My Chemical Romance

In the 1950s and ’60s, Americans were promised “better living through chemistry.” Today, public sentiment more aptly supports a mantra like “better living through social media.” At least that’s the way we act. But we’re surrounded by some really cool chemical technology—some of which goes seemingly unnoticed by a big chunk of consumers. Maybe we’re too distracted by our smartphones and Facebook feeds to attend to some of the more hidden and amazing chemical innovations that surround us (and no, I’m not talking about Vicodin).

When I got my first sports car after college, I discovered a glass treatment called Rain-X. Some of you are surely familiar with it, while others may be completely clueless. More likely you’ve heard of it but never used it or seen it in action. What does it do? It dramatically increases driver visibility, beading water off any glass surface. Because of the wind resistance hitting a car’s windshield, Rain-X is especially effective on this surface. The rain or condensation beads and then wind resistance pushes it off the glass. It’s that simple.

Wikipedia describes Rain-X as a “synthetic hydrophobic surface-applied product that causes water to bead.” In other words, it’s basically wax for glass. If freshly and properly applied, Rain-X prevents you from having to use your windshield wipers. It’s that good. And, if you’re a obsessive car-loving tech geek like me, it’s super fun to watch in action.

rain-xRain-X works by saturating the microscopic pores in glass with its chemically bonded silicon polymers. This is what prevents water from sticking to the surface of the glass. In addition, insects, mud, and road debris are also repelled. Instead of sticking to your glass, these elements basically slide right off (this is a great reason to also use it on your headlamps and taillights). Thus, automotive glass surfaces don’t simply sport amazingly improved visibility during rain or snow, but they’re also safer and more pleasant during dry periods—because there’s less crap sticking to your windshield and blocking your view. (If you still suffer a foggy or glare-ridden windshield after properly applying Rain-X, try cleaning the interior of your glass.)

As long as you re-apply Rain-X every month or so, you’re in business. The frequency of treatment depends on how much rain the treated surfaces have received since the prior application (drivers in Portland and London will be buying more Rain-X than those in Phoenix). More rain equals a shorter life span and more applications (especially rain encountered during full-speed highway or freeway driving). If you experience a fog or glare after application, it means you haven’t properly removed the overspray. The combination of a wet sponge, followed by a dry paper towel, will take care of this, leaving your glass as clear as you’ve ever seen it. And it will remain clean for much longer than the untreated windshield on your neighbor’s car.

This probably isn’t true for most drivers, but windshield wipers give me a headache. They mess with my field of view. Their incessant swiping action I find to be obnoxious and distracting (and drivers have enough distractions). With Rain-X, I rarely use my wipers. In fact, regular applications of this 20th century molecular magic can prevent you from ever using your wipers.

Rain-X is one of the most inexpensive and easy ways to improve the safety of your vehicle while also getting some cheap entertainment in terms of the beading action on your windshield. Whether you drive an entry-level econobox or a $100,000 European saloon, you owe it to yourself—and the safety of your family—to give it a try.

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Curt Robbins

Curt Robbins is author of the following books from Amazon Kindle:

You can follow him on Twitter at @CurtRobbins, read his AV-related blog posts at rAVe Publications, and view his photos on Flickr.