Winter has arrived—and unless you live in South Florida or the warmer parts of California, you can expect frost (and probably snow, ice, and freezing rain). If you own a vehicle, that means you also need an ice scraper, likely one that incorporates a snow broom. After more than 40 hours of research and three separate real-world tests—the latest an epic 28-windshield arm-breaker in a negative-three-degree cold-chamber at Ford’s winter-weather test facility in Detroit—we’re confident that the Hopkins 80037 60-inch Quick Lock is the best scraper for most people.
The Hopkins tool’s scraping blade is one of the best-performing that we’ve tested; its plow-like broom is the best we’ve tested, period. Its many thoughtful design details, including padded grips, a self-locking extension mechanism, and easy-to-use but hard-to-misuse buttons, set it apart from its close competitors. The size is average—38 inches folded up, and a max length of five feet fully extended—but no other products offer such a complete scraping-and-sweeping package without a single point of weakness.
You, if you own a vehicle and live where the mercury dips below freezing—basically anywhere but the tiny red patches on this map.
Most ice scrapers aren’t only ice scrapers; they’re also snow brooms, with a scraping blade on one end and a swiveling brush on the other. The side effect is that these tools are at least 30 inches long—usually 36 inches or more. If you live where it snows often, you’ll want one of these dual-purpose wonders. But if you live in the South or lowland West, where frost is common but snow is rare, there are shorter scrapers that’ll meet your needs without cluttering up your car.
In addition to our multiple tests of scrapers, both in the wild and in Ford’s controlled lab environment, your Sweethome testers have also personally dealt with decades of rough winters. Myself, I’ve scraped ice and swept snow off of pickup trucks, SUVs, a fire engine, and a backhoe in the high desert of California; off a Honda Accord in Philly (once, after the heaviest snow in that city’s history), and off my current car, a Subaru Impreza hatchback, in New York City in one of its worst-ever winters for snowfall (2013-14) and in last year’s record stretch of cold weather. Frost, snow, freezing rain, even an absurd inch of sleet (in Philly): I’ve seen and removed it all, often with the near-useless improvised tools (shop brooms, paint scrapers, the hands I was born with) that a freelance writer’s wallet can afford. Now older and wiser (and employed), I’ve come to appreciate the value of investment in the right tools (like my “snow” shovel). I should add that I’m a Miami native, and therefore refuse to believe that owning a car must involve onerous amounts of labor. So I went into this year’s test with the goal of finding one tool that could both scrape ice and sweep snow and do so comfortably and efficiently—and with firsthand knowledge that the wrong tool can make both jobs torturous.
This is the third iteration of this guide, and Meg Muckenhoupt’s epic outdoor test in the brutal Boston winter of 2014-15 really helped winnow out the winners from the also-rans. However, as we always do, we did a complete sweep of new models before updating this guide, and as a result we added two first-time contestants to this year’s test. One is made by Ames (under its True Temper brand), a well-regarded tool manufacturer. (We really like their leaf rakes.) It’s a standard full-size scraper design, but we were curious to try its “scratch-free” broom. The other has a completely unique, beguilingly minimalist design (and name): the Swedish Ice Scraper.
Other than the Swedish Ice Scraper, our test models all share a similar basic shape: They consist of a metal handle with a one-piece wedge-shaped scraper with at one end and a snow brush on the other. The scraper (which is made of plastic) has a set of ice-cutting teeth on its flat back and a thick, relatively dull blade its fore end; the brush usually has bristles on one edge and a rubber or foam squeegee on the other.
But as we knew from our previous tests, details of design make all the difference between scrapers, and every part of the scraper is important.
The blade needs to be relatively sharp and also extremely sturdy—when scraping ice, you often need to bear down hard.
The ice-cutting teeth need to be tall and prominent so that they contact the windshield without forcing your knuckles to do so, and ideally they’ll extend the entire width of the blade, so that you cut the maximally wide swath when using them.
The handle should have grips made of something soft, like neoprene; hard plastic grips are slippery, especially in gloved hands (and even more so in wool mitts). And, when the handles are extended, they should lock into place automatically and not require you to line up the locking pins with their lockholes. Naturally, the handles should also be strong. They should extend to a length that allows you to push snow and scrape ice off even a big vehicle; about 60 inches (five feet) is standard for trucks and SUVs. Yet ideally, when collapsed, the scrapers should be short enough that the tool can be stored in any vehicle, even a subcompact.
The buttons that unlock the handle (when extending or collapsing) and the broom head (when adjusting its angle) are also important and often overlooked by designers. The best are big enough to be easily operated by thick, gloved fingers but still low-profile so they don’t build up snow or scrapings and aren’t easily triggered accidentally.
