    Hope this helps explain how long it takes a bird dropping to etch your car's paint.



    Further Resources
    How to safely remove a dried bird dropping
    How to use a hand applied abrasive polish or paint cleaner by hand
    How to remove water spots by hand
    How To Build Your Own Emergency Car Care Kit
    What it means to remove swirls, scratches and water spots out of automotive clear coats
    Tips & Techniques for using a Spray Detailer to Remove Light Dust, Fingerprints and Smudges
    The practical differences between single stage paints and a clear coat paints
    How To Choose The Right Wax or Paint Sealant for your Detailing Project


    Mike Phillips
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  2. #2
    Senior Member kronos's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?

    Very informative Mike. I just wish I wouldn't have read that second paragraph while eating a slice of pizza.
    Enrique - Amateur Detailer Extraordinaire
    "Man is an emotional animal, occasionally rational; and through his feelings he can be deceived to his heart's content." - Durant

  3. #3
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    Re: How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?

    Thanks for the info Mike.

    Someone on one of these boards one time said if you come back to your car and the bird turd has been there long enough that it has dried rock hard, the damage has already been done. No since in trying to work that turd off with quick detailer and risk marring due to the dried turn, just go home and wash with a hose to minimize risk. This poster again mentioned that once the turd is dry, the damage is done and no additional etching will occur.

    I wasn't sure if I believed him but maybe that is correct.

  4. #4
    Director of Training Mike Phillips's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bert31 View Post
    Thanks for the info Mike.

    This poster again mentioned that once the turd is dry, the damage is done and no additional etching will occur.

    I wasn't sure if I believed him but maybe that is correct.
    That's probably true... there may be a gray area between still wet and fully dried (as in under the dropping itself), that may be hard to discern without somehow investigating deeper...

    Each person should determine how they want to approach the remedy... remove right away or wait to go home and soften with water to avoid scratching the paint during removal.


    :D
    Mike Phillips
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  5. #5
    Senior Member CEE DOG's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?

    Imagine if this was you!

    :dancebanana:

    Sky's the Limit Car Care

  6. #6
    Senior Member TornadoRed's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?

    My local VW/Audi dealer has many power lines going over their lot. While I was getting my car serviced (I bought it somewhere else), I walked the lot looking at all the new cars and every single new car had bird droppings on them. You could also see the spots where older bird droppings had been after being washed.

    I'm sure they'll remove the spots with DISO when you buy a car from them.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Dubbin1's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?

    Quote Originally Posted by CEE DOG View Post
    Imagine if this was you!

    OMG thats gross

  8. #8

    Re: How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?

    Quote Originally Posted by CEE DOG View Post
    Imagine if this was you!

    Ewww that would be my worst nightmare! Imagine what the paint would like like once removed lolol!

    Great post anyways, I learn something new everyday in this forum!

  9. #9
    Senior Member BobbyG's Avatar
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    Re: How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?

    Quote Originally Posted by CEE DOG View Post
    Imagine if this was you!

    Corey,

    This might just be a candidate for the nearest automatic car wash. I mean just how much worse can it get!

    BobbyG - 2004 Millennium Yellow Z06 Corvette

  10. #10

    Re: How long does it take for a bird dropping to etch paint?

    Just minutes? Man, that's scary!

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