Ice on your windscreen? Three home-made solutions

Like many of us, Miss D. and I were caught in the big Arctic freeze that blew through last week.  It froze up our car windows, so that before we could drive in the mornings, we had to scrape them clear or use the car’s own defrosting mechanisms to melt the ice.

Frustrated, I did a bit of searching, and came up with these three recommendations for an easy, home-made solution to car window icing.

I haven’t tried them all yet, but I intend to.  I’m not real sure about the middle one – if the water’s too hot, and the windscreen too cold, I can foresee a sudden cracking sound! – but if one uses slightly cooler water, it may work.

If any of these solutions work for you – or if you have another suggestion – please tell us in Comments.  Thanks!



  1. Heh. I remember the first winter in south Texas; my neighbor used an extension cord and her blow dryer to clear the ice off her windows. I live in northern Maine, and we use an old fashioned ice scraper.

  2. I have one of those metal all-in-one card thingys that fits in your wallet and supposedly has a ruler, couple wrench holes and such. Works okay for ice, though I worry about scratching the windshield.

    I also have some dead credit card/id cards that I use for scraping. Seems to work the best overall.

  3. Peter:
    #1. Vinegar. First, not all vinegars are the same — some are extremely acidic. Second, vinegar can damage vehicle paint surfaces (no, it will not harm the windscreen (windshield). Furthermore, not all vehicle paint is the same. Then, there is the clear-coat. Some authority appears to say that vinegar and clear-coat don't get along. If one uses vinegar, it should be washed off and the vehicle should not be left in the sun w/o having washed the vinegar off (for the paint, not the glass). If you don't care much about the current paint condition — then the vinegar trick works — I've used it before, but not now (I can never find the darn vinegar in her pantry) But it must be diluted and I'm not sure about the video's suggestion.

    #2. Hot water. Of course, this always works. But, because glass is extremely high surface tension material (as opposed to its internal hardness), cracking may occur. I know, I have done it. I use just luke-warm water. It's not the water temperature that is important, it is the temp difference between the water and the glass, and, out here in the mountains of west Texas, that counts (as in Vermont and elsewhere). My rule is just plain warmer than ice water, not even body temp water. This is the method I use.

    #3 Alcohol (particularly isopropyl). Like vinegar, it works. But, all alcohols are solvents. Heck, even car detailers use it to clean painted surfaces — but they remove it promptly. Just like vinegar, sun and frequent use w/o washing takes its toll on paint. Even some windshield washer fluids cause this problem. Also, alcohol can, because of its solvent nature, destroy seals (leaking and eventual wind noise comes to mind).

    Now scraping. Glass because of its nature is very easily subject to scratching. Scraping (with those metal and hard plastic things sold to clear the glass) scratches glass. One will not or may not notice until driving into the sun — those microscopic scratches neverbefore seen will become inpenetrably blinding, even with the best eyeware. After using a version of #2, as suggest by another responder, I use a credit card with little pressure. I only need to replace glass when a vulture flies into my path of driving, which is about every 2 years.

  4. Scraper with a brush at the other end. The least amount of damage to windshields and the paint on your car. Have one in my car and I live in the Phoenix Metro area – leftover from a life in KS. Got to admit one of the reasons I liked working second shift is because I hated scraping windows first thing in the morning. It was less traumatic to do it at 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then again at 1:00 am.

  5. As John Ray said. The thin film of frost in the second video (and the accent, etc.) indicate a *relatively* warm situation. I'd not try that at subzero (F). And, really, the physical scrapper suffices well enough under such light conditions.

    I do like the idea of a pre-treat, and note that the windshield (which gets the washer fluid, which often contains nasty METHYL alcohol) always seems to scrape clear a bit easier than the other windows.

    Then, I do live in the frozen north, where the time taken to scrape the windows is also a benefit to letting the engine warm gently before asking much of it.

    One 'trick' for *short* trips with light snow or cold fog is to have the 'defroster' setting for air movement, but COLD air — park with the glass cold, so snow doesn't melt then freeze on it. Then it's a simply matter of brushing rather than scraping. But this only for short trips where the lack of cabin warmth doesn't matter as it would just start to get warm when you've arrived.

