Windshield washer fluid is one of those routine things that you'll need to replace on a fairly regular basis in your vehicle. There's no set schedule for this like there is with motor oil or anything else because it all depends on how often you use your wipers. If you're the kind of person who wants to give their windshield a spritz every time you get in the car you're going to run out sooner rather than later. And although windshield wiper fluid isn't super expensive, it can add up over time especially if you go through a lot of it. That's why some people, in an effort to cut costs, want to look for ways that they can create windshield washer fluid at home. After all, it seems to just be a simple cleaning solution, right?
In fact, there are some homemade recipes you can use if you are either in a bind and can't get to the store to buy new washer fluid or you just don't want to pay for it anymore and would rather make up your own brew that is more economical or more effective. Let's take a look at some of the best recipes for making DIY windshield washer fluid, as well as some ideas that you want to avoid.
Can You Put Vinegar in Your Windshield Wiper Fluid?
White vinegar is a common household cleaning solution that can be helpful for any number of cleaning jobs. Depending on where you live white vinegar makes up an important part of a basic recipe for homemade washer fluid. A little bit of Dawn dish soap and some white vinegar can make a very effective cleaning solution. The vinegar is actually important for ensuring that your mixture dries fairly quickly on your windshield.
The problem with using vinegar in your cleaning solution is that, if you live in a cold climate, and by that we mean any place where it will freeze in the winter, then vinegar is not going to be very helpful. Vinegar does nothing to alter the freezing point of your cleaning fluid. That means if you do suffer some harsh winters you can't use vinegar, or it will simply freeze in the lines and be no good to you.
Can I Use Windex for Windshield Wiper Fluid?
Windex, or any of those blue, ammonia-based cleaning fluids that you use for cleaning the windows and the mirrors in your house, could make an effective cleaning fluid for your windshield as well if you wanted to use it. Unfortunately, just like vinegar, Windex is not designed to handle sub-freezing temperatures. If you were to leave a bottle of Windex in your car overnight during the winter, you'd wake up to a blue ice cube. The same thing is going to happen in the reservoir for your windshield washer fluid if you use Windex. So, if you live in a warm climate or you want to use it in the summer, you could conceivably replace your washer fluid with Windex. However, when it comes to the cold temperature this will freeze in the lines and make it impossible for you to clean your windshield.
Can I Use Rubbing Alcohol for Windshield Wiper Fluid?
Rubbing alcohol on its own isn't a particularly effective cleaning fluid. However, if you add rubbing alcohol to a mixture that includes a cleaner, something like Dawn dish soap and water, then you could create a very effective DIY windshield washer fluid. Essentially you would use the same mixture here that you would use if you were making your own mixture with vinegar but you're replacing vinegar with alcohol in this case. Either isopropyl rubbing alcohol, or even a high-proof vodka if you're in an emergency situation and need something right away. The difference between using alcohol and vinegar is that the alcohol greatly reduces the freezing point of the solution so this would be much more effective to use during the winter.
In fact, if you live it a cold enough place right now and you found that some store-bought washer fluids have suffered problems with freezing in extremely low temperatures, you can add a cup of alcohol to the reservoir and it will improve the freezing temperatures so that you no longer have to deal with the problem of your windshield washer fluid freezing up on you.
Can I Use Water for Windshield Wiper Fluid?
The idea of using water to clean your windshield is one of those ‘better than nothing’ situations. If you get a serious mud splash up on your windshield and you need to clean it off with something then sure, water is better than leaving it there obscuring your view. That said, water is not a very effective solution for cleaning windshields on a regular basis and it's certainly not the only thing you want to put in your fluid reservoir. Again, while it's better than nothing and if you are heading out to off-road in muddy or dusty conditions and you need something to get your windshield clean it could help you in that specific instance. But definitely there are some drawbacks.
To start with, water doesn't have nearly the same cleansing abilities that a proper cleaning solution would have. That means you're not going to be getting any grease off of your windshield should there be something oily up there. Additionally, water freezes in cold temperatures, so you have the risk of your fluid reservoir turning into an ice cube if you tried to use water during the winter. Additionally, over a long enough period of time, you're going to suffer some build up if you were to use tap water in your fluid reservoir as well. This is the same thing that happens to your coffee maker over time, lime and calcium deposits will build up and eventually will clog the tubes and places that the cleaning fluid is meant to spray from.
For that reason, if you ever do have to use water, and you can make DIY fluids recipes that are water-based and include things like alcohol and Dawn dish soap, you always want to use distilled water so that there are no mineral deposits that can end up clogging your windshield wiper system.
