How to Defrost a Windshield Without Heat – Fast, No Fear of Cracking!

Who hasn’t woken up early in the morning, only to find the car covered with a layer of ice?

Using heat might be a quick solution, however, it’s not the safest one for your windshield. Wondering how to defrost a windshield without heat?

Not everyone has the luxury of being a patient morning person. Waking up 30 minutes earlier in the winter doesn’t seem to be the best use of my time.

And it might be tempting to start driving with a car half defrosted—windshields and windows still partially covered with ice. This, however, limits your road visibility. It also creates a safety hazard for yourself and others.

Setting your car heater all the way up might be helpful, but remains a long process that uses a fair amount of gas. Luckily, there are several other options to efficiently defrost your windshield without using heat, making your winter driving life much easier.

A heavily frosted windshield of a black car in winter

In this article, we’ll explain why using hot water to defrost car windows isn’t the best idea. We’ll cover how to defrost your car using an ice scraper, an alcohol-based home remedy, as well as a commercial de-icing product.

And lest we forget, prevention is sometimes the best option, so to increase the time you can sleep in the morning by not getting up early to defrost your car, we’ll also look into what makes the best windscreen covers to prevent ice from forming on your windshield in the first place.

Risks of Using Hot Water

Grabbing a kettle and pouring hot water onto your frosted windshield might seem the easy solution. Although it isn’t the best idea, 15 percent of the UK’s Automobile Association members seem to use this method still.

The concept is fairly simple. The hot water melts the ice, and the wipers can be used to get the melted ice out of the way. The sudden change of temperature, however, causes the glass to expand before quickly contracting, which can crack your windshield.

This might make the glass break or chip. Hot water can also drip over your clear coat and car paint. It will remove the protective wax layer and leave stubborn white water marks on the paint.

From a frosted windshield, you might end up with a broken windshield, great paint damage, and an expensive repair bill. Not to mention, potential burns on your hands.

What about warm water? Spilling lukewarm water also have its share of risks. In extreme conditions, warm water can freeze on top of the existing ice layer. Not only will it fail to melt the ice underneath, but water can accumulate around the wipers, damaging their motor and blades.

Alternatively, using a portable heater or a hair dryer would carry the same risks.

Although using warm or hot water isn’t the best solution to defrost your windshield, other safer methods are available.

Using an Ice Scraper

Ice scrapers might be the most popular tool to remove ice. Ice scrapers are used by 66 percent of the Automobile Association’s members. They’re often small enough to be stored in your car for use when needed.

What Makes a Good Ice Scraper?

You might think that all scrapers are the same. Looking closer, they aren’t all equal and there are few elements worth considering in the best ice scrapers.

Blade Material

The best scrapers are made with strong plastic blades. Plastic won’t scratch your car and are safer than metallic blades.

It might be tempting to use cheaper scrapers, not specifically designed for cars. These tools tend also to cause damage to your car.

Snow Brush

Some scrapers come with a foam or brush, attached to the end or to the handle. This is convenient if you need to remove snow above the ice layer.

If the brush is made of bristles, ensure that they’re soft. It might be best to read customer reviews to make sure the brush doesn’t scratch the paint.

Handle Size and Quality

Depending on the ice thickness, you might need to apply a fair amount of pressure. The scraper’s handle should be able to handle the pressure and provide a solid grip.

Telescopic handles might be ideal if you own a large vehicle or even a pickup truck. They allow you to reach places that would otherwise be difficult to reach.

On regular cars, longer handles aren’t recommended. They tend to make you lose control over the scraper and the pressure applied.

For a better grip, we recommend investing in a textured handle made with foam. Plastic handles tend to be slippery in cold weather and are best to be avoided.

How to Best Use an Ice Scraper

Using an ice scraper is fairly straightforward and one of the easiest tools to maneuver.

Whether vertically or horizontally, start scraping from the top of your windshield, going downwards. Be cautious around the wiper blades.

Once cleared, use the wipers to remove the ice residue from the glass.

Homemade De-Icing Spray

Using a commercial spray daily can represent a significant investment over the course of winter.

In some parts of the United States, winters can be long and stubborn. In this case, a budget-friendly homemade solution might be your best ally.

How Does Alcohol Work?

Water freezes when it reaches 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Isopropyl alcohol reaches its freezing point at about five degrees Fahrenheit, allowing the ice to melt.

As the ice starts dissolving, it transfers the heat around encouraging the remaining ice to dissipate.

