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Shortage of Methanol Sends Prices of Washer Fluids Soaring

December 9, 1994

DETROIT (AP) _ Keeping windshields clean of salt and grime will cost more this winter.

The supply of the main ingredient in washer fluids, methanol, isn’t keeping up with demand, pushing prices up to about $1.50 a gallon, double last year’s.

″It’s a problem for the consumer. They end up paying for everything in the end,″ said Richard Dilcher of sales and marketing in Patterson Laboratories Inc., a solvent manufacturer in Detroit.

The wholesale price of methanol started shooting up only in the last year. For a decade, prices had held steady at 50 to 60 cents, windshield cleaner manufacturers say.

″They’d be foolish to be giving them away,″ Bill McLaughlin, president of Wayne, Mich.-based Cul-Mac Industries, said Friday. ″There’s no other cheaper product to keep your windshields from freezing.″

Cul-Mac, one of the nation’s biggest producers of washer fluid, paid 50 cents a gallon for methanol last year. This year, they’re paying about $1.70 a gallon.

One explanation is that a new government-mandated mixture of anti-smog gasoline uses methanol and has diverted some of the supply. Others point to a shutdown of a methanol plant in Texas after an explosion in October.

″We have to go hunting for it to see where we can get it,″ said Bill Ryder, a spokesman of Emro Marketing Co. in Enon, Ohio, which operates service stations in the Midwest. ″It’s very tight.″

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