The Best Ice Scraper
If you ever need to clean off an icebound car in a hurry, go fetch the Hopkins 14039 Sub Zero Extendable 50" Crossover Snow Broom before the next storm blows in.
After more than 15 hours of research and attacking ice in single-digit temperatures, we found that the Crossover Snow Broom was the best overall ice-destroyer we could find. This extendable combination ice scraper/snow broom clears ice fast with a sharp blade and deep, ice-scoring teeth. And the angle between the blade and the handle maximizes the leverage you can use to penetrate thick ice. Measuring just 36” in its compressed form, it will easily fit in most cars. (Drivers of sub-subcompact cars or all-weather tricycles might want to opt for the glovebox-sized Hopkins Subzero 14012 Avalanche Ice Scraper.)
Who should buy this?
If you have one already, you probably don’t need another, but there are three reasons to upgrade your ice scraper. Get a scraper with a longer handle to reach farther and to get more leverage; get a compact or extendable scraper with a more comfortable, durable handle to keep your hands happy; or get a scraper with long ice-breaking teeth to score the ice before scraping and make the whole process faster.
Don’t bother upgrading to get a scraper with a wider blade; for this usage size doesn’t matter. None of the scrapers’ blades maintained enough contact with the windshield to scrape a swath more than 2” wide during testing. The problem: ice scrapers are straight while windshield glass is curved. Although some ice scrapers are designed to have flexible blades (chiefly the IceDozer Classic), we found in our testing that none of them could scrape a straight, open path through windshield ice the full width of the blade.
Some of us are compelled to scrape ice off cold cars in the morning on a regular basis. If you already have an ice scraper you like that clears ice as fast as you desire, keep it. The most efficient scraper in our sample cleared thick ice off a 750 square inch window (4840 square centimeters) in a little over three minutes; the least efficient took slightly more than ten and a half minutes. The typical little brass-bladed plastic scrapers with 2.5” blades (sold by CJ Industries for $4) cleared the test window in five and a half minutes.
How we picked
I began my research and found… nothing. Although there are plenty of crowd-sourced discussions about ice scrapers and a few reviews of individual scrapers, I could not find a single article which compared the performance of different ice scrapers head-to-head. A few scrapers—the CJ Industries F101 Fantastic Scraper, the IceDozer—were mentioned multiple times, but were never in the same place at the same time. It was like trying to sit your roommates Clark Kent and Superman down for a chat about who’s leaving dirty dishes in the sink.
Furthermore, there are no “experts” on ice scrapers. They aren’t big-ticket items, so they are neglected by professional auto writers. Although thousands of people have to remove ice from their cars every day, no one has taken the time to sit down and think about the best way to remove ice…until now.
I gathered the names of the ice scrapers most frequently mentioned by posters on the Sweethome, Jalopnik, Autogeek, Popular Mechanics, and Popular Science; more conventional car publications such as Road and Track did not offer ice-scraper advice in reviews or discussion forums. I also added in the top ten Amazon.com models that did not make it into any other forums.
I ended up with 15 ice scrapers: four telescoping-handle plastic scrapers, six scrapers on non-adjustable long handles, seven small hand-held scrapers, and a plastic blade attached to a mitt. They ranged from the $4 CJ Industries F101 Fantastic Ice Scraper, which was just a plastic handle with a piece of brass wedged in the head, to the $25 Blizzerator, a massive black ice-weapon with built-in snow brush, squeegee, and a telescoping handle that expands to 56”.
The question is, do any commercial scrapers work better than the “Justin Bieber Unchained!” disk that your ex-girlfriend left in your car stereo the night she took off with the fried-dough guy? Do they make it easier to scrape ice? Are they more effective? Are they faster? Do the telescoping handles work any better than your arm, or do they collapse under pressure?
To test their performance, I iced up the rear windshield of my 2004 Toyota Sienna using a spray bottle filled with water in the midst of the great Polar Vortex of 2014, then timed how long it took for me to scrape each while wearing thick winter gloves. I also took notes on ergonomics and design touches that helped get ice off quicker. (Click here for more testing details).
The Crossover Snow Broom owes its swift performance to its well thought-out design. The head is offset 20º from the handle, a good angle for slipping the blade under ice, and its slightly-bowed handle makes scraping feel easier. The long handle allows for good leverage while the cushioned grip just below the scraper head gives user a secure grip.