Finally, the broom head should at a minimum incorporate three tools: a bristled side, for sweeping loose snow and ice shavings; a squeegee side, to make a tight seal against the body panels and windows when pushing snow off a vehicle; and, between them, a plow-like structure to make snow-pushing efficient. Broom heads that can be locked at multiple angles are a plus, allowing you to optimize sweeping/plowing efficiency. And when the head is folded away (as it is when you’re scraping), it must not interfere with your grip.
We brought seven scrapers to test; Ford brought an Explorer SUV and a Focus sedan. Using paint-sprayers filled with tapwater, engineers Dale Snapp and Justin Dorazio began by laying down a thick coating of ice on the vehicles’ windshields. They made multiple passes, building up the ice in layers. The water began to freeze immediately; they may as well have been spraying instant-dry paint (see Snapp in the GIF above). After each spray-down, John and I waited five minutes to allow the ice to fully harden. Then, while he timed me, I scraped each windshield in turn. We cycled through the scrapers, one by one and vehicle by vehicle; in between scrapers, we took notes and warmed up in the adjacent control room. We then did a second test of each scraper, after the room was raised to a balmy 15°F. After six hours and 28 scraped windshields (two vehicles times seven scrapers times two test-temperatures), I had a pair of sore shoulders, John had 10 numb toes, and we had our results—a notebook’s-worth of observations.
Chief among them: a rose is a rose is a rose, but not all ice is identical—and not all scrapers handle every type of ice well. Going into the test, I was hoping we’d get to pit our scrapers against one particularly challenging form of it: the paper-thin, paper-white kind that forms during a hard frost or light freezing rain. Clearing it from windshields is the toughest job scrapers are asked to do—an observation that comes from my own real-world experience, from previous-guide writer Meg Muckenhoupt’s testing experience, and from Mike Williams, chief marketing officer of Hopkins Manufacturing, producer of the Sub Zero line of ice scrapers (which have scored well in our tests). As it happened, Ford’s paint-sprayers made exactly that sort of ice on the Explorer’s windshield, which faced directly into the cold-room’s chillers. (The sprayers also produced an upper layer of crusty powder, texturally similar to the Diamond Crystal kosher salt we recommend for home chefs.)
The reason thin ice is hard to scrape is due to a basic compromise most ice-scraper manufacturers make: blade toughness over blade sharpness. Ice-scraper blades are generally made of plastic, which is very resilient but not very hard. That means the blades can’t be made very sharp; in fact the edges of all but one of the scrapers we tested were visibly rounded like the edge of a piece of posterboard. They were “sharp” in the sense of being relatively thin, but not sharp in the sense of “liable to cut.” And in order to cut through paper-thin ice, you need a blade-edge that’s even thinner.
In our test, all the scrapers shared common strengths. We observed no meaningful variation in the amount of time it them took to scrape off the loose, crusty, “Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt” layer of ice that overlaid the thin, hard stuff: They all took one minute to do the job, give or take a few seconds. Similarly, all their brooms swept away the ice scrapings efficiently. And from Meg’s earlier test, we knew that most well-designed scrapers—and all our picks, which were re-tested at Ford—remove thick, clear ice efficiently.
The Hopkins 80037 was our previous runner-up for larger cars, and after this year’s test, we’re making it our overall winner. It has nearly everything we look for in an ideal ice scraper: a strong and effective blade; prominent ice-cutting teeth that extend the width of the blade; a sturdy handle with padded grips that, when extended, locks into place automatically and authoritatively; easy-to-use (and difficult-to-misuse) buttons; and the best brush-broom-plow head that we’ve ever seen. As icing on the cake, when extended it’s plenty big enough for trucks and SUVs, but at just over three feet long when closed, it’s small enough to easily fit in the trunk or back seat of a compact car.
The 80037’s blade is broad, extremely sturdy, and plenty sharp for most ice conditions (it cleared a windshield of thick, clear ice faster than any other scraper in Meg’s real-world test). The ice-cutting teeth are tall, sharp, and run from one edge of the blade to the other, making it easy to get them into position against the windshield for the broadest possible cutting stroke.
The handle is made of strong aluminum tubing and features thick neoprene grips that are comfortable to hold and don’t slip in gloved hands. (Other scrapers we tested, including the much-ballyhooed Blizzerator, have hard plastic handles that are very slippery.) When extended, the handle sections click into place on their own and with a confidence-inspiring thunk. Other scrapers have looser connections, sections that don’t lock automatically, or shafts that can rotate unexpectedly while in use—we had no problems like that here.
Finally, the combination broom/plow head is the best-designed of any we tested, with stiff but non-scratching nylon bristles on one edge, a rubber squeegee that’s rigid enough to push snow but flexible enough to fit the curves of body panels on the other, and a generously-sized extruded-aluminum plow that will stand up to years of work. And it locks into place in seven different positions, allowing you to optimize the plow angle. Most broom-heads lock into fewer—some into just two, parallel or perpendicular to the handle.
