May 2015 Issue
Windshield Care: Clean and Repel Rain
A number of products promise to clean your windshield and repel rain. A few actually deliver. Plexi-Clear, All Kleer and 210 top the list.
I never made a landing in rain until after I had my private pilot ticket—I’d never even thought about what it would be like flying final at 60 knots while peering through a fuzzy windshield, trying to sort out lining up with the runway and the flare. My first landing in rain (light) wasn’t fun. Not having a windshield wiper didn’t make sense. As I gained experience, I sort of figured out how to deal with rain on the windshield when landing, but the results often weren’t pretty.
Some years later, a buddy picked me up at Detroit Metro Airport in his Alfa Romeo. We drove westbound on I-94 through a driving rainstorm and he didn’t turn on the windshield wipers—yet the rain magically swept itself off the windshield. I was astonished; visibility was better than it would have been in my car, with the wipers operating. That’s how I found out about and became a convert to rain repellents, in that case Rain-X.
Rain-X seemed like the perfect answer to the problem of rain on aircraft windshields. I found that a lot of pilots used it. The only problem was, it contained acetone, a chemical that damages Plexiglas. As an aircraft owner who would like to delay replacing the windshield as long as possible, that ruled out Rain-X.
That led to a search for a product that was safe to use on Plexiglas and would cause water to bead up and roll away as does Rain-X on glass. The search uncovered a surprising number of such products—including the fairly new Rain-X Plastic.
Unfortunately, when I read the instructions, I found that the windshield had to be clean and dry before applying Rain-X Plastic. That meant a two-step process—clean the windshield and then apply the rain repellent. Of course, that led to the question as to whether there were rain repellent products suitable for Plexiglas that could also be used to clean the windshield—and this article. Being a good, tightwad pilot, I didn’t want to have to buy two products, one for cleaning and one for rain repellent.
Clean and Repel
A search of the Aircraft Spruce website uncovered six Plexiglas rain repellent products that were also advertised as windshield cleaners. I ordered all six and set out to test each one. The products I examined were 210 Plastic Cleaner and Polish, Plexiclear, All Kleer Cleaner and Polish, Rain Away Glass Treatment, LP Acrylic Polish and Sealant, and Pilot’s View Polish.
The test protocol was first to see how well each product worked to clean Plexiglas windshields on older airplanes—I wanted to see how the products worked on windshields that had been around the block a few times—and had bug splat that had been dried on for a matter of weeks. I used the products to clean sections of the windshields of an Aeronca Chief, Piper J-3 and Cessna 195. To check on rain repellent qualities, I used the products to clean and polish sections of the windshield of a Cessna 210 and flew it in rain.
When I went to use the products, I discovered that two, LP Acrylic Polish and Sealant and Rain Away Glass Treatment, were not cleaners—their instructions called for cleaning the windshield prior to applying the product. While effectively cleaning a Plexiglas windshield can be done with water and a clean, dry cotton or microfiber cloth, I was looking for a one-step process. I did observe that one cleaning and polishing product, All Kleer, had a note calling for removing “excess dirt or grit on the windshield to prevent scratching.” I thought that made good sense for any of the products and did not disqualify it as a cleaner.
As rain repellents, all of the products did an adequate job of causing rain water to bead up and run off, greatly improving visibility over an untreated windshield.
210 Plastic Cleaner. For $8.70 you get a seven-ounce aerosol can of 210 Plastic Cleaner and Polish that promises to clean, polish and leave a protective coating. It’s a spray-and-wipe cleaner and polish. The only description of its working components provided is that it “contains petroleum distillates.”
Easy to Use
I found it to be one of the easiest of the products to use, although it would run off vertical portions of windshields quickly. For dried-on bug splat, simply spraying and waiting 30 seconds or so soaked the mess and allowed the great majority of it to be wiped off cleanly.
After using it, my note was “fast and effective.” It was a satisfactory rain repellent.
Plexi-Clear. With an imposing title, Plexi-Clear Anti Static Aircraft Plexiglas Cleaner Protectant and Polish contains a “propane/butane/isobutane blend and ethanol,” and promises to leave a microscopic, high-luster soil retarding and water-repellent finish. At $13.60 for a 19-ounce spray aerosol can, it lived up to its billing. It’s a spray-and-wipe product, with clear instructions to spray on a liberal amount and wait a few minutes to soften up heavy bug accumulations.
Those directions proved to be accurate—it was effective for bug removal. I liked the fact that it warned against using paper towels and how easy it is to scratch Plexiglas. As a rain repellent, it was satisfactory. Overall, I felt that its combination of price and effectiveness made it the best of the bunch.
All Kleer, “The Plastic Windshield Cleaner that leaves the miracle finish,” contains isopropyl alcohol as its working ingredient. It comes in an eight-ounce squeeze bottle for $5.80.
With a consistency somewhere between cream and paste, it took some rubbing to get rid of bug splat. It made up for that minor shortcoming by being slightly better than the others as a rain repellent.
Rain Away Glass Treatment turned out not to be a cleaner, so it’s not recommended. At $5.95 for a four-ounce bottle, we were surprised at how much of the bottle we had to use for an application. Its active ingredient is acidified isopropyl alcohol.
As a rain repellent only, Rain Away was satisfactory. The label indicates its effectiveness improves with additional applications and calls for them to be made every four to five weeks. We considered the note redundant—one of the secrets of rain repellents is that they need to be applied regularly and they often get better with subsequent applications.
LP Acrylic. Priced at $17.50 for a 16-ounce squeeze bottle, LP Acrylic Polish and Sealant was another product that turned out not to be a cleaner, disqualifying it. Slightly thicker than water, the polyethylene polymer formula is, however, a very effective rain repellent.
Lloyd’s Pilot’s View Polish and Cleaner came in a one-ounce pump spray bottle that was the size of the complimentary glasses cleaners one gets from the optician, and cost $4.75. (A more economical size, 27 ounces for $11.90, is available.)
Directions are minimal—spray on and wipe off. The active ingredients are “ammonia, alcohol and solvents” and the label promises a “200% vision improvement.” Because ammonia can attack Plexiglas, we do not recommend it.
Pilot’s View was marginally effective as a cleaner; taking work to get bugs and water spots off the windshield. As a rain repellent, it was satisfactory.
For the combination windshield cleaner and rain repellent my nod goes to Plexi-Clear. Its price gave it the advantage over 210. Its ease of use gave it the nod over All Kleer, although I thought All Kleer was a slightly better rain repellent.