Sunscreen destroyed paint. Anything I can do?


Moved from cold, snowy New England to very SUNNY Sydney, Australia. Bought a new Prius and lots of sunscreen - which is essential to wear every day here.

My son had a little excess sunscreen on his hands and accidentaly left several handprints on the car. The amt of sunscreen was not excessive. It was literally just the residue that’s on one’s hands after applying sunscreen to your skin.

When I noticed the prints a couple of days later and tried to wash them off, I the handprints on the window came off, but the ones on the paint job will not wash away.

I took the car to two different hand car wash/detailers. They both tried to get the prints off, but nothing worked. Said I’d have to repaint the car, which is way beyond my budget.

Cant believe such a small amount of sunscreen could be so harmful. Is there anything I can do?

BTW - I searched this forum and already saw the other post about sunblock damage. In that series of posts everyone is more focused on the damage done by washing with Ivory liquid. I did not wash with Ivory liquid or any other damaging soap. Only used water and the car wash fellow used proper car wash soap. It’s definitely the sunscreen that’s damaged the paint not dishwashing soap.

Hmmmmm… Was it watrproof sunscreen? That may have something to do with why it’s hard to get off before damage is done. Can I assume that the detail shops tried buffing it out?

The paint is a color covered with a clear coat. You can get a clear spray for car paint at the auto parts store, or even Walmart. Use 600 grit wet or dry sandpaper to sand the clear coat a bit. Use care. It’s very thin. Spray two, or three, coats of clear. Done.

Dishwashing detergent won’t damage paint, but will strip off the wax coating making the paint more vulnerable to the environment. Have any of the detailers tried buffing out the hand prints. I would try a mild cleaner wax like Maguiars (don’t know if it’s available in Aus.).

If that doesn’t work, keep the area waxed to protect the paint from any further deterioration. We bought a used Ford Windstar in 1998 for my wife. After we got it home we noticed a 2" square area on the hood where the paint was damaged (fine cracks/lines). I made sure that area got a coat of wax once a month or so, the rest of the van was waxed 2 to 3 times a year. When I sold the van in 2006, the spot was no worse and the rest of the paint was in very good condition. Washing and waxing the Prius on a regular basis is probably the best thing you can do for it.

Ed B.

GM used to have a problem with new paint until it seasoned for a few months. It appears Toyota has the same issue. Could be the water borne stuff takes longer to cure.

At any rate I’m puzzled why the detailers couldn’t do anything with it. They should have been able to buff it out. At worst, they would color sand the area with 2000 grit sandpaper and buff. If it is really deep into the clear, you can sand a little and add the clear to the area but you will then still have to color sand with 2000 and buff to take care of the overspray and blend it in.

Dish washing or any other household detergent WILL damage the finish on a vehicle.

Have some people been living under rocks or what?


It will? Proof of this is where?


I’ve been using Ivory liquid for as long as I can remember and have never had damage of any kind, even after many years of use. My vehicles have always maintained excellent finishes.

I’ve also never seen any studies that have looked at dishwashing detergent vs. automotive finishes. Nor have I ever heard any explanation from the discipline of chemistry or from the discipline of automotive finishes as to why dishwashing detergent might damage paint or clear coat.

If anyone out there can provide a credible link or technical explanation, I’d be very happy to see it and am open to it. Short of such, and based on my personal experience with Ivory liquid as a car wash for decades, I have to continue to believe that it’s an urban myth. For those uncomfortable using it, there are numerous other options.

Or I could just do like Tester does and insult everyone who disagrees. Of course I’d have to crawl out from under the rock where I live.

Ah! This has been a known fact for as long as I can remember. So it’s not like this information just came out yesterday. So if you don’t know this as being true, and you wash your vehicle, then you must live under a rock.

As they say, “You don’t get ahead by making dumb decisions”.


If it’s a “known fact” then it must have been proven, and be provable by others following the same protocols. I’m still waiting for something besides opinions to prove this.

Since the only actual evidence I have to go by at this point is my own personal experience of decades of using Ivory liquid, I offer that as “evidence” to support my belief. Clearly you’re unable to come up with evidence to support your belief. Or be respectful of opinions different from yours. That’s unfortunate.

Nothing makes an angry man angrier than when the facts are presented, and he’s proven wrong.


That would explain your anger.

I’m still open to real facts. Perhaps we should let this thread rest. Clearly you’ll continue to verbally attack and I’ll wait forever for you to present any actual evidence or analysis.

To the others out there I offer only my own experience. And that is that it’s never caused harm to a finish on any of my vehicles and that I’ve yet to see anything other than heresay to the contrary.

You can do whatever you want to your vehicle. Afterall, it’s your property.

But this for the people out there who didn’t know about the consequences of using household cleaners on their vehicle finishes. And to those people, you now have this information. So now you can make an intelligent decision as to if you want to use a household cleaners when washing your car, or if you want to use a product that’s specially formulated to do this task without the possible damage to the vehicles finish.


Gee, I can’t believe we’re actually agueing that its ok to use dish detergent on a car finish instead of car wash solution. A $5 bottle of car wash lasts a couple years. Seems a little silly compared to the cost of a car.

Finally! Some sanity!

Thanks Bing!


Watch out for brake fluid too. It works a lot faster and won’t protect your skin.

Actually, Bing, Tester and I are only arguing because he said anyone who disagreed with him must live under a rock. I took exception to that insult. He didn’t like me taking exception to that. Childish, yeah, but the rest of us deserve more respect than that from Tester. This is not the first time he’s insulted those who disagree with him.

I’ve never had a problem with Ivory liquid, and have yet to see any real data to support the premise that it damages finishes. And I do not expand that belief to all “household cleansers” as Tester implied. I would not use any other cleanser on a finish. Ivory is a simple surfactant, other cleansers contain abrasives and in some cases perhaps mild acids such as lemon juice.

Someday I’m going to test this myself. I’d rather not use spray finishes in my basement, but when the weather warms up enough to use my garage I’m going to get some clear drinking glasses, spray 1/2 of one with clearcoat, let it cure fully, and try washing the clearcoat off with Ivory liquid. I may wax 1/2 of a glass too, just to see what happens. I’ll post the results.

Yes, it was waterproof. They’re serious about their sunscreen DownUnder. It’s effective sunblock, but nasty stuff on the skin. It’s virtually impossible to wash off your skin. You have to shower with a scouring pad to get it off. I now have family send me good old Coppertone in care packages.

They tried buffing by hand, but no sand paper, etc. I will pass on all comments here to new detailer. You’d think this would be a fairly common problem here. Or, am I the only parent with a careless 12 year old?

Thanks everyone.

I sometimes wash my car in a rainstorm with a bucket of dish detergent water!