Like every scraper we tested (except for the Swedish Ice Scraper), the Hopkins 80037 performed poorly on thin, hard ice—the kind that formed on the Explorer’s windshield, facing directly into the cold-room’s chillers (see the photo in How We Tested). But because that’s a shortcoming shared by every other “standard-style” scraper we tested, we don’t take it as a fatal flaw: as outlined above, most scraper manufacturers favor toughness (for thick ice) over sharpness (for thin, hard ice), and in practice that means all their blades are very similar in form. Moreover, all our standard scrapers performed well on the thin but much softer ice that formed on the Focus’s windshield, sheltered at the back of the cold room. And that’s the sort of ice people will face most of the time in the real world.
In last year’s test, Meg appreciated the light weight and perfect fore-aft balance of another Hopkins scraper, the 14039, and made it our pick while giving the 80037 a nod in the “for large vehicles department.” But in this year’s test, we found that the additional general utility of the 80037—it extends an extra 10 inches to a full five feet (as do three other test models) and has that combination broom/plow instead of a broom alone—outweighed its slight imbalance and slightly greater length and weight. It’ll still fit in anything from a Mini to an F-350. And we’re not alone in appreciating the 80037: 128 Amazon reviewers give it 4.8 out of five stars.
New York’s unusually mild and dry winter didn’t offer many opportunities to put our pick, the Hopkins 80037, to the test. Still, it excelled when called upon. The broom and telescoping shaft proved especially valuable, easily clearing a heavy, wet, 4-inch February snow from the roof of my car and making short (well, shortish) work of clearing a friend’s van after our one big storm (34 inches of powder in our section of Queens in January). This spring, I found a new use for the tool: After a rain or car wash, I use the squeegee to quickly clear the windows. No more water spots.
Last, numerous users report that another seeming Dart advantage—a scraping blade that can be unclipped from the handle for de-icing in tight spots—is in reality a liability: the unlock buttons are too easy to trigger accidentally while working. This said, the quality of its build is identical to the Hopkins; it extends and locks with the same authority; and its broom/plow is nearly a mirror image of the Hopkins’s, if just a fraction of an inch lower in height. If the Hopkins isn’t available, it’s a worthy substitute.
The secret to the Swedish Ice Scraper’s performance is its precise construction. The company hones the edges so that they meet the flat top and bottom at a perfect 90-degree angle. You’re in no danger of cutting yourself, but that straight, keen, square corner easily digs into even the thinnest, hardest layer of ice and lifts it off the windshield glass. The scraper is also just flexible enough to adopt the windshield’s curves, allowing it to take off a wide swath of ice with each pass.
The scraper is comfortable to hold in gloved (and bare) hands. There’s a handy notch in one edge that scrapes ice off windshield-wiper blades. All four edges can be used to scrape windshields and windows, and if they ever get dull, they can be re-sharpened by an ice-skating service.
The Hopkins 14039 is a really excellent tool—it’s our pick from last year. It’s fast, it’s light, and it’s perfectly balanced and therefore especially easy to control. But it only has a broom—not a combination broom-plow. Which means that after a blizzard, it won’t be much use to you until you’ve used another tool to sweep the snow of your car.
True Temper’s ABTT5212 “scratch-free” scraper is well built, but not well designed. The upper grip is smooth, hard plastic—slippery, especially when wearing gloves—and, because of where the button is placed, makes it way too easily to accidentally unlock the handles while scraping. The broom head folds down so close to the handle-shaft that you can’t get a gloved hand under it to clench the grip that lies beneath.
Hopkins’s 60-inch Polar Vortex Snowbroom is a new model, exclusive to Walmart at this time. It has a newly designed flexible blade that’s supposed to conform better to the curves of windshields, improving scraping performance. In our test, though, we didn’t notice much difference; we’ll test it again in the future, but for now we’re happier sticking with the tried-and-true 80037.
The Blizzerator Professional Auto Ice Scraper was last year’s pick for large vehicles. On re-test, its weaknesses stood out more than its strengths. When telescoping, the handles can rotate, meaning you have to line up the locking pins by eye; our pick and runner-up lock into place automatically. And the Blizzerator’s broom/plow head is terribly designed. Only the broom rotates; the plow remains fixed, parallel to the handle. So, when plowing snow, you have to sweep sideways instead of pushing—stressing both the handle and your spine—while, when sweeping, the “prow” of the plow extends six inches in front of the broom, making it impossible to get into the tight spots the broom is supposed to clean out.
