Make Your Own Windshield Wiper Fluid

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Windshield Wipers in Heavy WaterA few nights ago, on our drive home, I remarked about the dirtiness of my wife’s windshield. That’s when she told me she’d been driving without windshield wiper fluid for a few weeks! At first I was a little surprised, then I realized it was the summer. Not having windshield wiper fluid in the winter is very dangerous, in the summer it’s only a mere inconvenience.

That’s when we started trying to guess what was actually in windshield wiper fluid. You can pick up a gallon of the blue/orange/green stuff at Wal-Mart for around $2, so we figured it couldn’t be anything too expensive. When we got home, I started research online whether it’s possible for us to make windshield wiper fluid and wasn’t surprised to find out that we could.

Windshield Wiper Fluid Recipe

Did you know that the US Department of Health and Human Services keeps a Household Products Database? It contains Manufacturer Safety Data Sheets on a variety of products, including windshield wiper fluid.

For each product, you can see all of their ingredients. For example, Rain X Plus Bug Remover Premium Washer Fluid has methanol, 2-butoxyethanol, water, and Siloxanes and silicones. Note that it’s less than 6% methanol (used to prevent icing), 1-5% of 2-Butoxyethanol (used to remove bugs), and 90-95% water.

Want to make it yourself? Find those products and mix in those percentages.

Other recipes I’ve found online are even simpler. Combine three cups of regular household window cleaner (like Windex) with a gallon of water. Mix and pour into your windshield wiper fluid tank/reservoir. If you want a slightly greener version, another recipe I’ve found uses water and white vinegar, though I’m not sure how effective that is and what effect the acidity of the vinegar will have on your washer system.

One warning about homemade windshield wiper fluid, at least homemade without methanol or some sort of anti-freeze agent, is that there is a risk that the fluid will freeze. If it does, it could mean a very costly repair bill for your entire windshield washer system.

Ultimately, while making your own is probably a little cheaper than buying it from the store, you don’t really get a better product or a less wasteful product, so we won’t be making our own. Wal-Mart will get our $2 per gallon on this one. 🙂

Have you ever made your own windshield washer fluid? If so, any lessons learned or tips to make it worthwhile (either from a financial or environmental perspective)?

(Photo: solidaltar)

{ 38 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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38 Responses to “Make Your Own Windshield Wiper Fluid”

  1. nickel says:

    Glad to see you mention the anti-freeze properties of “real” windshield washer fluid. Depending on where you live, failing to recognize that could really screw things up.

  2. Was your wife planning to mention that the fluid needed to be refilled, or just wait until you noticed?


  3. aa says:

    I will do it if it’s $20 per gallon, LOL.

  4. Fairy Dust says:

    This was timely – my window washer fluid idiot light has been on for a couple weeks now. But with all the rain we’ve been having, I haven’t missed it at all. And in fact, on the rare occasion I’ve hit the “on” wand, there’s still washer fluid in there so the reservoir isn’t empty, just low. Guess I’d better fill it up one of these days. I think we must have about 10 partial jugs of the stuff at home because we always buy some when we need it then stick the rest in the garage. Time to refill and consolidate 🙂

  5. Julio says:

    I never rely on my wife to maintain the car, so I make it a point to periodically check all fluids, tire pressure, tire and belt wear, etc when I check my car. (and when I say my car, I mean the car that I’m driving, because I lost my car to her when we got married) But on the frugality side, I started doing my own oil changes and other basic maintenance and found it a great way to keep the cars running smooth as well as save money. And as time went by, I started doing more and more myself and could not believe the markup on some of the repairs that could be easily done by you. I’ve saved hundreds of $$ by replacing my own brake pads, belts, filters, etc. All with small investments in the tools you need that I’ve made back ten-fold in a short time.

  6. Anthony says:

    I live in the South, so anti-freeze is not needed… usually. Occassionally, the temperatures here will drop below freezing.

    What’s wrong with good ol’ water? I don’t need the cleanliness that the Windex/water mixture would provide. I moreso need the water pressure and windshield wiper action to remove dirt and bugs. I’ll stick with water unless there’s a good reason not to.

  7. Gabriel says:

    Since I live in a warmer climate, freezing is not an issue here, so to the water I just add dishwasher. I works very well with oil spils, bugs, mud, etc…

  8. Terdralyn says:

    I prefer to buy windshield washer fluid, but I tend to run out (I use a lot). I frequently make it (rubbing alcohol and water – doesn’t freeze) because I live in the middle of nowhere and I only go to town when absolutely necessary. To make a trip just to buy windshield washer fluid would be really uneconomical. I prefer using alcohol because it cleans better, but if I’m out of that I’ll use water and vinegar.

    • Thriftylady says:

      How cold does it get where you live?
      I would like to make my own washer fluid – for one reason that i get mad with all the wasted , strong plastic containers!! We get some minus 20°C temps so I need to be sure that the washer fluid can cope with that. I guess one way to find out would be to leave some out in the garage. What ratio of rubbing alcohol to water do you use?

  9. JimmyDaGeek says:

    Isn’t there a worry that homemade washer fluid will corrode the washer system or the car body. After all, vinegar is acid.

    • Terdralyn says:

      The vinegar is diluted quite a bit with water, and I’ve never had trouble with it causing any damage. I usually use my alcohol recipe, though, so I’m not sure if you use only a recipe that calls for a vinegar solution that it wouldn’t hurt your paint, rubber or the holding tank/dispenser equipment.

  10. Great post– I love these product replacements!

  11. Ivan Frank says:

    I would also be concerned about vinegar or Windex splashing on the car’s paint & rubber.

