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What Can I Use To Clean Car Headlights?

One of the most critical safety precautions a motorist can take while driving at night or in low-light settings is to ensure that their car’s headlights are in excellent working condition.

These safety precautions go beyond simply ensuring that your headlight bulbs aren’t burnt out. Fogged and dirty headlights play a huge part in road accidents as they lower the brightness of your lights, preventing you from clearly seeing the road.

To clean car headlights effectively, you can use a mixture of vinegar and baking soda. Create a paste with these two household items, apply it to the headlights with a cloth, and scrub gently. This method removes grime and oxidation, restoring clarity to your headlights without the need for professional help or specialized products.

Close up of car headlights

If the vinegar and baking soda method doesn’t fully restore your headlights, toothpaste could be your next best option. Toothpaste, especially whitening varieties that contain small abrasives, can work wonders on yellowed and foggy headlights. It’s like giving your headlights a good brushing, removing the plaque of road grime and oxidation that has built up over time. Apply a dab of toothpaste to a cloth, rub it in circular motions on the headlight, and rinse off for a clearer, more luminous finish.

For more stubborn cloudiness, using sandpaper and a protective sealant might be necessary. Start with a finer grit sandpaper to gently sand the headlight, removing the outer layer of oxidation. Progressively move to a finer grit to smooth the surface. This process is akin to exfoliating skin, gently removing the outer, damaged layer to reveal a fresh, clear surface beneath. After sanding, applying a UV-resistant sealant can protect the headlights from future oxidation, ensuring your path remains brightly lit for longer.

Why Do Headlights Get Cloudy?

Man asking a questioin

Don’t lie, we’ve all been curious as to why our car’s headlights tend to get foggy and yellowish after some time. For a clean-freak like me, this question has bugged me all my childhood.

Multiple factors contribute to making headlights cloudy over time, including high oxidation levels, harmful chemicals and exposure to dirt, and water vapor. These factors not only reduce your headlight’s visibility but also produce a yellowish tint on the lens.


Your car’s headlights can become oxidized because of constant exposure to the air. This happens because modern automotive headlights have polycarbonate lenses. When these lenses are exposed to UV radiation, they form tiny fissures on the headlight which escalates to “cloudiness”.

Exposure To Dirt And Chemicals

After a while on the road, certain vehicles develop a thin coating of dirt over their headlights.

The constant exposure to dirt and chemicals can effectively dull the lights and obscure their visibility. This resultantly caused significant problems while driving in low-light conditions.

Water Vapor

Because of the high moisture content in the air, water vapor is generated inside the car’s headlight box. On a dry day, the water vapor gets trapped inside the box and distributes the light passing through the headlight box, resulting in patterns and light diffusion. Not only does this significantly reduce visibility but also gradually creates a yellow tint on the headlight lens.

Can You Use Toothpaste To Clean Car Headlights?

Toothpaste oozing out

Cleaning headlights with toothpaste has gone quite viral over the internet, with people all around the world claiming they can remove years of fogginess with just a dab of toothpaste. However, does this unconventional strategy really work?

Yes, toothpaste helps in clearing off cloudy headlights and removing yellow tints from your headlight lens. If your car’s lights are coated in chemicals and road dust, toothpaste can be quite an effective solution to your troubles.

Toothpaste uses small amounts of chemicals like hydrogen peroxide to polish and whiten teeth. The same chemicals coupled with the gently abrasive properties in toothpaste, can thoroughly clean your headlights and make them look as good as new!

How To Clean Headlights With Toothpaste

There are multiple iterations on the net on how to clean your headlights with toothpaste, however, not all of them are as effective as you’d think. Here’s a fool-proof way to clean off any dirt and grime settled on your headlights with the help of some toothpaste from the bathroom:

Step 1: You’ll want to make sure you’re working on a clean surface before you begin. Using a soft cloth, carefully wipe away any dust or crud that may have gathered on the surface of your headlights.

Step 2: Once the dust is cleared, clean your headlights with the help of soap or Windex to remove dirt that has settled in on the surface.

Step 3: Dab a little toothpaste onto the wet headlight and start scrubbing with a clean cloth. Maintain a moist surface and add extra toothpaste if needed.

Step 4: With your brush, carefully work your way around the surface of the headlight in circular motions and avoid rubbing too harshly. Generally, it takes about 5 minutes for each headlight to become clear and crisp.

As you make your way around the lens, you should notice the yellowness or fogginess diminish.

Step 5: After you’re done, remove any remaining toothpaste from your lens using a clean towel. Spritz any hard particles on the surface with clean water, then buff with your towel until they dry.

Step 6: Once the headlight is dry, apply a coat of UV-resistant sealer to its surface. These formulas keep your headlights looking brand new for up to 1 year.

