Street Savvy - Cleaning Your Face Shield

Saving Face

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Joe Neric

Consider the humble face shield. After sparing your smug mug from stiff headwinds, ugly weather, kamikaze insect attacks and unidentifiable flying objects, what does it get in return? Some generic blue glass cleaner and a swipe with some crud-encrusted rag or, worse yet, the infamous self-serve gas-station squeegee. We submit that the last line of defense between your eyeballs and oncoming trouble deserves better. Replacing a ruined one can set you back as much as $100. Repairing a ruined eye will cost you something more.

Most of what you need to know was carefully laid out in that owner's manual that got trashed with the box your Clyde Crashcup Replica lid came in long ago. Not to worry: Larger manufacturers offer downloadable helmet and shield hygiene information on their websites, so start with that. Meanwhile, here are a few basic principles that have served Motorcyclist editors well for years.

Certain helmets make shield removal tricky, so learn the drill in the comfort of your living room-not under a dark freeway underpass. It's easiest with a clear shield, since you can see how the shield and helmet mechanisms interact. Said mechanisms work better without the inevitable accumulation of road grunge and bug guts, too. That can of Dust Off you use to clean your computer keyboard helps here, and it just might unblock the vents that quit venting last August. When it comes to cleaning your face shield, start with the cheapest, safest, least invasive solution known to man: warm water. Arai reps say anything stronger will compromise the polycarbonate structure's ability to survive a nasty impact. Follow up with the cleanest, softest micro-fiber cloth in your arsenal. Gently. Do not use a dry paper towel. The tiny scratches it leaves will remind you never to do that again! If you must use a paper towel, wet it first, then dab, don't wipe.

A wise man once said it's lucky that God made bugs water-soluble. Amen to that. A cotton washcloth moistened with warm water and draped to cool on an invertebrate-splattered slice of thermoformed polycarbonate lets them slide off easily after 15 minutes or so. Rinse and dry carefully with a micro-fiber towel. No scrubbing. And no solvents, especially the petrochemical kind. They're gradually absorbed into the shield, increasing the chance it might shatter when you need it most. Aerosols that work wonders on glass don't translate to high-tech plastic. Shoei recommends using acid or alkali-based cleaners. The ammonia and mild acids in that ubiquitous blue glass cleaner do bad things to the anti-scratch/anti-fog coatings on modern shields, especially when used full-strength. If you need something stronger than what comes out of the kitchen faucet, spike it with a little mild dishwashing liquid. Beyond that, stick with something specifically formulated to get along with polycarbonate plastics; S100 Special Surfaces Cleaner, for instance. Those micro-polymer emulsions that make rain bead up and blow off auto-mobile windshields are designed for glass, not plastic, and most aren't face shield friendly. Anything from the auto parts store should be considered guilty until proven innocent on that count. Add a moisture-absorbing Pinlock lens (www.pinlockusa.com) to keep from fogging up in winter. Contact lenses work best on rainy days, but a spray-on coating designed for swim goggles like Zero-Fog will help keep your prescription lenses clear.

What do you do on the road? Resist the temptation to wipe away the remains of that recently deceased honeybee with your gloved finger. You'll only make a small problem bigger. A warm bath in the IHOP restroom sink is infinitely more effective. In more primitive conditions, slip a swatch of wet micro-fiber fabric into a zip-lock bag, then put them both into a bigger bag with a dry cloth. If only the best will do, carrying something like an Aerostich Clear View kit ($18 from www.aerostich.com) puts all the right stuff at your fingertips. Fill the nifty spray bottle with an ounce of water and three drops of dishwashing liquid and you're good to go.

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