How can I clean out my windshield wiper fluid container?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1999

Dear Tom and Ray:

My '97 Honda Civic EX recently developed a new feature: The blue windshield washer solution has been colonized by some pink slime that smells like somebody's
unwashed gym clothes. My microbiologist co-worker says that there are some forms of microbial life that can live in alcohol-containing solutions, like wiper fluid. My
husband was trying to figure out how to remove the reservoir to clean it out, but it looks like it won't come out unless we take the bumper off first. Is there an easy way
to clean out this container? -- Elaine

TOM: Sure. With a garden hose.

RAY: You CAN take the whole reservoir out without actually removing the bumper, but you need to remove the inner fender liner, and that's a pain in the butt, too. So
the hose is the tool of choice here.

TOM: The windshield-washer reservoir is a closed system. There's the tank, a little pump and a rubber tube that carries the liquid to the windshield. That's it. So you
won't harm or contaminate anything else by sticking the garden hose in there.

RAY: Pop off the top, stick the hose in there and let it overflow for five or 10 minutes. While you're doing that, use the windshield washer a few times to clean out the
rubber tubes, too.

TOM: Then put a little bit of bleach in the water -- along with a couple of expired penicillin tablets from your medicine cabinet -- and let it sit. A day or two later, give
the thing a scrub with one of those long-handled kitchen pot scrubbers, and put the hose in it again.

RAY: And when you're all done, you can siphon out the bulk of the water and fill it back up with soapy blue stuff.

TOM: And if the microbes come back after that, call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Tell them you're willing to donate a reservoir of rare
microbes to science, but they'll have to come and swap out your windshield-washer container for you if they want them.

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