  6. Weird, I searched the internet and didn't find this joke. I swear I heard it a long time ago.

    Please ignore the claim that Americans invented the car; treat it as a rhetorical device.

    Anyway, it goes like this:

    American Mr. Smith visits England, and his host, Mr. Smythe greets him at the dock.

    Smythe: Go ahead an put your valise in the boot, while I clean off the windscreen.
    Smith: Boot? Windscreen?
    Smythe: (Opens the large luggage compartment at the rear of the car) In here!
    (proceeds to clean the glass in the front of the car)
    Smith: You know, you guys have it all wrong. We Americans invented the automobile; you should use the names we do: Trunk, Windshield.
    Smythe: But who invented the language, Old Chap?

    I will point out to our host that he is an American citizen now… Perhaps some more assimilation is needed?

  7. Be cautious with using rubbing alcohol, I did that one winter and needed a new windshield come spring because of the milky deposit it left on the glass that I couldn't got off.

  8. Worked for a guy who used warm water to clear his windSHIELD and drove to work wondering why he'd never done it before. He discovered his car doors were frozen shut when tried getting out. I understand there was a lot of pointing and laughing in the parking lot that day.

    One of the unsung benefits of simply scraping your windows with an ice scraper is how clean they are afterwards.

  9. I find that the best solution is patience. Brush off the snow, put the car heater on full, and let the warm air do the work.

  10. Born and raised in New Hampshire, this worked for me for years.

    1. Start car and turn on defrost
    2. Grab scraper and scrape windshield. Don't forget the side windows.
    3. By the time the windshield is scraped clean, the defroster will have enough heat to keep it clear.

    Be sure to brush the snow off the roof. It can cause a road hazard. After the car heats up and you are heading down the highway, the slab of snow will slide off into the car behind you.

  11. A few years ago, we had a cold winter here in Silicon Valley, and my windshield kept being frosted up in the morning. I set off in search of winter windshield washer fluid… and discovered that the stuff is now banned in California, with the exception of a few designated cold regions during designated winter months.
    I guess the rest of us are supposed to park our cars in garages, or have our chauffeurs idle the engine until the defroster starts working.
    I dumped some isopropyl alcohol into the washer reservoir, and that did the trick, at least for local values of "winter."
    We should be moving in time for real winter to arrive… and Boyds Creek already had snow this Tuesday. I may need to learn better techniques for dealing with such things.

  12. Treat your windows with RainX.

    They will still frost, but it doesn't stick and comes off easily. And ice and snow doesn't build up while you are driving.

    One $8.00 bottle will last your 2 or more years.

    Plus it's nice when you are driving when it is raining in warmer weather.

    Same/Same mirrors and side windows.

  13. purple stuff they sell at the parts store. I will not freeze like the blue stuff and then you just squirt it on you windshield and the wipers take it off. Easy and nothing to endanger anything.

  14. +2 for Rain-X. Works quite well. One thing I’ve also done a great many times here in Anchorage (,AK) is spread a purpose-made nylon sheet, of approximate windshield size, over said windshield. Some have magnets to keep them up; some have flaps to tuck into the doors before shutting, although those are rather more bothersome. These work the very best, far better than scraping or sprays.

  15. 20 years in northern New England and never scraped a windshield. Use a long handle brush to clear the snow, start car, put defrosters on high, head back inside where it is warm and enjoy a second cup of coffee. It helps with global warming, too!!

  16. If it's still snowing when you get to work, school, play, don't forget to prop your windshield wipers up, off the glass, if you've just had the windshield (or rear window) de-froster on high heat.

    …or when you leave to go home you'll find your wiper's rubber blades frozen to the once-hot-then-cooled down glass. Some folks wrap their wipers in bread bags or plastic grocery bags to keep them from freezing to the glass surface, or from built-up & clinging frozen snow.

  17. RainX makes a windshield wiper fluid that doesn't freeze like the blue stuff. Its all I use in my car. For a light coat of ice just use it. For anything heavier, well, an ice scraper is cheap, and small, and not hard to have in the car kit. Hell, for a light coat of frost in a non-subzero climate, just turn on the car, turn the blowers to defrost, and turn on the rear defroster. Give it a few minutes, and then turn on the windshield wipers. No need for fancy mixtures that may or may not work and may or may not damage your car.

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