Driver with dirty windscreen

How to Properly Clean and Demist Inside Your Windscreen

The humble windscreen. Some might argue that it’s the least complex part of the car. It’s just glass, right. Not exactly, but whatever your level of appreciation for your vehicle’s windscreen, it’s undeniably important.

This pane of glass protects you from the elements, plus any debris that might be launched directly towards your face by another passing vehicle. It also shields you from harmful UV rays, so if you were planning on getting transition lens glasses, reconsider your purchase. Most brands won’t work whilst driving!

However, one lingering problem that car manufacturers are yet to resolve concerns the windscreen. This issue is more prominent in the winter, but can hinder your driving experience year-round. Of course, we’re talking about dirty, misty or foggy windscreens.

Here’s Scrap Car Comparison’s guide to effectively cleaning and demisting your car windscreen from the inside and keeping your visibility at a safe level whilst on the road.

Windscreen wipers on a misted up windscreen on a cold morning

How to Clean Inside a Windscreen

It turns out that most car interiors are actually very dirty, so you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared to potentially tackle some serious filth

First things first, gather your arsenal of cleaning products. Here’s what you’ll need to get your windscreen squeaky clean:

  • Microfibre cloths x3
  • Windscreen cleaning spray
    • Alternatively, a white vinegar solution will work (more on that later)
    • Or, plain old water could do the job
  • Rubbing alcohol*

*Rubbing alcohol is optional, dependent on just how thorough you want to be, or how filthy your windscreen already is! If you’re using rubbing alcohol, you’ll need an extra microfibre cloth.

Now that you’re equipped for the job, it’s time to tackle the grime. This is the best way to clean inside your car windscreen:

  1. This may go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway: Sit in the passenger seat to clean your windscreen, not the driver’s seat. If you’re having to reach over your steering wheel to wipe the glass, you’re making life much more difficult than it needs to be. Driving can be stressful enough, you don’t need to test your patience while you’re parked up at home, too.
  2. Give the windscreen a once-over with the microfibre cloth to remove any minute debris that may be clinging to the inside of the glass. Anything like loose fibres or hairs may be almost invisible to the naked eye, but should be removed before the proper cleaning begins.
  3. Now, the rubbing alcohol comes into play (if you’re using it). Fold the cloth and soak some of the alcohol into one side of it, then wipe down the windscreen using circular motions. Don’t forget to get right into the corners. If you can’t reach everywhere, then maybe on this occasion it’d be easier to switch to the driver’s seat temporarily. Using the rubbing alcohol will remove any greasy or oily substances that might be coating the glass. Once you’ve wiped the whole screen, flip the cloth over and, using the dry side, wipe the excess rubbing alcohol off. Be careful not to let it drip on your dashboard or upholstery as it could cause damage.
  4. Next up, introduce your cleaning liquid of choice. Shop-bought glass cleaner will naturally be best suited for this task, with some places even selling glass cleaner specifically for use with cars. Make sure you spray it onto the cloth, not onto the windscreen, unless you want to test out how well it cleans your dashboard, too. Spoiler alert: Not that great. With the cloth now wet, use circular motions once again to wipe down every inch of the windscreen. The Windscreen Company Group has their own recipe for homebrewed glass cleaner:
    – 480ml water
    – 60ml white vinegar
    – Half-teaspoon of dishwasher detergent
  5. Finally, dry the windscreen using a clean microfibre cloth. Leaving it wet, regardless of the liquid, will cause streaks and may leave you with worse visibility than before!

How to Keep Your Windscreen Clean

So you’ve got a clean, streak-free windscreen that’s crystal clear, but how do you keep it that way so you’re not spending your weekends working through laundry baskets bursting with microfibre cloths?

To ensure your glass stays clean, try to keep your car out of direct sunlight as much as possible (by parking it inside a garage, for example) and improve ventilation inside the vehicle by opening the windows slightly whenever you can. This will allow any gases inside the car to escape without contaminating your freshly-cleaned windscreen.

We’re not saying you need to freeze in the winter, but allowing air to move in and out freely whenever possible will stop your hard work from being undone.

How to Demist a Windscreen

Now this is more of a seasonal problem, with the lower temperatures of December to February playing havoc with the windscreens of cars across the land, often regardless of their experience on the road at this time of year.

Of course, we all know how unpredictable the weather can be, so this problem may afflict your car at any point of the year. Therefore, it’s crucial that you know the quickest way to safely demist your car’s windscreen, especially if you hit a patch of bad weather where you can’t stop, like on a motorway.

It’s also important to ensure a clear windscreen before setting off, otherwise you could be held liable for endangering yourself and others, landing you with a hefty fine.

Here’s how to convert your car into a top-of-the-range windscreen demister:

  • Turn the heater on, but don’t flick it to the maximum temperature immediately. You’ll want to gradually adjust it, starting off cooler to keep the air dry. Hot air is moist, creating further vapour that will fog up your windscreen. Make sure the heater’s air is targeting the glass, otherwise it’ll remain cold and collect water vapour once more.
  • If your car has air conditioning, activate it to dry out the air inside the car. This will halt moisture in the form of water vapour in its tracks. However, if your windscreen is completely iced over, you’ll want your heater on hot (directed at the windscreen) and your air conditioning on cold to counteract each other.
  • If your car is more modern, it may have a fancy climate control system. These will usually have a demisting feature, which does exactly what it says on the tin.
  • Some cars, like newer Vauxhall Corsas, have heating elements within their front windscreens as well as in the rear. If you’re lucky enough to have this feature on your car, simply press the button and watch ice melt away and mist vanish.
  • Or, if your car is lacking in the fancy gadget department, there is one sure-fire way to demist your windows in a hurry… Open the windows. This allows the cold, dry air in, regulating the temperature of the interior to be similar to that outside. Just a small opening will do the trick.

How to Stop Your Windscreen Fogging Up

Now that you’ve demisted your car in a hurry, you’ll want to keep your windows clear of water vapour that might slow your progress on the road.

Surprise! If you’ve read this far, you already know one foolproof way to stop your windscreen fogging up. Keeping it clean will do just that, whereas leaving it dirty will cause condensation to gather.

Shaving foam is one of the more out-there methods. Wipe it over your windscreen (then wipe it off, of course) and it’ll leave a temporary barrier on the glass that will fend off moisture and leave you fog-free.

Dehumidifiers are also an excellent way to keep your windscreen clear. Like the Climate Control systems, they do just what you’d expect. Purpose-made dehumidifiers will work best, but you can also gather up some of those small silica gel packets and leave them inside your car. They’re designed specifically for attracting moisture, removing it from the air around them.

Or, perhaps you’ve discovered our Car-ma Sutra guide and now have a spare pair of tights laying around in the back of your car. Fill them with cat litter and you’ll be guaranteed some relief from foggy windscreens for a while. We did warn you that shaving foam was only one of the more outrageous suggestions.

If all else fails and you can’t rid your vehicle of the mist, it’s possible that you may have damaged sealants around the glass. This is possible in ageing or damaged cars, and may signify that it’s time for something new.
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