Fight Windshield Grime With Homemade Washer Fluid

windshield washer fluid

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This time of year where I live is often referred to as the “mud season”. It runs from the closing of the ski resorts to the beginning of June and everything is very, very muddy. Including my car!

Needless to say I go through a fair amount of windshield washer fluid this time of year. Actually, come to think of it, I go through a fair amount of the stuff YEAR-ROUND.

Fortunately, the hubster (Dave) usually keeps me well-supplied with the blue stuff.

UNfortunately, he’s out of town this week and I completely ran out.


windshield washer fluid


I could have gone and bought a gallon easy enough…but in the name of DIY, I felt like I had to at least see if there was a “homemade” version I could try.

Little did I know how simple it was to make…and little did I know that commercial windshield washer fluid contains a nasty chemical called methanol, which the National Institute of Health lists as a poisonous alcohol that can cause significant damage even in small amounts.  Yikes.


windshield washer fluid


Here is an easy do-it-yourself recipe using basic household ingredients.

Homemade Windshield Washer Fluid

You will need:

  • 1 empty (clean) gallon jug
  • 1 gallon water 
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap (use whatever you have on hand. I used Dawn)
  • 1/2 cup non-sudsing ammonia  (Note: You can substitute vinegar for ammonia if you prefer)
  • A few drops of blue food coloring (this is optional but I think it’s a good idea because it serves as a reminder/warning of the contents)

Fill an empty gallon container with water. (This is a good way to repurpose 1 gallon plastic vinegar jugs, which I seem to go through a lot of!)

Add, dish soap, ammonia, and food coloring (optional). Recap the bottle and gently tip upside down a few times to mix ingredients. Pour into the windshield wiper fluid reservoir of your car.


windshield washer fluid

This mixture should work in most climates…but when the weather dips below freezing, add 1 cup isopropyl alcohol. If you’re concerned about whether your homemade mixture will freeze, leave it outside overnight (in cold weather) and check it in the morning. If it’s frozen or slushie, add additional alcohol.

Be sure to keep the mixture out of reach of animals and children.


windshield washer fluid



When I first considered trying this, I thought maybe this particular DIY idea was taking things a little too far. But I don’t think that way at all anymore!  This is actually an ideal DIY, even if it doesn’t save you any money (but most likely it WILL!)

It’s simple to make…..with common household ingredients…..AND it eliminates the use of methanol, which any way you look at it, is a good thing.



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  1. says

    So excited to see this post! I was
    Just wondering the other day if there was a DIY solution when I ran out and had to buy more washer fluid.

    Thank you so much for all your wonderful posts and ideas.

  2. Valerie says

    I often see on Pinterest to mix vinegar & water to de-ice windows in the winter. If you substitute vinegar for ammonia, you might not even need to add the alcohol to make it winter-friendly!

  3. trish c says

    Love this!

    I’m doing it soon!!!

    I’ll use vinegar! I would prefer to use sustainable products if I can. Although I suspect most of the white vinegar I buy is made from GM corn. Something I will have to avoid in the future!
    Like ammonia I don’t want to purchase products that are not natural.

    Thank you Jillee I think you and your blog are awesome!!!

  4. Susan S. says

    Thank you for all of your great ideas and for sharing your knowledge!

    After showing this to my husband, he said he would *love* a DIY version of Rain-X De-Icer Windshield Washer Fluid.

    • mdoe37 says

      Well it probably won’t do anything to the paint. Its only a meager 1/2 cup of ammonia to a gallon of water. And I would use the ammonia not vinegar, road grime is a little different than common findings on kitchen counters.

      As an aside, my uncle used to paint company names of trucks etc — back in the day before stick on signage. He was a terrible speller and kept a can of oven cleaner handy to correct his mistakes. That little bit of ammonia seems pretty harmless compared to oven cleaner. (which I wouldn’t recommend on the new clear coat paints)

  5. Sharon says

    First of all I love your site. You have so many helpful ideas, but in this case, I would be very cautious. According to Wiki ammonia WILL harm the paint on a car and alcohol could. No info on the viengar.

  6. Sandi says

    I’m a little concerned about ammonia or vinegar using as washer fluid……when the funds spews out you always have backsplash no matter how you try….whether you are at a standstill or driving …….what is this going to do to the paint job???

  7. Sarah Mc says

    This isn’t much ammonia but for those concerned just swap for more alcohol. And remember that vinegar will kill grass but ammonia helps it grow which is why it is an ingredient in fertilizer.