Can You Put Antifreeze in Windshield Washer Fluid?
Adding antifreeze to your windshield washer fluid may seem like a good idea if you live in very cold climates but it can actually lead to some serious damage. Most washer fluid that you can buy today is specifically designed to handle sub zero temperatures. And even if yours isn't, adding antifreeze to the mix would be a bad idea. Antifreeze can cause damage to your car's paint job which makes it a very bad idea to have in a system that is going to spray it all over your car. As we said earlier, your best bet is to either add some rubbing alcohol to the mixture if you're finding it freezing up on you or make sure you're getting a winter blend that can handle the kind of temperatures that exist where you're driving your car.
DIY Windshield Washer Fluid Recipes
There are a number of effective recipes that you can use when you need to make your own windshield wiper fluid. If you follow these exactly, you can save yourself some money and still ensure that your windshield will be crystal clear when you need it to be.
The Dawn Method
Dawn dish soap is known for its ability to safely cut through grease without being harmful to the environment. It's your best bet for this particular kind of recipe as opposed to the other dish soaps that may be on the market. You'll need the following:
- 1 tablespoon of Dawn dish soap
- 1 cup of rubbing alcohol. Make sure it's at least 90% alcohol or higher
- 1 gallon of distilled water. It must be distilled, not tap water or even regular bottled water
Once you have all your ingredients, the method for creating the solution is pretty simple.
- Empty out about one cup of distilled water from the container. This is just to make room in the container for the other components. You don't need to keep this discarded water. You can get rid of it or use it for whatever else you might need distilled water for.
- Pour the one tablespoon of dish soap and the one cup of rubbing alcohol into the distilled water jug. As we mentioned earlier, vinegar is a potential substitute here if you live in a warm climate where temperatures never get down to freezing. However, if you do go through the winter climate where you live it's best to stick with the alcohol because it will ensure that this mixture doesn't freeze on you.
- Put the lid on the jug and gently mix it. You don't need to shake it like it's a can of paint, but you can do some gentle back and forth swishing until you've noticed that the blue colour of the Dawn soap has effectively blended completely with the water and the alcohol in the jug.
- If you live in extremely cold temperatures, like somewhere in Alaska or any place where it gets down to well below freezing, it wouldn't hurt to test the fluid before you use it if you plan to have it in your car during those cold temperatures. For that, all you need to do is put a cup or jar of it outside overnight to see if it can handle the temperature. If it's still liquid in the morning, then the mix works fine and you're safe to put in your car. If it's freezing up even a little bit, then you need to add another cup of alcohol.
- Fill the washer fluid reservoir in your car the way you normally would, and you are good to go.
The Windex Method
- 1 gallon of distilled water
- 8 oz of Windex
The method for making this is basically the same as the above method. Again, this is just for a warm weather situation. if you live in a colder climate, then you're again going to need to add the rubbing alcohol into the mix to get it to work. As well, make sure you're using actual Windex. If you're using an off-brand glass cleaner, test it to make sure it's not the kind that leaves streaks when it is being wiped away.
The Paint Safe Method
Some people don't like the residue that dish soap may leave on their car, and in particular the paint job. Dawn soap is usually pretty good, but other brands of dish soap may be less reliable. If you want to avoid the hassle all together than this method could work better for you.
- 1 gallon of distilled water
- 1 cup of rubbing alcohol
- Castile soap
The ingredients for this method are almost identical to the Dawn soap method but in this case, you're swapping out the Dawn for castile soap. Castile soap is a natural product that has fewer harmful ingredients in it than your standard kinds of dish soap. It's typically free from animal fats and any synthetic ingredients, meaning it's mostly vegetable based. It's also non-toxic and very gentle. It comes in a liquid form, so it's easy to add to a solution like this for windshield wiper fluid. Mix it the same way you would mix the other recipes that we have suggested, and it should be fine.
The Bottom Line
Windshield wiper fluid isn't super expensive by any means, but it can take a bite out of your wallet and it does add up over time since you need to keep buying it as you go through more and more of it. Making your own fluid can save you quite a bit of money in the long run and it also gives you a little more control over knowing exactly what you are using to clean your car with if that's a concern for you.
The big thing you need to keep in mind when making your own windshield wiper fluid is knowing whether or not it can handle cold temperatures where you live and if it's going to effectively clean your windshield. If you use the recipes we've provided, you should have no problem whatsoever keeping your windshield clean and so long as you add an appropriate amount of rubbing alcohol to the mix then you should have no issues with freezing if you live in a colder climate.