The extendable handle is also well-designed. It doesn’t slip or turn, and the adjuster button works well down to at least 5ºF (-15ºC). In its collapsed state, the Crossover Snow Broom is 36” long, which is long enough for an average-sized woman to reach across a minivan hood; extended, it reaches 50”.
The snow broom easily rotates and locks to either be parallel with the handle or perpendicular. While I did not evaluate snow clearance for ice scrapers, this type of handle allows users to push or pull snow, not just sweep it from side to side. That could be useful.
The only real flaw to the Crossover Snow Broom is that it’s difficult to use one-handed. It’s just hard to get enough force to effectively scrape ice without having one hand on the foam padding and one hand on the plastic handle below the brush head; the tool is long and unwieldy. That’s a small quibble for such an effective tool.
Feedback on the Crossover Snow Broom is sparse. Two Amazon reviewers called it an “Excellent Snow Brush” and “The best I’ve ever used,” while one reviewer spent a considerable portion of his life writing a screed against the curve of the handle.
The runner up
It’s about the same length in its compact form (38” vs. 36” for the Hopkins model), although it extends farther than the Hopkins scraper. They have similar-shaped scraping heads with ice-scraping teeth that are about the same size and shape, and they took roughly the same amount of time to scrape the sample window. They’re both roughly the same shade of fashionable royal blue. Both feature brush heads at the end opposite the scraper that can rotate, although the Dart’s head can rotate to four positions (straight, perpendicular, and two 45º angles on either side of the pole), while the Hopkins brush only has two positions. The Dart also has a squeegee opposite its brush. Both scrapers also have padded handles—but the Dart’s handle is padded along the entire non-extending outer handle, allowing a variety of hand positions, the Hopkins brush is only padded for a hand-width near the scraper end. The Dart’s ice scraper is removable, though, while the Hopkins’ scraper is not.
So why, then, if the Dart is the same or slightly better than the Hopkins in so many ways, is the Dart scraper not the pick? One simple reason: it feels heavier due to the way you use it. The Dart’s handle is straight, not angled like the Hopkins brush, so it’s harder to keep it in the best position for scraping. But it isn’t just the angle: I was surprised when I weighed them and discovered that both scrapers were roughly 22 oz. (624 grams). The Dart is bottom-heavy; most of its mass is concentrated in the brush/squeegee end, making it harder to hold up for scraping ice. By contrast, the Hopkins brush end isn’t much heavier than the scraper end; its center of balance is roughly in the middle.
This balance business may not sound that important for an object that weighs fewer than two pounds until you remember how much time you spend hoisting an ice scraper to chest level and above. It’s tiring to have the weighted handle dragging your arms down. The ice scraper can be removed from the handle, eliminating the weight problem, but then you can’t use the handle’s leverage to break up window ice with the ice teeth.
Amazon reviewers praise the Dart for being “heavy duty,” “durable,” and for having an easy-to use latching telescoping handle. If you’re confident of your upper body strength, you’ll be happy with the Dart. If you’d rather save your strength for hoisting your iPhone, turn to the Hopkins Crossover instead.
For larger cars
This massive ice-eating monster is 44” (or 112 cm) in its most compact form: fully extended, it’s more than 55” (or 140 cm). You might be able to stuff it into your Smart Car, but only if you chop off the tops of your knees.
The scraper is quite sharp and features deep ice-scoring teeth. Be careful, though. As its sole Amazon reviewer put it, “when using the brush or squeegee, careful of the scraper. It’s fairly sharp on the leading edge and could catch a coat and tear it as you move the Blizzerator back and forth.”
The Blizzerator’s snow end comes with a slide-off squeegee brush cover for snow perfectionists and an attached brush that can swivel 90º to sweep snow off the roof of your car. The swivel is important; it’s much easier to clear snow from high places by pushing or pulling it instead of sweeping from side to side.
The Blizzerator’s one flaw is its extension system. During testing at ca. 5º F (-15º C), the clicking, rocking lever switch which locks the extension handle was stiff. That stiffness made it hard to tell if the button was over the hole for locking the handle, and it was difficult to tell how far the locking switch had to be down the shaft to lock it in its compact position—an unsteady situation in very cold weather. (For the record, the end of the switch shaft needs to be about three-fourths of an inch down the metal shaft from the end of the brush end to lock.)
