Get caught driving with an icy windscreen and you could receive a £60 fine and three penalty points. But what’s the best way to clear frost and ice from your car?
Fans of traditional de-icer aerosols and sprays have been warning of a supply shortage on Twitter. Then again, the latest alternative, a bag of hot water used to melt windscreen ice – which has gone viral on TikTok videos – has been criticised due to fears about cracking the glass.
So what is the best and safest way to clear a car – or do you have a tried-and-tested DIY solution? Let us know in the comments section below.
1. The bag of warm water method
Realising that pouring warm water directly on to a windscreen is a sure-fire way of cracking it, this method, made famous on TikTok, involves filling a plastic bag with warm water and rolling it over the icy screen.
Pros: Everyone has a plastic bag and access to warm water. You’ll look like you’re down with the TikTok kids.
Cons: How do you seal the bag to ensure the water doesn’t escape? And just as with hot water, the rapid temperature change could crack the glass.
2. Potato halves
An old Tennessee tip apparently, cut a potato in half – an onion at a pinch – and rub it across the glass the night before you intend to drive. As the potato dries out, keep slicing the end off so it remains wet. The starches in the “juice” help to prevent ice crystals forming.
Pros: Cheap, eco-friendly, amusing for your neighbours to watch
Cons: The spud juice may leave a greasy layer but you can deal with that with washer fluid.
3. Hand gel
All those travel-sized bottles of hand gel you acquired during the pandemic can make themselves useful at last when door locks or motorbike ignitions ice up. Just squeeze a few drops in and the alcohol inside will melt the ice.
Pros: you will already have plenty of these at home, in your glove box, drawers, cupboards etc, so no need to buy new.
Cons: Opening the fiddly fliptop lids means taking off your gloves and risking frostbite.
4. The car ventilation system method
Turn on the car’s engine, switch the vents to de-mist, set the heating and fan speed to maximum and wait.
Pros: You can busy yourself loading the car as it clears. Alternatively, you can sit inside and catch up on email/news/TikTok de-icing methods. With an electric vehicle (EV) you can even use pre-conditioning. This enables you to switch on the ventilation remotely via a smartphone app. If the EV’s plugged in, this won’t deplete the battery.
Cons: It will take five to 10 minutes. And if you leave the engine running, nip into the house to make a coffee and someone steals your car, your insurer is unlikely to pay up.
5. The covering your screen method
The night before the freeze, put a towel or blanket, or large sheet of cardboard, across your windscreen.
Pros: The ice coats the covering, not your screen.
Cons: How do you secure it? Most cars’ wipers self-park, without stopping mid-screen. If the cover doesn’t blow away or slip down, you’ll have a clear screen come the morning, but in your hands a rigid sheet of ice. Not just tricky to make plastic bag-size, but also about to thaw into something cold and very wet.
6. The ice-scraper method
A simple and reliable way of clearing your car’s glass areas.
Pros: Scrapers are cheap and easy to use. You can even buy mittens with a built-in ice scraper. Cue Simon Scraperhands jokes.
Cons: Not everyone has a scraper to hand so they end up using a CD cover or credit card. Both will do the job, just not very effectively. And unless you have a decent pair of waterproof gloves you’ll need to thaw your hands afterwards.
7. The de-icer spray method
Spray on the de-icer and watch the ice melt away. You can even make your own using a recycled sprayer filled with anything that raises water’s freezing point. That might be rubbing alcohol (isopropyl) mixed with water, or even vinegar, which you spray on the screen before it freezes to prevent the ice bonding to the glass.
Pros: Quick, cheap and effort-free.
Cons: Purpose-made products use chemicals like ethylene glycol, which isn’t brilliant for the environment. Chemicals such as ammonium nitrate, potassium chloride and magnesium chloride in some de-icing products can corrode bodywork, glass and rubber seals. Home-made vinegar spray will make your car smell like a chip shop.