Because of its low freezing point, the solution won’t freeze over the existing layer of ice. If the outside temperature drops below zero degrees Fahrenheit, you might need to use another de-icing method.

Advantages of Alcohol De-Icing Solution

Isopropyl alcohol isn’t only effective at melting ice. It’s also safe for your windshield and car paint.

You shouldn’t have to worry about spraying over the frame, or having the liquid leak over the paint.

How to Make an Alcohol De-Icing Spray

To make this homemade remedy, you’ll only need two ingredients: water and Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol.

In an empty spray bottle, mix one part of water with two parts of rubbing alcohol. Spray over the iced glass and remove the melted ice with an ice scraper.

You don’t have isopropyl alcohol handy? It can be replaced with liquor or white vinegar, using the same proportions. These won’t, however, be as effective as alcohol.

To watch how to make an alcohol de-icing spray, this video will come in handy.

How to Use it

Spray the alcohol solution over your windshield, starting from the top. Let it sit for about one minute. Ice should melt almost instantly.

Use a scraper to remove the melted ice. The solution can be reapplied if ice remains.

Clear your windshield running your wipers, adding a few sprays of wiper fluid.

Commercial De-Icing Products

Looking for a de-icing solution, available off the shelf? The options are plentiful.

How do They Work?

Commercial de-icing products don’t only melt the ice.

They contain chemical compounds preventing the ice from forming again, making ice removal much easier after the first use.

Where to Find Them

Commercial products can be easily found online or in most auto-retail stores. Some brands can even be purchased in supermarkets such as Target or Walmart.

How to Use Commercial Products

Read carefully the labels where you might find specific instructions. Most commercial de-icers can be used with the following instructions.

  1. Spray the windshield, starting from the top. The excess liquid will run down the glass, melting the ice on its way. This will make the bottle last longer.
  2. Brush or scrape away the melted ice. If stubborn ice remains, spray again and apply gentle pressure with the scraper.
  3. Ensure that the wipers are unfrosted as well. Spray a cloth with the de-icing solution and wipe the blades.

Consider Environmentally Friendly Options

Chemical compounds such as calcium chloride or sodium chloride are often found in commercial de-icing products.

They often leak in the soil and end up in our underground waters. They don’t only get to our drinking water, they’re also detrimental to plants found in these soils.

To help preserve our ecosystem, it is wise to consider eco-friendly commercial de-icers.

Windscreen Ice Protection

Prevention might still remain the best remedy. Not everyone has a garage to protect their car from the weather.

Placing a cover over your windshield might very well become an evening routine you won’t regret.

What are They?

Homemade windscreens—such as cardboards or even towels—can be efficient against ice formation.

The best windshield covers, however, will be professionally made and commercially bought. They come in three universal sizes—small, medium, and large—fitting most car models.

When unsure, bigger is better. A cover that is too small with leave portions of the windshield uncovered. You’ll then have to de-ice the cover to remove it from the car window.

What are the Benefits?

They protect your windows from both snow and ice. This means that you won’t need to spray or scrape your windshield again.

Daily scraping can scratch the glass, weakening the windshield over time. Although these covers come at all price points, most windscreens are very affordable.

Other Things to Consider

  • A windshield cover should be lightweight and easy to store.
  • Consider the brand and manufacturer you’re purchasing from. The best covers should last you for years and should be seen as a long-term investment. The best covers are made of durable PVC, polyester, or a combination of both materials.
  • A strap system allows you to use the cover on different car models.
  • Covers sometimes get stolen. Some of them come with safety panels. The front doors will shut over the cover for added security.

Summary

If you haven’t planned ahead and used a windshield cover, easy options are still available to remove the ice layer built overnight. While it’s best to stay away from hot water methods, scrapers and homemade or commercial de-icing sprays can be very efficient.

Which de-icing method do you use? Do you have any questions? Please leave us a comment in the section below.

Kyle Palmer

From childhood go karting and motocross, to collecting and obsessing over scalextric, matchbox and radio controlled cars, I've always had an obsession with cars. Learning through manuals, books, trial and error, and more knowledgeable family members, I've also enjoyed tinkering with the mechanics and electronics of any vehicles I've owned. Now, over 3 decades later, I've started this site as a place for me to share my knowledge, to teach others how to care for and maintain their vehicles themselves, at home, so they can get the most of their vehicles and save a pretty penny compared to always seeking out professional help.

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