The Blizzerator got a Popular Mechanics Editor’s Choice Award for Top Car Tech of SEMA 2013, and Fox’s Car Czar Doug Brauner appreciates the Blizzerator’s hugeness in this video. The blizzerator is also popular with Canadians, gaining praise from the Halifax Chronicle and a Quebec City writer who gushes about Canadian winters.
The step down
It’s the same ice scraper you’ll find on our top pick, minus the handle and the broom. It has the same sharp blade with crunching teeth and a padded handle, the same side wiper-notches, the same superfluous “Do not use scraper on painted surfaces” warning. It’s just shorter. Since you lose leverage, it will take you slightly longer to clear your windows using this scraper than if you use the Crossover Snow Broom (four minutes vs. the Snow Broom’s 3:10 in testing), but at least you’ll still have room to sit inside your car once you’re finished.
How we tested
There was really only one way to test an ice scraper: scrape ice. On two successive clear days when the ambient outdoor temperature was between 5° and 12º F (-15 to -11º C), I took the scrapers (stored overnight in an unheated garage) outside and examined how well they performed on a single swipe to a slanted windshield, and how quickly they cleared one of two angled, curved, 2004 Toyota Sienna minivan rear windows (750 square inches, or 4840 square centimeters). Those particular windows on that particular vehicle was chosen because it was a large enough area that differences in scraping speed would be obvious but not so large that the tester would become exhausted, and because if one or more of these scrapers did scrape up that particular window (as some reviewers claim happens with the CJ Industries Fantastic) no one would be upset that Junior’s view out of the backseat would be slightly marred (except for Junior).
The minivan window was iced with a typical household water sprayer bought at a local hardware store which I typically use for perking up desiccating houseplants. For each test, the windows were sprayed three times in varying linear and spiral patterns over its entire surface with the sprayer held 6” from the glass surface. The spray was allowed to freeze between spraying; it took less than a minute for each of three layers of ice to form. The ice layer was roughly equivalent to a very heavy frost, or a light freezing rain. The windshield was sprayed twice at the beginning of testing for the single-stroke tests. The minivan was parked in the shade throughout testing so that the greenhouse effect would not warm the windows from the inside, making the ice more slippery for some scrapers than others. Between tests, I sprayed the windows to reform ice, then went inside to type in results and wait for my fingers to turn pink again.
I used either double-layer ragg wool mittens or a combination of fleece gloves and Goretex overmitts during testing, depending on which was dry at the time.
Scrapers were evaluated on the quality of their scraping—whether the entire blade contacted the window, whether it made a clear or streaky path, how wide the scraping path was—their reach, their ease of use, and the time it took to scrape the minivan window.
I quickly learned that there wasn’t much difference in the quality of a single stroke. None of the flat-bladed scrapers made particularly good contact with the curved windshield. Most of them only could clear a path 2” wide no matter how wide the blade was; several scraped only streaky, stripe-riddled stutter-paths through the ice. I could also reach to the center of the minivan windshield with every scraper, down to the petite 8.5” (22 cm) CJ Industries Fantastic scraper.
*The Dart arrived later than the other scrapers so was tested on a different day, which may have affected our result. Click here for a longer explanation.
Apart from ice-clearing speed, the factors that differentiated this field of plastic straight-edges were their handles and their windshield wiper notches. Plain plastic handles were slippery and hard to hold with thick mittens; “comfort grip” squishy foam made scraper shafts easier to grasp. For the scrapers with extendable handles, the shape of the shaft mattered. The Blizzerator’s round extension shaft allows the handle adjustment button to rotate around the shaft and get off-kilter from the extension’s notches, making it awkward and annoying to adjust while wearing those darned thick mittens. Other extendable models, such as the Hopkins Subzero Crossover Snow Broom and the OXO Good Grips Extendable Twister Snowbrush, have flattened or oval handles which eliminate this problem.
Windshield-wiper notches turned out to be surprisingly helpful for clearing the last stubborn bits of ice from the bottom edge of the window—the sort of ice that you try to ignore but looks painfully bright if you drive towards the sun in the morning. The notches can be shoved right up next to the window stripping, clearing the underlying window fast. You’d think this would be possible with the conventional flat scrapers as well, but the notch-edge scrapers seemed to have an edge, so to speak.
