• Visor Rain Product Survey

    There's a good deal of folk wisdom floating around on the internet as to what you can use to make your helmet visor a little more useful during rain. Some common remedies include the use of Rain-X(r), carnuba automotive wax, Cat Crap(r), and Pledge(r). This review is the summary of my test of these products.

    The visor in question is a clear plastic visor from an HJC CL-14 helmet that has been in use for more than a year. While it is in workable shape, there are a few scratches. The products tested, with the exception of Cat Crap, should all be available through any grocery or automotive store. They are:


    * Turtle Wax Platinum Series Ultra Gloss Paste Wax (tm)
    * Mother's liquid carnuba cleaner wax
    * Pledge oil-based wood polish
    * Rain-X Original
    * Cat Crap



    Carnuba-based waxes have often been recommended as the safest way to improve visibility during rain: some people wax their visors religiously. This seems reasonable, as the wax coating will repel water and cause it to bead. I tested both liquid and paste forms since I have both laying around, and some people are zealous about brands.

    Pledge is an oil-based dust-repelling wood polish. It leaves a thin layer of a light oil on anything you clean with it; I use it regularly for spot touch-ups on my bike since it makes cleaning off bugs easier. It's also what I normally use for cleaning my visor.

    Rain-X is a proprietary formula that leaves a water-repelling barrier on the surface where it is applied. Rain-X is made from water, denatured alcohol, 2-butoxyethanol (a solvent found in paints, cleaning products, and inks), and surfactants (chemicals that reduce the surface tension of water like detergents). 2-butoxyethanol is a corrosive hydrocarbon solvent, and my guess is that this is why it's not recommended for coated surfaces and some plastics. None of these products should cause plastic to become brittle, particularly given that Rain-X is 70-95% water (according to the MSDS). The dry surfactants are unlikely to penetrate the surface of the plastic, and the solvent evaporates very quickly.

    Cat Crap is a thick blue paste that smells vague of dish soap. It's sold as an eyewear cleaner, and I obtained mine via the internet. It works well as a cleaner, and some claim it can be used as an antifog/water repellant. At the least, if it is detergent-based and contains surfactants like Rain-X, that may be a justification for its effects.

    The visor was cleaned thoroughly several times using soap and water. The visor was buffed dry. Scotch tape was used to divide the visor into five portions, one for each product. The products were then applied according to the indicated application directions: in all cases, this meant applying the product with a soft cloth (or included applicator pad, in the case of the Turtle Wax), letting it dry if applicable, and buffing it off.

    None of the products had any immediately noticable visual effect in daylight or indoor tungsten incandescent lighting. This is one of the chief complaints against Rain-X, that over time, the coating causes hazing, and must be reapplied regularly or removed to maintain optical clarity. During the course of this test, the Rain-X did not haze or cause distortion, but it was left on for a very short period.

    Three tests were performed, with the results of the second discarded because there was no difference between the products. The first test is to rinse of the visor, and then to spray a fine mist on the visor. This test is to determine how well the coating causes fine mist to bead up -- in my experience, fine mist is the worst for visibility. The second involved immersing the visor in water. This is to demonstrate how well the coating causes large beads to roll off. The third test is to leave the visor in the shower under a heavy stream of cold water for 20 minutes. The visor was then shaken lightly. This is to demonstrate moderate usage, and to show how the coating might deteriorate while riding, as well as any effects due to wind. The back of the visor was used as a control, since it was clean and uncoated. The back was dried before the front was examined.


    Test 1:

    The Whole Visor:



    Cat Crap:



    Mother's:



    Pledge:



    Rain-X:



    Turtle Wax:



    In this test, Pledge performed the best, since a lot of the water beaded up quickly and slid off the visor, clearing the mist. RainX and the two waxes were on par with eachother, and the Cat Crap performed the worst.

    Test 3:

    Visor:



    (From left to right, Rain-X, Pledge, Mother's, Turtle Wax, Cat Crap)

    The Cat Crap performed very poorly, having washed entirely off by this point. The waxes did not perform particularly well, as there were numerous droplets of water that were too small to roll off, even with vigorous shaking. The waxes also were beginning to haze slightly. The Turtle Wax would probably outperform the Mother's under real conditions, since the water on the Turtle Wax beaded more. My guess is that the Mother's was washing off. The pledge held up fairly well, with a number of large beads that quickly rolled off the visor. The Rain-X was comparable to the pledge initially, but the small beads that would stick to the pledged segment continued to roll off.



    Results:

    Pledge was a clear winner of the first test, and Rain-X a clear winner of the last test. While most of the products degraded after moderate use, the Rain-X actually got better. My hypothesis is that the surfactants in Rain-X become most active after they have been thoroughly saturated. The waxes had mediochre performance, and hazed after an extended beating, and the Mother's appeared to be washing off. The Cat Crap had washed off entirely when I collected the visor after letting it sit in the shower, and the beading on the visor was no different from the back.

    Both Cat Crap and Pledge have been recommended as anti-fog agents, and both did a fair job when I tested them with my breath prior to getting the visor wet. However, after the last test, neither surface had any abnormal resistance to fogging. The waxes and Rain-X did not seem to affect fogging at any time.

    I'll be keeping Pledge in my tank bag. I'm not sure if Rain-X is really worth it, particularly if there really is hazing after extended use (I've been using Pledge for nearly a year, and it's never hazed).
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Visor Rain Product Survey started by MarcS View original post
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