You’re Using Your Ice Scraper Wrong

You're Using Your Ice Scraper Wrong

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Photo: Natalya Chumak (Shutterstock)

I grew up in upstate New York without a garage, so I consider myself fairly skilled in the art of car de-icing—or so I thought. Ice storms have become more common in Portland since I moved here over a decade ago, and with each storm I get less confident in my ability to liberate my windshield. As it turns out, I wasn’t just out of practice; I was also using my ice scraper wrong.

Score the ice before scraping it

If you’ve ever tried to scrape a thick layer of hard ice off your windshield, you know that the hardest part is getting under it; until you can get a corner of the scraper blade in between your window and the ice, it’s not going anywhere. This is exactly why most ice scrapers have ridges on one side of the blade. You’re supposed to use them to “score” the surface of the ice. It’s almost like perforating a piece of paper you want to tear cleanly; scoring the surface breaks up the tension, which makes it significantly easier to scrape off with the flat side. I had no idea that’s what the ridges were for, but in my defense, I was never any good at physics.

The correct technique here is pretty simple. First, it always helps to start your car and get the defrost going to attack the ice from both sides. (If your doors are iced shut, pouring warm water over them should loosen things up enough to get them open.) Take out your scraper and go to town on your windows with the ridged side of the blade; making a crosshatch pattern is your best bet for really thick ice. When you’re done scoring the ice with the ridged side, flip the blade over and scrape away with the flat side. It should break apart with little effort. If not, you can try whacking the surface of the ice with the ridged side of the blade—this should be enough to physically break it up a little, especially if you’ve already scored it.

The next time you find yourself staring down a fully iced-over windshield—while already running late, of course—be sure to flip your scraper blade over and let the ridges do the hard work for you.

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