Readers from around the country sent in tips, techniques and recipes for cleaning automotive glass. Here are several of the better ideas.
From Bill Byrnes: "I had issues with my 2001 Sable and 2003 Ranger, especially in the summer when I use one of those reflective shields to keep the interior cooler. What I have been using to get rid of the film, with great success, is good old-fashioned Bon-Ami cleanser. Like their slogan says, "It hasn't scratched yet." I use it inside and out by wetting a cloth and just sprinkling some on it and wipe away. Also, here's a trick to help determine what side of the window the streaks are on. Clean one side using horizontal strokes and vertical on the other. Then, if any residual film is left behind, you'll know which side requires attention."
From Robert Kratz: "Regarding this topic in your recent column, there's a simple solution: ammonia and water, same as for house windows. Apply with a damp (not wet) cloth, let sit for 15 seconds or so, then dry. Finish up with a glass cleaner for really clean windows. Of course, don't do this in the sun."
From Robert Junkersfeld: "I read with interest the writer's quest for a way to clean the inside of their windshield. I am obsessed about this "film," which is really more of a "fog" that develops over time. It would be unaffected by a razor blade but I have had some success with a mixture of one-third vinegar and two-thirds water mixed in a spray bottle. I also have a gadget with a short arm with a swivel head that allows you to get close to the area where the windshield meets the dash. I put a piece of an old T-shirt on the swivel head to wipe off the spray. The film or fog comes back over time, even on my 15-year-old BMW. Seems odd that off-gassing from the dash plastic would still be a problem after that much time."
From Joseph B.: "Just a suggestion to a recent column where someone posed a question on how to clean the film off of car windshields. I noticed that since the government mandated the removal of phosphates from cleaning supplies none of them work very well anymore. I read another article many years ago that said to first clean with regular window cleaner then follow that with vodka. Yes, vodka. It's a different type of alcohol than what's in the cleaners and I've been using it successfully for years to remove the residue left by the commercial cleaners. Buy a small bottle of the cheapest stuff you can get, pour some in a spray bottle and spray it on the windshield. After the initial cleaning, wipe it off. You just have to resist the urge to sample the "cleaning solution" while you're using it."
Paul replies: Hmm, is Joseph pulling my leg? Has anyone tried this? The cleaning, not the sampling, in this case. Now, recognize that the alcohol in all alcoholic beverages is ethanol, which is derived from corn, grains and similar organic matter. Yes, the same type of alcohol that's in oxygenated gasoline. And while you may be technically able to extract the ethanol from the gasoline at the pump by adding water to force separation of the ethanol and gasoline, it would not be a Nobel-winning idea.
With that said, how does the alcohol in vodka differ from alcohol used in most glass cleaners? Most cleaners contain isopropyl alcohol, a highly toxic alcohol typically derived from wood. So does common rubbing alcohol. So does gas-line antifreeze.
So which type of alcohol does the better job of cleaning glass? I guess it would depend on whether you drink all of one before trying the other. Make sure you choose the correct alcohol for each task!
Paul Brand is the author of "How to Repair Your Car" and "How to Repair Your Truck and SUV," published by Motorbooks.