Alternatives to windshield washer fluid

  • MIKE WATSON IMAGES

Published: 2/4/2020 9:22:16 AM

Have you ever noticed that skull and crossbones on a plastic jug of windshield washer fluid? This stuff that we all go through in great quantities, especially in the winter, is highly toxic.

To keep it from freezing, methanol (methyl alcohol) is mixed with distilled water and a small amount of detergent and then sold for a huge profit. It is inexpensive to make, but methanol is highly toxic to humans. In other words, we are not talking about just a hangover the next day. Methanol can cause blindness and if swallowed will do severe damage to the liver, kidneys and heart. You won’t drink it, of course, but if it spills and your pet licks it up, or a child thinks the pretty blue liquid is Kool-Aid — very serious! Even if it is used correctly to clean a windshield and eventually evaporates, the methanol doesn’t disappear from the environment and is still considered a potent pollutant.

The good news: there are alternatives and the best one is to make this cleaning solution yourself. It is easy to do and you won’t have a plastic jug to throw away. The use and especially the disposal issues around plastic is of course a very big and important issue right now, whatever your political leanings may be. But the point is, can you imagine how many thousands of empty plastic jugs of toxic washer fluid are discarded daily, even just in this state!

But we all have to begin somewhere, so here is how to make windshield washer fluid at home. Start with distilled water (i.e. mineral-free so that wiper nozzles don’t clog), but there is no need to buy a plastic jug of it. Just collect rain water (or melt some snow) which, like distilled water, is the product of evaporation. That is how the minerals are removed! Science is so cool.

Filter the water through a cloth to remove any sediment. Fill a 1 gallon container ¾ full with distilled water, add 1 ½ cup of rubbing alcohol (most any alcohol will do, even vodka), and then 2 tablespoons of dish detergent. Some recipes suggest adding ¼ cup white vinegar. Be sure to label the container.

Presto! Cheaper than buying it and, more importantly, non-toxic, with no plastic jug to dispose of. In the warmer months you don’t even need to add the alcohol which means you can reward yourself with a cold vodka tonic instead. Don’t forget the lime! Cheers.

Alden Booth, who lives in Gill, probably spends too much time considering all the ways that we can have fantastic lives with less plastic, toxins, and fossil fuels in our daily routines.




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