Two ice scrapers performed nearly as well as the top three picks. The $7 Mallory 518 16″ SnoWEEvel Snow Brush cleared the window fast with its sharp blade and biting teeth, but its smooth plastic handle was slippery and hard to grip. Still, its blade did a better job of making a clear, wide path on the windshield than any other scraper—about 2 inches or 5 centimeters wide, or slightly less than ⅔ of the three-inch/nine-centimeter blade. The Mallory was also the most compact model I tested which featured a snow brush (16” end to end.) Still, the slippery handle makes it annoying and potentially hazardous if it flies out of your hand while scraping. Consider this scraper only if you never wear gloves or mittens; otherwise, pay the extra buck for the Avalanche.
The Innovation Factory IceDozer Classic 2.0 Ice Scraper also did a splendid job of dispensing with ice, clearing the window in just 3:45. It would have been faster, though, if I could have used its large ice-scoring teeth. The IceDozer Classic has two sets of ice-scoring teeth; one batch that are less than half as tall as the Hopkins teeth, one set that sits in line with a kind of plastic wall that makes it impossible to use their full height for attacking window ice. The IceDozer Classic comes with helpful instructions about how to hold and move the IceDozer Classic to deal with thin, medium, and thick ice, and its fluted plastic handles were well-located and easy to grip, which make up somewhat for the fact that the black scraping blade isn’t particularly sharp, and the gray “Frost Peeler” blade doesn’t slide under the ice and pry it up like typical scrapers: it pushes ice away. Because you push the ice instead of prying it, the IceDozer Classic virtually impossible to use it one-handed; you just can’t get enough force behind it. Still, I didn’t find it as effective as other scrapers which had larger, more accessible teeth. I hope that Innovation Factory redesigns the IceDozer Classic’s ice teeth to work as well as its handles.
All the remaining ice scrapers I tested took more than four minutes to clear the car window; some of them took significantly more time.
The Hopkins Power Series 18520 26” Snowbrush has “the industry’s first duo-sided scraper blade,” but it doesn’t seem to have the industry’s first *sharp* duo-sided scraper blade. Intended for people who don’t want to walk all the way around their car to scrape ice from the opposite side, it isn’t particularly impressive. With no ice-scoring teeth available, I ended up hacking at the ice with the corners of the duo-sided scraper, an inefficient technique that made it take a full minute longer to clean the side window than the Hopkins Crossover Snowbroom. Why bother?
Many of the Amazon reviewers ranking the Mallory USA 999CT 35-Inch Aluminum Snow Brush call it “solid,” “hefty,” and “hardcore.” I simply found it “slower than I’d like.” (It took 4:30 to clear the window.) The ice-scoring teeth are shorter than the Hopkins standards, making it harder to cut through ice and remove it. This shortcoming may change one day, as Hopkins bought out Mallory in August 2013. For now, stick with the Hopkins Crossover Snowbroom.
The Hopkins 13014 Ice Chisel 10″ Scraper has a certain charm—big ice-gouging teeth, a padded grip—but the blade isn’t quite as sharp as the Avalanche’s, and it showed visible wear after testing (the corners looked like they’d been chewed.) At 10” (or 26 cm) it’s one of the most compact scrapers I tested, but it just didn’t work as well as the Avalanche, taking 4:40 to finish the window.
The $4 CJ Industries F101 Fantastic Ice Scraper with Brass Blade, aka the Brass Blade Ice Scraper Black (it also comes in pink and blue if you want to get one for the new baby), is a brass blade with a plastic handle. That’s it. It’s quite effective for sliding under the ice and pushing it off, but it can’t score thicker ice well. Scrape, scrape, scraping to free a window from winter’s icy tentacles with the Fantastic Ice Scraper took five and a half minutes. You can do better. Have I mentioned that brass blades do a fantastic job of scraping paint off cars?
The OXO Good Grips Extendable Twister Snowbrush has a solid handle, a rotatable snow brush, and a sharp blade, but no teeth for scoring thick ice. I managed to cut away a bit by using the scraper corner, but it was slow; clearing the window took almost six minutes.
The Scrape-A-Round looks like an urban legend–the sort of story where you find out something obviously false, like that all your cavities will disappear if you eat a tablespoon of wasabi paste every day. Really, the Scrape-A-Round is a funnel with a detachable prickly top. You can use the prickly top to score the ice, then attempt to push it away with the funnel. This approach may be swift in the Scrape-A-Round’s home town of Sandy, Utah, but it took more than six and a half minutes to scrape down an icy car window in New England. What was really surprising was that it worked at all. Truth to tell, it was kind of fun to hold the edge of the funnel like a steering wheel to smash the ice-spikes into the window… but I’d rather have warm hands. Skip it.