  8. Susan says

    We always just add some ammonia into our reservoir after putting the store bought stuff in. As far as the paint problem, we have been doing this for probably about 3 years or so and have never noticed any difference on paint job. We learned about the ammonia when the people that change our oil always sprayed a concoction on our windshield to clean it. I asked what was in it, because it really cleaned the window and took the “bugs” off. I am going to try this and see how it does. Will definitely help save some money.

    Thanks!!! You do have some great ideas!!!!


  9. Sara says

    I have been making my own windshield wiper fluid for several years now. I just fill a gallon jug wtih water and add about 2 ozs. of concentrated Simple Green. Works better than any commercial that I have ever bought. In the South we are plagued with lovebugs, etc. and this works great for removing them. However, the one you made with the ammonia will REALLY WORK great. I buy spray window cleaner with ammonia (foaming type) when I have a doble dose of bugs on my windshield; spray on, let it sit for a few mins and then use the windshield washers to clean them off. Works great
    when I am on trips. Just spray when I stop for gas, fill my gas tank while the spray is working and when I am finished, turn the wipers on and they are clean….

  10. says

    I saw on Pinterest I believe, a recipe for washing windows on your home (I’m probably embarrassing myself as it was probably one you suggested!)that included adding a rinse agent product such as Jet Dry to the water. I remember thinking that was a unique indredient to the many cleaning formulas normally seen and yet so simple and essential. I believe the addition of this indredient to the car windshield cleaner makes complete sense too.

    • Trixie F says

      I am going to embarrass myself and admit that a few years ago, I was backing into my garage and misjudged the clearance I had on the passenger side of my car. I scraped the side of my car against the garage door jam and the rubber thing that seals the air out when the door is closed. :( When the pulled the car back forward and assessed the damage, it was a hot mess for sure. The paint from the garage door jam has transferred onto my car and there were scuff marks from the rubber thing. I went inside and grabbed a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a paper towel and it took off the paint transfer and the scuff marks but didn’t damage my car’s paint job at all. That said, I’m not agreeing, not disagreeing with Belinda ~ I’m just putting it out there for everyone to make their own decision. I’ve also used rubbing alcohol to remove road tar splatters from my car will not ill effects to the manufacturers paint job.

  11. Lisa says

    Hi quick question about this combination!

    How does the ammonia or vinegar used in the recipe affect the rubber in the windshield wipers? I’ve been considering using a vinegar based solution to prevent frost on my windshield in the wintertime (I’m in Minnesota, and we have a lot of winter), but I don’t want to do something that will corrode the rubber/plastic on and around my windshield.


  12. says

    What a fantastic idea. I hate paying for the blue stuff and it often also includes a special trip to the store.

    One thought I had on the container. I think I’d rather re-use an old windshield washer fluid bottle only because it has a child-resistant cap. My vinegar bottle has a pop off top and with the prevalence of blue colored juices and kids drinks, it might just be too tempting for some.

  13. Linda says

    I ran out of solution (just like you) as I was filling up my reservoir the other day. I thought to myself-I wonder if Jillee has a recipe. Your timing is always spot on!

  14. Rob says

    The ammonia should have some ability to lower the freezing point of the solution (in addition to being better than vinegar for streak-free windows). An easy way to find out is to fill a 12 oz glass with water, added 2.4 teaspoons (0.8 tablespoons) of ammonia, 1/3 teaspoon dish soap, mix and stick in the freezer (reducing recipe by 90%). BTW, I add food coloring to all my homemade solutions: blue for glass cleaner, pink for all purpose, purple for bleach cleaner. This makes it easier for me and the kids to just grab what is needed by color rather than always checking the writing on the bottle. Also, acetic acid (vinegar) is no more natural than ammonia (NH3), they are both synthetically made. Nothing wrong with that!

  15. Sam says

    Male gear head checking in here…very good post, but it might be better if this mixture was tweaked a bit. First, I would not use Dawn or any other dish soap in this mix. Dawn can dry out and deteriorate the rubber weather stripping found around windows and doors on a vehicle. An automotive shampoo (or baby shampoo if you don’t want to make the purchase for car shampoo) would be more suitable. There is also a theory, while still unproven, that dish soap can also remove wax from a cars’ paint. Plan white vinegar would be preferred over ammonia as well. Feel free to add the alcohol from the start as the combination of the vinegar and alcohol will help prevent hard water spots from showing up on the windshield. This mixture could also be used for all glass exteriors of the vehicle.

    Great site, even for single guys! I haven’t bought laundry detergent in almost a year!

