TONIGHT THE AIR will be filled with ghostly howls and maybe a few dozen eggs.
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. You get to pretend to be somebody else and are rewarded for your charade with candy.
But one of the unpleasant parts of the celebration is the need that devilish youths occasionally have to pelt cars with eggs.
I will let others sermonize on what this egg-tossing behavior says about the moral fabric of the nation's youth. I am concerned about what eggs can do to a car's finish. My approach to getting egged is to spare the moralizing, but try to save the car's paint job.
To that end I called a handful of car detailers, folks who make their living preserving the appearance of automobiles. I asked them what to do if your car gets egged.
Bill Kable, who runs Willcare in Cockeysville, said reaction time matters. "The quicker you get it off your car, the better off you will be," he said.
"If you can hose the egg off right away, you will probably be OK."
Problems occur when the whites of the eggs have time to harden, he said. The whites can eat into the top layer of a car's finish. When egg whites harden, they can leave unsightly markings, especially on newer cars that have a polyurethane coat or "clear coat."
"The egg whites can etch in that clear coat," Kable said.
Using a soap-and-water mixture to wash the egg off your car is fine, Kable said, but he added two provisos. First, be sure to use a mild cleaner, either a soap labeled as a car-washing product or a well-watered-down solution made with a gentle dish-washing soap.
Second, he said, use either a sponge, a car-wash mitt or a terry-cloth towel as your cleaning instrument. Do not use the scrubbers, even those normally used to clean Teflon- coated cooking pans. "Those scrubbers are too abrasive," Kable said, adding that he had recently spent several hours restoring the finish of a new car whose owner had tried to remove tree sap from the hood with such a scrubber.
Mark Gossage, general manager of Bob Musselman's auto-body operation in Glen Burnie, stressed the importance of soaking the egg before trying to remove it.
"Eggs are like bird droppings on your car ... they have high acid levels," Gossage said. "You want to get them moist, so you are floating them off, not scratching the paint."
Ernestine Jones, manager of Downtown Hand Car Wash in West Baltimore, told me that a sprayer bottle, the kind used to mist house plants, is also a useful tool to remove eggs from car windows.
"You put some soap and warm water in the sprayer bottle and spray it on the egg," she said. "Then you give it some time and let it soften up."
Besides getting tips on how to react after being egged on Halloween, I also picked up a few tips on things I could do all year long to protect my car.
For example, Kable said that regularly waxing my car was a good way to protect its finish. Putting wax on your car is like putting sunscreen on your body at the beach, he said. For good protection, you have to do it frequently and by hand.
Kable recommends waxing a car at least three times a year. A car that is waxed this often is less likely to suffer residual damage to its paint job from eggs than a car that has been coated only once a year, he said.
Kable said another way to prevent your car from getting damaged is to stay on good terms with your neighbors.
"Usually, it is the disliked neighbor who ends up getting egged," he said.
So on this Halloween weekend, I plan to to wax my car and smile warmly at all my neighbors.
Pub Date: 10/31/98