Who can resist THOR!? Well, actually, I can. The Quirky Thor – Automotive Collapsible Double Blade Ice Scraper is a great idea: an extendable ice scraper with multiple blades on a stick, including a fluted rubber handle for putting more force into your swipes. Unfortunately, the ice blade wasn’t as sharp as other models, and left a lot more streaks on each pass than other scrapers. It was also awkward to maneuver the Thor to remove lingering bits of ice from the edges of the window as I had to keep one hand on the handle close to the blade; I had to keep changing my location. It took almost seven very cold minutes to clear a window with Thor. But he’s a Norse god, so he’s probably used to freezing.
I also liked the concept of the Innovation Factory IceDozer MINI 2.0 with Brass Blade, which is just over 8” (or 20 cm) long. Look at all those different ice-scraping blades! How exciting! Now look at the handle, a nice low-profile handle that’s handsome but almost impossible to grip effectively with mittens on if you happen to want to use the brass ice-scraping blade. I could not grip the MINI securely enough with both hands to get good leverage for ice scraping; I ended up wrapping my hand around the IceDozing blade for most of the eight and a half minutes it took to clear the window. By the end, I was quite bored with all those ice-scraping blades. Don’t bother.
The Ice Master is a set of three brass ice-scraping blades that rotate and fold around a handle, but it never seems to end up in a position that allows you to scrape ice effectively. It took ten minutes and forty frigid seconds for me to get the window clear with that thing, ten minutes and forty seconds of my life that were far, far colder than I’d ever intended. Learn from my mistakes and buy a different scraper.
What makes a good ice scraper?
An ice scraper is a tool for removing frost, ice, and snow from car windshields, mirrors, headlights, and taillights. It isn’t the tool that you use to get piles of snow off of your car hood or roof to prevent avalanches when you pump the brakes; those devices are called snow brushes, snow brooms, or, in one well-publicized instance, a Snow Brum.
Ice scrapers need to be able to clear several types of ice: the daily frost that builds up on windshields when there’s a temperature drop after sundown, the thin ice that develops on warm cars under a light snow, and the thick gobs of frozen water that build up during a frozen rain/sleet storm.
Most ice scrapers cost less than $10; you’d be hard pressed to spend more than $25 on an ice scraper, although you can spend $40 on a stylish scraper with a slippery metal handle. One of the highest-rated ice scrapers on Amazon costs less than $4.
There is just one function which is necessary and sufficient to make a hunk of material into an ice scraper: it needs to allow you to get the ice off glass and plastic light housing without scratching it up. Everything other aspect of the design, from having the scraper that’s a wearable Wampa arms or an abstract version of Thor’s hammer, is secondary.
There are only a few basic designs for ice scrapers: a piece of plastic, a piece of plastic with a brass edge, and a piece of plastic with a handle. That handle may be extendable, or it may feature a snow brush. Some ice scrapers have multiple plastic edges so that you can scrape in more than one direction. Many of them have plastic teeth for scoring and breaking the ice before scraping. That’s about it for ice scraper technical innovations.
There is, however, one aspect of ice scrapers that can strongly affect their performance; the angle of the attachment between the scraper and the handle. Conventional scrapers are straight with the scraper head aligned with the handle. That angle works perfectly if you’re actually standing in the middle of the windshield holding your arm out straight, like some refugee from the Philadelphia experiment. For everyone else, the trick is to hold the scraper at the correct angle to get the blade under the ice with the maximum possible force. All the scrapers that cost more than $4 in our sample constructed to form a ca. 20º angle between the back of the blade and the line of the handle.
Wrapping it up
The Hopkins 14039 Sub Zero Extendable 50″ Crossover Snow Broom‘s sharp scraper, ice-crushing teeth, and snazzy wiper notches will get ice off your windshield faster than any other scraper we tested, and its adjustable handle will help you get to all the distant corners of your car. With the hours you save on scraping, you might find the time to fly to Florida, where you won’t need it at all.
What is your favorite ice scraper?, The Sweethome (Kinja), November 25, 2013
The Best Ice Scrapers for the Windshield of Your Car so You Can See the Road More Clearly, InfoBarrel Auto, November 13, 2013,
Old School or New Cool? Winter Tech for Every Taste, Popular Mechanics,
Speak softly and carry a big winter-fighting stick, The Chronicle Herald: Wheels, December 23, 2013,
Originally published: January 27, 2014