If you have ever been out in wet conditions and the spray from cars hit your windshield, or maybe rain and snow are falling, you know how important your windshield wipers are. A little dirt on your windshield can make driving dangerous.
Keeping your windshield wipers clean and operational is an often overlooked task that is easy to stay on top of. A few minutes of work really can save your life and those of your passengers.
This article takes you through everything that you need to know about cleaning windshield wipers so you can drive safely.
How To Clean Windshield Wipers
As you might have guessed, especially if you take into account the surface area you are cleaning, windshield wipers can be spotless in no time. It really is easy to get clean wipers, but that does not mean you should plow ahead without having a plan in place. This is about safety, so make sure you are thorough with your cleaning.
Our step-by-step guide will help.
Step 1: Prepare The Wipers
There are two positions you can have your wipers in before you clean them. You can leave them as they are and lift them off the windscreen until they are sticking out. You can also turn on the ignition, switch on your wipers, and turn off the ignition when they are pointing up. You will still pull them from the windshield so that they are pointing out.
Some people prefer one position over the other, so do whatever is comfortable for you. I have always cleaned the wipers when they are in their neutral position.
Pro Tip: Some wipers will be locked unless they are pointing up on your windshield, so you might have to move them into that position first.
Step 2: Remove Large Dirt And Debris
Start by taking an old rag and running it up and down the wiper blades to remove any large particles of dirt. Wipe up and down a few times if you need to. This is done to prepare the wiper blade before you apply the cleaning solution. Do this for both wiper blades.
Step 3: Choose Your Cleaner
You do not need to go out and purchase a specific cleaner for your wiper blades, and most recommended cleaning agents can be found in your home. You can even use water if the blades are not too dirty. Use the following list to decide on the best cleaner for you, or use the one that is available.
Water: Most people have access to water. If you clean your wiper blades regularly, and you live in an area where there is not a lot of dust and dirt, and the driving conditions are always good, then water will work for you.
Glass Cleaner: Glass cleaner is great for getting rid of oils and grease that might be on your wiper blades.
WD-40: This cleaner works well, but it is recommended to remove your wiper blades before spraying them so that you don’t get any WD-40 on your glass.
Vinegar: This cleaner works in a similar way to glass cleaner and is great for preventing streaks. Use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water.
Toothpaste: Toothpaste contains silica and that helps to clean the blades and remove any streaks from your windshield. Toothpaste adds more abrasion to your wipers (without damaging your windshield).
Rubbing Alcohol: The evaporating effect of alcohol helps to remove the smallest particles of dirt and grime.
Dish Soap: If you do not have any of the other cleaners in your home, then dish soap will work fine. While it will be adequate, I recommend using one of the stronger cleaners if you can.
Step 4: Clean The Wiper Blades
While a regular cloth or rag will work, a microfiber cloth will give you the best clean. There will be no fibers left on the wiper to be transferred to the windshield.
When you have your cloth and cleaner, you can go to work. You are going to apply the cleaner to your cloth and then clean your wiper blades. A spray bottle will make this easier and allow you to control the dosage.
Your wiper blades should be sticking out from the windshield, and you should have your cloth with cleaner on it. With one hand, hold the wiper so that you can brace it against the cloth. With your other hand, rub the cloth up and down the wiper blade to remove the dirt.
You should be able to pinch the cloth so that it surrounds the blade, making it easy to rub up and down.
If you clean your wiper blades regularly, you should only have to rub up and down once (maybe twice). If the blades are exceptionally dirty, rub up and down as many times as is needed, and apply more cleaner if you need to.
When you are wiping the blades, be careful not to apply the cleaner to other parts of your car.
Continue to rub up and down, and fold or reverse the cloth if it gets too dirty. Check the cloth regularly, and if it is coming away clean, then you are done.
Once you have cleaned one wiper blade, repeat the process with the other.
Optional: Clean The Hinge
If you find that your wipers are sticking, or if you notice dirt around the hinge (where the wiper blade connects to the bracket), you should clean the hinge.
Refer to your instruction manual (if needed) to remove the wiper blade from the arm. Once you have it off, clean the end of the arm with warm soapy water. Do the same with the part of the wiper blade that connects to the arm.
Connect the wipers back to the arm.
Step 5: Finish Up
Place the wipers flat against the windshield. If you moved the position of the wipers with the ignition on, turn the ignition back on and return the wipers to a neutral position.
Try the blades out by spraying windshield wiper fluid and using your wipers. They should produce a streak-free finish.
Protecting And Maintaining Your Windshield Wipers
Prevention is always the best cure when it comes to your wipers. By taking care of them, you will not need to clean them as often, and they will last longer.
So, what can you do?
1. Remove Debris From Your Windows
Leaves fall and birds sometimes mistake your car for a lavatory. If there is debris on your window that can be removed, then do it.
2. Clean Your Windshield
Some dirt dries on and can’t be removed effectively. If you do have bird poop or other stains, use a glass cleaner and a cloth to remove the dirt. This will help to keep your wiper blades in better condition.
3. Use A Water Repellent
A water repellant creates a protective layer between the glass and your wipers. Any water on the glass will bead, and the wipers will have an easier time dealing with it.
You can apply a repellant by spraying it on the glass and working it in with a paper towel or microfiber cloth. Leave it to dry for 4-8 hours before taking your car out in wet conditions. After application, a water-repellant should last 2-4 months (it needs re-applying when the water no longer beads).
4. Park Your Vehicle in a Shaded Area
Sunlight can dry out rubber or silicone wiper blades, and they will eventually crack. Try to park your vehicle in the shade if possible, or cover your wiper blades when your vehicle is parked.
5. Scrape Ice And Snow
If you live in a colder climate, scrape any ice and snow from your windshield and wiper blades before you use them.
6. Replace When Needed
Wiper blades should be replaced every 2-3 years or when they start cracking. If you continue to use them after that, they are not going to be effective.
You can invest in more durable blades if you want to. They usually have a metal support running through the wiper blade. Take note that they can cost more than double what a regular pair would, but they will last at least twice as long.