  12. Jim says:

    I purchased windshield washer concentrate several years ago. It came in a small bottle and worked fine. I think it made about 5 gallons. I just kept an old fluid bottle and kept refilling it. It wasn’t necessarily cheap, but it did save some containers.

  13. peg says:

    One greener substitute for the methanol,is Gin, It has anti-freeze properties. Olde English recipe. Just a few teaspoons per gallon. No tonic No lime. No ice.

  14. justin says:

    Just came across this post about a year too late. NEVER USE PLAIN WATER AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR WIPER FLUID. (as some of the comments here mentioned) If you do, you’ll have a jug of water festering with bacteria incubating in the heat from your car’s engine. Every time you use your washers this atomizes, gets into your cars ventilation, and into your body. This is an extreme health hazard. See here:

  15. Chiot's Run says:

    So if the bacteria from using water as windshield washer fluid will get atomized into your ventilation system being “dangerous” how about the toxic chemicals in the windshield washer fluid? I think I’ll choose risk of bacteria over toxic chemicals.

    For those worried about freezing, try mixing up a small batch with alcohol at various concentrations and put in your freezer. You’ll figure out what will work well in your particular climate.

  16. Louise says:

    I have heard that there is a certain color of fluid you’re not to use in a Toyota. Does anyone know, and why?

  17. Brandon says:

    My grandfather used to make washer fluid with Windex, a tiny drop of dish-soap (sounds crazy I know) and the rest was water. He would usually add blue dye to it too, (just to differentiate between all the different bottles of homemade stuff, hehe).

    I have had some luck with that method, but one thing I wanted to post was that I once experimented with putting a “tiny” drop of ANTI-FREEZE in with my concoction. Not a good idea!! It took months of clean fluid to wash-out the oily substance. Be careful before you DIY!

  18. Anonymous says:

    You could probably just dilute a gallon of regular windshield washer fluid too- just split it between two or three gallons and fill the rest up with water. That would probably work here in Minnesota for most of the year. It’s just two or three months when it really gets below zero, and you would need full strength.

  19. Lynn says:

    Found Automotive Windex for a $1 at Freds. Put. 1/4 cup and rest water. Works great! Probably won’t do this in freezing temps. Better to get the other premade stuff then.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Also very important: Make sure there is an actibacterial agent in your fluid (isopropanol works great and also precents icing/freezing).

    A study of British truck drivers who have a high incidence of Legionnaires disease isolated the use of plain water as windshield wiper fluid as a likely cause.

    In a warm environment (the wiper fluid reservoir under the hood), in plain water over months, bacteria will flourish. Then, it get’s sprayed up into the air and becomes a health hazard. So be sure to use something that’s not toxic to inhale and is anti-microbial.

  21. Bill says:

    Great post!
    All things aside, shipping truck loads of diluted cleaner all over a continent is likely more environmentally destructive than the dab of methanol. Then look at the plastic and packaging material waste. Let’s be real. This is for bargain minded environmentalist. Fuel system treatments I checked, HEAT brand, the diesel was methanol and the gas version was isopropyl. I have heard they are suitable as the antifreeze and solvent in the washer mixtures.

    • Thriftylady says:

      I’m totally with you on that point!! The wasted fuel tansporting ‘modified water’ and the waste of all that plastic!! Why don’t they have re-fill stations at various locations like hardware stores, gas stations etc. But to give a cynical reply: that would make sense! (and not as much profit)

      • Thriftylady says:

        Found this on annother site: “Add 2 ounces of gas line antifreeze(methyl hydrate) and fill jug with water and add food coloring just for color..(i use 15 drops of blue) estimated cost comes to less than 1 dollar for 4 liters(cdn)
        Has anyone tried using methyl hydrate?

  22. ROGER LEAHEY says:

    Caution: Never operate your window washer without fluid. You can quickly burn out the pump motor and will wind up with a costly and unnecessary repair. Also, I had a bottle of blue washer fluid on my garage shelf for a long time. It formed clumps of gunk in the fluid. Make sure you know what you are pouring into your washer tank!

  23. Nancy says:

    Years ago I was a frugal college student. I used water with a little ammonia in it for a general purpose cleaner at home. Worked great. I decided to use it in the windshield washer reservoir as well. It seemed to work fine… but after a couple of years the hood of the car had lost all it’s shine and did not match the rest of the car. That’s when I realized the ammonia ruined the paint. I’m glad it was an old car. Never use ammonia in water for your windshield cleaner.

    • Pastshelfdate says:

      Did you ever check the roof of the passenger compartment? That’s where ammonia spray would have gone. Driving is like being in a backward-blowing wind, and ammonia from the washer fluid would not tend to get on the hood, especially not all over it. I suspect something else damaged the paint on your hood.
      I have run across a warning that if there is any copper tubing in the washer system, that ammonia would react with it and cause problems.

  24. Sheila says:

    I live in North Florida and it is summer most of the year – winter really only exists in Jan & Feb, so I have used distilled water and a few drops of all purpose cleaner (ex:Mr. Green, Zep or Melaluka. Make sure the cleaner does not contain any solvents – or your paint job will reflect it. The sun here is brutal and will bake anything. And distilled water, since in the South we have really hard water and all the lime and calcium will build up in the system, costing lots more in replacement parts.

  25. Ash says:

    It’s winter and this is good info – microbial, paint fade, etc. I was about to make up my own ww fluid but after reading all of the above, I’m heading to Wallyworld to pick up a gallon for the extreme cold temps. As someone stated already, the cost for a gallon of this stuff is very reasonable considering the work it does.

    Thanks and Happy Holidays to all.

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