    • Gwyn says

      Why do you prefer the vinegar over ammonia? Also I was thinking the recipe was calling for dawn because it has grease cutting properties, baby shampoo wouldn’t have those same qualities though car wash might…do you think any of these are important for windshield washer fluid? It occurred to me that this type of ingredient might be more important for a car wash or window wash than than this but I don’t really know. Sounds like you might have some experience and knowledge on this.

      • Sam says

        I have seen ammonia harm different vehicle wax and paint while I’ve never seen diluted white vinegar ever be an issue. White vinegar is great to get out water spots right after you wash a vehicle. There is no definite answer for any of this though as it really depends on the concentration and then on the vehicle itself. Some vehicles may be fine while others could have flaking paint within a year. Newer cars would probably be fine, but I personally wouldn’t risk it.

        I wouldn’t worry about the grease fighting ability of Dawn opposed to baby shampoo. The only thing Dawn will remove that baby shampoo wouldn’t would be tree sap.

  16. Karen H says

    ok you chemist and car detail buffs out there, what about the alcohol and vinegar and ammonia on car paint, hoses, and the wiper blades and COULD you use jet dry as rain x (what is rain x anyhow, the ingredients I mean I know the product)

  17. Cath says

    Andrea has a good point–these days adding blue food coloring to a liquid isn’t going to signal “poison.” There are too many artificially blue foods around. I’d say big, clear labeling with a permanent marker and the addition of a Mr. Yuk sticker, taped down. You should consistently use those Mr Yuk stickers and discuss their meaning with your kids. Even if you don’t have kids of your own, you never know when they might be in the house (neighbors, guests, grandchildren).

  18. says

    I’m a male also, great article! I ran into your site when I was doing research for my website I live in the Nor CA area and I’ve got to let you know that the Ammonia mixture causes the windows to fog when used on the inside of the glass (and I mean fogged badly), so your readers don’t want to use it for the interior of the car! I know that your article is for window reservoir fluid which is for Bandaid cleaning of the exterior of the glass while driving, but there seems to be a lot of talk about using it for the interior in the comments section. What I’ve used after repeatedly trying different mixtures (vinegar, ammonia and the like) is using rubbing alcohol/70% (about a 50/50 solution, mixed with water). It works awesome and it gets the windows clean with no streaking or fogging at all! I found this solution when I was trying to find what they used for cleaning the big screen T.V.’s (you know those little 2oz. bottles that they sell for $12 bucks down at Walmart or Target) It turns out that they use a solution of 50% Alcohol and 50% Water. It worked great for the T.V. and computer screens (no streaking, staining or any other risky behavior) so I tried it on my car’s windows and it worked stupendously!

    Keep up with the good work!

  19. cty says

    I think the main reason wiper fluid is blue is so you can more easily see how much you have in your reservoir.
    I’m guessing the vinegar won’t hurt rubber wiper blades (assuming that is what they are made of) because I do a lot of heavy cleaning with vinegar & it does not affect my rubber gloves.

  20. Darrin McNeice says

    Some asked if the ammonia or vinegar would ruin the rubber strips. Not likely in this dilution. Petroleum products such as Vaseline, gas, diesel, etc. are bad for rubber. I would test some of this on a part of the car that is not normally visible, maybe under the hood to see if it harms your paint. I would not put any food coloring in as it would dry on your car and leave coloration. Probably not permanent, but that depends on your paint, wax, etc. Why chance it. Do you keep your automotive cleaners, solvents, etc. where you store your kids drinks? If not, then you should know what is in the container. Mark it and put it up on a high shelf. It sounds like a good recipe but I would add some alcohol so it doesn’t freeze in the winter. Some folks who are likely to experience sub zero temperatures and are forgetful would be better off buying the correct stuff so they dont ruin the tank, tubes, jets, etc of their washer system. In a pinch, I have used water to fill the tank. Just make sure you use it all before a freeze.

  21. Kathy says

    I used to make our windshield washing detergent UNTIL we were traveling in the winter and when we went to use the fluid, on our salt spattered windshield, it had frozen!!! What a dangerous mess! I did NOT, however, have the alcohol in it. I don’t think my husband will ever let me make this again – any way you make it.

  22. says

    This is one of the most useful blogs I have stumbled on this entire month. I live in Colorado and every season produces weather that requires extra special care for vehicles. It’s dangerous to get caught in a storm with vision impairment. I appreciated the tip to add food coloring. I have a little boy so I want to make sure everything in my cabinets are properly labeled! Great work, this is a project I will definitely try.