Once done with the process, you shouldn’t be noticing any haziness or yellow patches on the headlight. Further, if you decide to use a UV-resistant sealer, you’ll be able to keep your headlight protected and clean for quite some time.

Can You Use Baking Soda To Clean Car Headlights?

Baking soda on wood table

If you’re finding headlight restoration kits to be quite expensive, baking soda may seem like a viable option. Seeing how easily baking soda takes out persistent stains, one can wonder if it works the same way with car headlights?

The gentle and abrasive properties of baking soda make it an effective cleanser for cleaning out the haziness and yellowness of old car headlights. This inexpensive solution is not a long-term solution but it gets the job done.

Keep in mind that the yellowing of headlights is mostly caused by excessive exposure to UV rays, bringing back their original color may require wet sanding and clear coating to be restored.

Therefore, it’s difficult to completely restore and maintain your card headlights solely with the help of baking powder. Even after you’ve cleaned them, your car’s headlights will eventually become foggy again. However, if you want a quick and easy fix, you can keep cleaning your headlights with baking soda without worrying about expensive restoration kits.

How To Clean Headlights With Baking Soda

Here’s how to effectively clean your car’s headlights with baking soda, without getting them scratched from head to bottom.

Step 1: Tape paper over the paint or bodywork around the headlight using painter’s tape so it doesn’t leave a mark on the car’s original paint.

Step 2: The headlight should then be first completely washed with soap and water. To remove any filth, scrub with a toothbrush and then rinse with clean water.

Step 3: Prepare a paste of baking soda and water, for reference try to reach a toothpaste-like consistency.

Step 3: Using a toothbrush or a cleaning cloth, apply your prepared baking soda paste to the headlight. For better results, you can initially dip the toothbrush or cloth in vinegar to remove discoloration easily.

Step 4: Go over the entire area several times with soft yet firm circular strokes. Use a small amount of water to keep the surface moist while applying the paste.

Can You Use Vinegar To Clean Car Headlights?

Glass bowl with white vinegar

Apart from using a vinegar-dipped cloth with baking soda, vinegar can also be used as a separate tool to clean off car headlights. Moreover, vinegar is an excellent tool for removing dirt and stains from various things around you.

Surface dirt and grime can be removed by cleaning or spraying the headlamp with vinegar. You can also use vinegar to prepare wax for your headlamps which will help prevent haziness on the headlight cover in the future.

How To Clean Headlights Using Vinegar

Vinegar is easy to use, however, excessive amounts of vinegar can cause disastrous results. Here’s an effective method you can use to clean your headlights with the help of a vinegar solution:

Step 1: Firstly, prepare a simple solution with vinegar and water. Use 3 cups of water with 1 cup of vinegar to achieve the most effective mixture. There’s no need to use a ton of vinegar for the solution as it may end up doing more damage than good.

Step 2: Now, place your DIY headlight lens restorer into an empty spray bottle so you can use it easily. Start spraying your headlamps with the vinegar solution and make sure to cover every inch.

Step 3: Allow the vinegar solution to sit for a few minutes and soak up all the dirt and grime stuck on the headlamp.

Step 4: Lastly, pick up a clean and dry microfiber cloth and wipe off all the vinegar from the headlight.

When you clean the solution off of the headlights, it should take along with it any dirt, grime, or pigment glued to your light. Wipe the solution off and put an end to your foggy misery.

Can You Use Lemon To Clean Car Headlights?

Hand squeezing lemon juice

WIth the help of lemon’s strong whitening properties, it can efficiently clean out different surfaces, leaving them spotless and shiny. However, are these properties strong enough to take on yellowed car headlights?

Cleaning dirty headlights with lemon have proven to be highly effective and easy. The method is quite straightforward, inexpensive, and usually takes only 10 minutes! However, you’ll need to pair up lemon with baking soda to get the optimum results.

How To Clean Headlights Using Lemon With Baking Soda

Here’s how you can efficiently use lemon juice and baking soda to remove fog from your headlights and bring them back to life:

Step 1: Cut a medium-sized lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a small bowl. Next, mix in some baking soda until a thin, smooth paste is formed.

Step 2: Once the paste is prepared, apply a thin layer to the surface of the headlight with a polishing cloth. Make sure to not leave any gaps behind. Also, continue to add more lemon juice if the mixture feels hard to spread.

If you don’t have a polishing cloth, you may use a microfiber cloth or a tea towel instead.

Step 4: Leave the paste on your headlights for at least 5 minutes before wiping it off. Also, park your car in a shaded place so that your paste doesn’t evaporate off the headlamps.