The Iceplane is a variation on the credit card school of ice scraping. Its two medium-thick plastic blades are attached along the long axis of a rod to form a V-shape, like an open book. You shove the Iceplane into ice, and if you hit it right, the blade will slip under and push a chunk off. It’s more comfortable to use the Iceplane than a credit card, thanks to the nice round handle, but it’s almost as slow; it took me nearly five minutes to clear a window. The Iceplane lacks the ice-scoring spikes that make the best scrapers work so quickly. It can be very meditative to stand out in the cold going scritch, scritch, scritch on your windshield. If that’s how you want to spend your hours in this waking dream we call life, go right ahead. But if you want to get to work on time in the morning, get a different scraper.
The Snow Joe Edge Ice Scraper with Brass Blade is just like the little brass scrapers they give away for free at banks with branches in the frozen tundra, like the Caribou Credit Union, only it’s bigger! It’s 12½ inches long and 5 inches wide! And with it, clearing ice off your car window will still take forever because the Snow Joe Edge doesn’t have ice-scraper spikes to break up the ice into smaller chunks—three minutes in the 2015 testing, versus just two minutes for the Hopkins Crossover Snow Broom. Sometimes, size doesn’t matter.
The Mallory Pink Snow Tools 31-inch Snow Brush is either a slightly shorter, lighter version of the Mallory USA 999CT 35-inch Aluminum Snow Brush, or a longer, heavier version of the Mallory 518 16-inch SnoWEEvel Snow Brush, depending on how you look at things. It will scrape your windows fast, because it has the same type of effective scraper head as the 35-inch and 16-inch versions, but it isn’t distinctive. It’s not as compact as the 16-inch brush, and it can’t reach as far as the 35-inch brush, although it does share the 35-inch model’s foam handle, which makes it a little less slippery than the all-plastic 16-inch version. At this 31-inch length, it’s too long to fit in the glove compartment, but too short to reach the middle of the roof of your car and get the snow off. What’s the point? Well, there is one selling point: the color. As one Amazon reviewer wrote, “My husband will not steal it because its PINK!” If your husband is so insecure in his masculinity that a mere tint on an ice scraper will deter him from petty theft, by all means, buy it. Mallory will also donate 10% of its sales of this pink product to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, for what that’s worth (and that’s worth $1).
In our original 2014 testing, two ice scrapers performed nearly as well as the top three picks. The Mallory 518 16-inch 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 two inches wide, or slightly less than two-thirds of the three-inch-wide blade. The Mallory, measuring 16 inches end to end, was the most compact model we tested that also featured a snow brush. Still, the slippery handle made 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—with it, we cleared the window in just 3 minutes and 45 seconds. It all would have gone faster, though, if we could have used this tool’s large ice-scoring teeth. The IceDozer Classic has two sets of ice-scoring teeth; one batch that is less than half as tall as the set on the Hopkins, and 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 it to deal with thin, medium, and thick ice, and its fluted plastic handles were well located and easy to grip, all of which makes 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 is virtually impossible to use one-handed; you just can’t get enough force behind it. Still, we didn’t find it as effective as other scrapers that had larger, more accessible teeth. Let’s hope that Innovation Factory redesigns the IceDozer Classic’s ice teeth to work as well as its handles.
With all of the remaining ice scrapers we tested, it took us at least four minutes to clear the car window in the old test; with some, the task took significantly more time.
The Hopkins Power Series 18520 26-inch 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, we ended up just hacking at the ice with the corners of the duo-sided scraper, which led us to spend a whole minute longer cleaning the side window than we would have using 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.” We simply found it “slower than we’d like.” (It took us 4 minutes and 30 seconds to clear the window.) The ice-scoring teeth are shorter than the Hopkins’s 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-inch 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 showed visible wear after testing (the corners looked like they’d been chewed.) At 10 inches, it’s one of the most compact scrapers we tested, but it just didn’t work as well as the Avalanche, and with it we took 4 minutes and 40 seconds to finish the window.
The 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 5 minutes and 30 seconds. 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. We 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 6½ 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 we’d rather have warm hands. Skip it.
Who can resist THOR!? Well, actually, we 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 on other models and let 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 we had to keep one hand on the handle close to the blade; we had to keep changing the 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.
We also liked the concept of the Innovation Factory IceDozer MINI 2.0 with Brass Blade, which is just over eight inches 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. We could not grip the MINI securely enough with both hands to get good leverage for ice scraping; we ended up wrapping a hand around the IceDozing blade for most of the 8½ minutes it took to clear the window. Don’t bother.
The Ice Master is a set of three brass ice-scraping blades that rotate and fold around a handle, but never seem to end up in a position that allows you to scrape ice effectively. It took 10 minutes and 40 frigid seconds to get the window clear with that thing. 10 minutes and 40 seconds of my life were far, far colder than I’d ever intended. Learn from my mistakes and buy a different scraper.
(Photos by Michael Hession)