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. NewYorkerInLA says:

    Read all the posted comments…GLAD I READ them ALL!
    SO, now I have some questions; Ammonia: a solvent or not? Vinegar: an acid. methoxyl-whatsiwhat….an Over The Counter(OTC) goods product?
    Gin – or Vodka? – will any old spirit do? Dishwashing liquid: what about the foam/bubbles it gets from aerating (shaking/disruption), will it get everywhere and never clean up? Living in Los Angeles, I’ve tried to wash my car in the sun one day, as we can all attest – if you leave the suds on the car long enough before getting the chance to rinse them off, the sun + the hot auto body will dry up the soap and leave a film, or worse – permanently on the car. (There goes frugal DIY car washing!) Will the dishwasher soap have the same effect on the paint when added?
    Anyone ever combine ALL these ingredients previously listed? – (I’m crazy enough to do so…) Anyone ever think about Hydrogen Peroxide?

    Here’s my proposed concoction for DIY WWF – 75%H2O, 10%White Vinegar, 5% Rubbing Alcohol, 5% Vodka, 5% H2O2.
    Please comment and offer any criticisms/warnings/advice on this…I tend to LOVE doing things DIY versus forking over money for “conveniences”. It helps with educating everyone. Thank You again!

  2. Isopropynol 91% from chinamart, 1 cup per gallon should be fine to temps in the 0-32 range.

    • Larry says:

      NewYorker in LA left out an important piece of the instructions Drink the vodka while preparing the rest. The rubbing alcohol (isopropanol) will prevent the washer fluid from freezing. Use less or none in the summer and more if it’s especially cold.

  3. Anonymous says:

    1) NEVER EVER use anything with ammonia in your washer system. It will, over time attack the components in the system. Your owner’s manual probably warns against it to boot.

    2) For the most part, the amount of methanol you need (5%) really doesn’t do very much worse than the equivalent amount of ethanol or isopropyl to the environment, however the much increased amount of other “heavier” alcohols will increase the risk to your car’s finish (we’re talking 5% vs 20% or 40% respectively to get the same antifreeze properties). For the most part it will evaporate (which doesn’t do the world a lot of good either, ever been in a traffic jam in Brazil?) and won’t be washing down the sewer.

    Commercial fluid is essentially mostly water, a small amount of methanol and a small amount of soap. During warm weather, just water and a TINY amount of gentle car wash soap (the kind which won’t strip wax) is good. You can keep a squeeze bottle of some with a BIT more soap to squirt on the windshield when you get in the car to get a bit more off (followed by a run of the regular washer to rinse it). It also has an advantage that you can let it sit for a minute to break up what the bird left you. A small amount of any type of alcohol won’t hurt either and will speed drying times (which you may want, or if it’s 35C out you may not want)

    In cold weather it’s easier just to use a commercial product. Just start adding it to your tank as the weather turns colder so it will be freeze resistant by the time it’s really cold. It’s important you make the transition since if the tank freezes it will burst (if not take out your lines and pump at the same time).

    If you wanted to, you can buy methanol and make a 5-7% mix yourself with water, add a little soap and use that in the winter, but I think it’s more bother than it’s worth.

    I like the rain-x products myself, but I still use my squeeze bottle because it’s a quick and easy supplement, but then again, I’m one of those people who carry a fire extinguisher and road flares in the car.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I take back not using a bit of methanol in your summer wiper mix…

    so you need it as a biocide. During the summer however, you can also use ethanol. isopropyl, etc.

    Anyway, again that tiny amount of methanol won’t hurt anything except possibly your paint (during a rainstorm non-issue of course). Also, if you carry around that old dish washing liquid bottle, feel free to add some Windex. The problem is is if ammonia is in your washer system.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Well this is all sorts of good advice an remidies, but im a guy who dont mind paying products already made. Only cause 9-10 times theyve been tried an trued through theyre respected co.’s, Example: I know a guy who made his own washer fluid trial an error attempt, an before you say it or think it No It Was Not Me as in a third person deal. This guy loves DYI type things im not a big fan of that im sorry im just not, anyways he took Toilet blue bowl cleaner concentrate added 2 tbls to 1 gal. Of H2o it made since to him cause it has good cleaning properties an waa diluted enough in his mind he did this for 2 seasons eventually it corroded his washer system he had to buy a complete system pump lines washer resivoir it was expensive an a mess. Im uist saying some things are just better left alone.

  6. Dan says:

    I wonder how this will save money, where is the cheapest way to get the Brand of methanol that is already used as a household product? is 5 percent + water enough to withstand 0Âşc , and would the methanol evaporate from water before you can use it?
    Thanx for the information I think would be helpful to have for the health and human services link

  7. bleeed says:

    I use 10% paint remover along with 5% sulfuric acid and a bit of bleach just for good measure. Never had a freeze so far.

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