  23. Telina says

    No, no, no. Do not use vinegar in your windshield washer system. Vinegar can/does/will over time deteriorate parts of the system. That are certain types of rubber that are used in the internal part of your washer system that will break down. Trust me, you do not want that bill on your hands. It’s not cheap and eliminates all the money you saved by making your own wiper fluid and more.

    With the extreme lows we are subject to here in Canada, we have no choice but to use something that has chemical to stop freezing on the windshield. The mixture I use for winter is 2700 ml of water, 300 ml of methyl hydrate and 1 teaspoon of dish liquid. It may not be as environmentally friendly as I would like but it works out to .99 cents as opposed to the $3 + it costs here for store bought wiper fluid. If you’re lucky you get in on sale for $2.49. Summer time mix, replace the methyl hydrate with water. We have been doing this for years now with no adverse effects.

    I will say that we did try the ammonia in place of the methyl hydrate but in our case the ammonia ate through the wipers very quickly and froze fairly quickly on the windshield as well.

    I dislike that our mixture is not environmentally friendly, unfortunately there are times when one thing has to give way to another and in this case what we save mattered more. Due to our business we have 5 vehicles on the road on a daily basis. That’s a lot of money saved in a year.

    • Gwyn says

      I think the idea was to use rubbing alcohol in the mixture to keep it from freezing. Would that be a better replacement for the methyl hydrate or do you think that would eat away at the internal parts too?

      • Telina says

        Where we live it costs about the same for the rubbing alcohol as it does for the methyl hydrate but we have to use double the amount to get the same results. The rubbing alcohol does work … it’s just not as cost effective for us as the mh is.

  24. SandiB says

    I should have known when I stumbled upon a recipe for homemade windshield washer fluid that it would come from you, Jillee!! You are awesome! Love your blog, love your recipes, and I haven’t purchased laundry detergent in MONTHS! Love the savings! How did you know my car just ran out of washer fluid? LOL! Keep it coming, friend!

  25. Wendy says

    Living in Florida, I just use filtered or Reverse Osmosis water and a speck of Rain X that I bought for adding to the reservoir. I haven’t had a problem with love bugs or anything else that flies and smooshes on the windshield. I’d be a bit leery of using a dish soap, for no other reason that it might eventually clog the wiper tubing.

    Love the site, though! I can’t wait to try some DIY stuff :)

  26. Linda L says

    Great ideas! I am adding 1 up of isopropyl alcohol to this as well, so it doesn’t freeze in the winter. If I make it this way now, then I won’t forget to make it this way later.:)

  27. Leah says

    Just an observation. Methanol is a solvent and it will strip paint. If it’s in the commercial window fluids (in small amounts I sure) I would guess that the rubbing alcohol would be fine (in small amounts). I think I’m going to have to try this since my Jeep is telling me that my washer fluid is low…..and I’m too lazy, and to busy, to stop and get more!

  28. says

    Ammonia is in most of your window cleaners… Matter of fact, unless you specifically look for a window cleaner without it, you’ve been using it all along. One reason why you can clean almost anything with Windex. Ammonia is an excellent cleaner.

    Alcohol is safe, too. Great for a de-icer and, if you suspect ‘bad gas’ during these constant gas price ups and downs, you can pour a bottle of alcohol in your tank to absorb water. Also sometimes helpful in winter because you can sometimes get water drips off the pumps.. Don’t have to worry about a few drips, but if it happens often you might want to put it in just in case.

    And the dishwashing soap isn’t a concern… Not only is it a very minute amount but it’ll keep lines clearer (grease cutter) and, alone, would stop the freezing process.

    All in all, when you compare what’s on the market to the creative DIYs, many contain a similar but more natural product and in smaller amounts than companies are using. We just aren’t always aware of it because we don’t check or we just can’t understand all the gibberish they put on their products.

  29. Linda Corbin says

    this recipe is what gas stations used back before windshield stuff was a commercial product! Back when THEY pumped your gas and washed the windows!! Yup, I’m dating myself and I sure miss some of that service!! Esp. in winter.

  30. Michelle says

    Great formula! I’m using vinegar because it’s safer with little kids and animals around. I also wrote your recipe on the jug. Just love your good things! Pinterest and your site are my favourite go-to for finding the things I need for my home and family.

  31. Susan says

    I made up some of this in a spray bottle for my back windshield. I’m not sure if the read window defroster works (it’s a new to me car) and the switch for it is weird. So I made up the spray to do the back window and side windows to clear off! Smaller percentages but we’ll see!


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