Life Hacks: Rubbing Alcohol for Windshield Wipers

/ / Car Accessories
windshield wiper streaks

Your car’s windshield wipers are your first and foremost weapon against the accumulation of dirt, dead bugs, and other assorted grossness on your windshield. Not to mention the vital duty of clearing away rain and snow to preserve your visibility. However, just because it’s a wiper’s duty to remove crud from your windshield doesn’t mean that the wiper is immune to said crud itself.

If your windshield wipers leave long, dirty streaks when swiping on your windshield — or otherwise seem to be skittering and scratching across its surface rather than smoothly gliding — that’s a sign that your wipers have accumulated a hefty amount of contaminants themselves. 

To help your wipers get back to doing their job properly, it’s on you to give them a bit of dedicated cleaning. Luckily, not only is this a fairly easy process, but you can make it happen with a particular item that you’ve probably got under the bathroom sink.

The secret is rubbing alcohol

isopropyl alcohol bottle logo

Your secret weapon for clearing dirt and contaminants from your windshield wipers is isopropyl alcohol, aka rubbing alcohol. Most households have a bottle of the stuff lying around somewhere, usually in or around your first aid kit. 

While the primary purpose of rubbing alcohol is to be used as a disinfectant for small cuts and scrapes, its chemical constitution makes it excellent for cleaning the gunk off of your wipers.

The way isopropyl alcohol works is by dissolving microorganisms like germs and bacteria. Its dissolving ability comes from isopropyl alcohol’s use as a solvent, allowing it to break apart the molecular bonds of small, simple objects. 

Using isopropyl alcohol on your wiper blades dissolves the outermost layer of rubber on the blades, causing stuck-on contaminants to slide right off. Doing this can get your wipers closer to like-new status, as well as prolong their overall lifespan and usefulness.

Cleaning wiper blades with isopropyl alcohol

clean windshield wiper

All you need to clean your wiper blades is one bottle of isopropyl alcohol and a few clean rags. Incidentally, isopropyl alcohol comes in various concentrations — the best kind for general wiper cleaning is 70%, but if you’re dealing with some especially stubborn crud like tree sap, you can get a higher concentration bottle to dissolve it.

  1. Wet a clean cloth with some water.

  2. Wipe down the wiper blades with the wet cloth to remove any loose contaminants.

  3. Dip another clean cloth in isopropyl alcohol.

  4. Gently scrub the surfaces of the wipers with the alcohol-soaked cloth to remove any stuck-on contaminants.

  5. Use a dry third cloth to wipe any loose alcohol off of the wipers after you’ve cleaned them.

The alcohol should loosen up any stuck-on dirt, dead bugs, or whatever else, dragging them off as you wipe.

Keep in mind that, while this trick is great for cleaning your wipers, it won’t make them indefinitely usable. Wiper blades are designed to be replaced after a while, so if they’re older and still stiff and dirty after an alcohol cleaning, you might just need to replace them.

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