by Paul Williams

Rain-X De-Icer
A bottle of Rain-X De-Icer Spray was sent to me for examination in the last half of November, 2001. This is a new product from Pennzoil-Quaker State created to make life easier for Canadian motorists as we do battle with winter driving conditions. Rain-X De-Icer’s promotional material promises that it “repels ice, snow, frost, etc. from automotive glass.”

I kept it in my car, ready to use.

Surprisingly (miraculously, even) for day after day, and week after week, no snow or ice appeared on my car. The skies were blue, people were skateboarding, and temperatures were spring-like.

This Rain-X is mighty powerful stuff, I thought, as I considered putting my old British sports car back on the road for some top-down motoring. Finally, the joke was over, and our reliable Ottawa climate was too much even for Rain-X. One morning in December, freezing rain cocooned my car in ice.

Rain-X De-Icer sounds like a great idea. You apply it, and it “helps wipe out ice, snow, on contact.” You can adjust the nozzle to “spray” for frost or “stream” for heavy ice. It’s supposed to “melt ice and frost fast.”

The instructions say to start the car, then fire up your defrost (front and rear, I presume). While the car’s warming up, you spray Rain-X De-Icer on the glass surfaces, including side windows, rear window and mirrors.

Results for me were unremarkable; so don’t throw away your scraper just yet. The ice was typical Ottawa-style, which means thick. Side windows were as tough to clean as they always were. The windshield was easier, but don’t forget, I had the defrost on full blast. Similarly, the rear window was no problem, but the defroster was working there, too. Mirrors were still tricky.

I suspect that if I left the car to warm up with the heater on, the ice would be easy to remove with or without Rain-X De-Icer. In which case a remote car starter might be a better idea.

A few days later we had frost. Again I tried the Rain-X De-Icer. On frost, I’m happy to report, the stuff works well. Spray it on and the frost melts instantly.

An added bonus with this product is that it leaves a coating of Rain-X glass treatment on the glass surfaces. Once you’re underway, the glass treatment does help to repel rain, freezing rain and sleet. I use Rain-X in the summer as a stand-alone product, and find it very effective. Motorcyclists typically use it on their helmet visors to repel rain.

Another way to get the glass treatment is to use Rain-X windshield washer fluid. At $3.69 for the big container, it’s more expensive than standard fluid, but it will help to keep the windshield clear.

But back to the Rain-X De-Icer. In addition to my experience of its limited de-icing capabilities, I have another concern. Like windshield washer fluids, this product contains methyl alcohol, a highly poisonous substance used to prevent freezing. Unlike windshield washer fluid, you spray the de-icer by hand. To my mind, this makes it more difficult to control. In fact, the trigger on the bottle often deposited the contents on my hand.

According to the instructions on the bottle, inhaling or ingesting methyl alcohol may cause blindness. Health Canada goes one step further and says it may cause death. Get some in your eyes, which would seem easy to do while spraying the product on a windy day, and likewise you’ve got problems. Accidentally inhale the spray and you’re also in trouble. It says so on the label.

Needless to say, children should not handle products like these. Nor should poisonous products like windshield washer fluid be kept in the passenger compartment of vehicles that transport children.

How about something a little less toxic, Quaker State?

Rain-X De-Icer is $5.99 for a 473 mL bottle. Rain-X glass treatment is $6.99 for 200 ml of wipe-on solution or $10.99 for 473 ml of spray-on solution. Be careful you don’t mistake the glass treatment for the De-Icer – the bottles are virtually the same.

Rain-X products are available in major automotive retail stores across Canada.

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