Step 5: Next, scrub the headlights by beginning at the top and working your way down. Applying strong pressure while wiping the headlights will help eliminate the oxidation and restore their brightness.

Step 6: Lastly, use fresh water to clean the headlights of your car. You can use an old, soft toothbrush to gently rub the headlamps while washing them off with water.

Can You Use Bug Spray To Clean Car Headlights?

Bug spray on grass

Everyone’s heard about the home remedy involving using bug spray to clear off foggy headlights. The spray may be an affordable way to clean your headlamps, however, is it the most effective?

Using a bug spray is not the best way of cleaning headlights since it removes their protective coating and exposes them to external damage. Once bug spray is applied, your headlights are bound to get fogged, even quicker than usual.

Why Is Bug Spray Not An Effective Fix For Foggy Headlights?

While using bug spray on your car’s headlight might provide immediate results, this is only a short-term solution. In the long run, your headlights will cause more trouble than comfort.

This is due to DEET (the insect-killing component in bug spray) present in most bug sprays on the market. This solvent can dissolve a variety of plastics, paints, and synthetic materials, being detrimental to car headlamps if used excessively. Moreover, DEET can also harm your vehicle’s paintwork if sprayed on it accidentally.

If you’ve already tried using bug spray on your car headlamps, you may have found that your headlights now have a ‘tacky’ feel to them. This stickiness is mainly due to the lack of protective coating which has been removed due to the bug spray. Without the protective coating, your headlamps are more prone to getting fogged.

Can You Use WD-40 To Clean Car Headlights?

Aerosol spray can

WD-40 is a common abrasive product used to provide gleaming results on various surfaces. Most popular for its ability to clean off the rust from metal objects, can the trusty old spray face car headlights?

If you’re wondering whether you can defog your headlights using WD-40, the answer is yes, you can. However, you should not use WD-40 regularly because it can be harmful to your headlights in the long run.

How Effective is WD40?

Although WD-40 will clean your headlights, it’s not the greatest lubricant available on the market. Therefore, while WD-40 can solve the issue in the short run, it cannot prevent cloudiness from recurring on your headlight’s lens.

WD-40 is more of a polishing tool instead of a headlight restoration remedy. When used on other surfaces, such as ceramic and tiles, WD-40 is extremely effective as compared to when it’s used on a car’s headlamp.

Using WD-40 repeatedly can be harmful to your car’s headlights. When used repeatedly, oil from the solvent can leak into the car’s headlight and cause your light bulb to get blurred or burn out.

Proper Method Of Cleaning Headlights Using WD-40

If you’re still planning to use WD-40 in order to clean your headlamps, you might as well follow the proper procedure.

Step 1: Before doing anything, clean your headlights with water to eliminate dirt debris that may have accumulated. This may seem pointless, but it will keep the debris from rubbing against your headlight lens and causing scratches.

Using a pressure washer is an excellent method to get rid of any debris that has accumulated on your headlights.

Step 2: Next, wait for your headlamp to completely dry before applying the WD-40. You can use a clean and dry microfiber cloth to speed up the process.

Step 3: Spray a generous amount of WD-40 on your headlight and let the solution sit for 5-10 minutes.

Step 3: Lastly, wipe your headlights clean with a microfibre cloth. This will eliminate any extra dirt and gunk still present on the headlight. Moreover, if you’re still not satisfied with the result, continue the procedure until your headlights are as clean as new.

Can You Use Rubbing Compound To Clean Car Headlights?

Close up of hand cleaning car headlights

A rubbing compound is mostly used to correct paint scratches that occur during buffing or polishing. If it possesses polishing and scratch-removing properties, it should be able to clean off simple car headlights.

A rubbing compound can help refurbish a car’s headlight and bring back its glory days. To apply the compound to the headlight, place it on a microfiber cloth and apply it in a circular motion. Rub the compound for a few minutes to get your desired result.

Difference Between Rubbing And Polishing Compound

Rubbing Compound

Polishing Compound

Is commonly used to erase scratches from the car’s surface

Often used to give the paint a smoother, more glossy finish

Is more abrasive with larger particle sizes

Is smoother and less abrasive

Can repair more severe damage to the car’s surface

Not strong enough to fix heavy paintwork damages

Can get rid of extreme oxidation

Not suitable for highly oxidated headlights

Both will help you improve the quality of your car’s headlights but in different ways. Moreover, the rubbing compound results can be backed up with a polishing compound to get a finer, glossy headlamp surface.

Can You Use Magic Eraser To Clean Car Headlights?

Close up of car headlights

If you think magic erasers were only good for cleaning scuff marks around the house, think again! Magic erasers are popularly used to clean car headlights and bring them back to their original condition.

Magic erasers do wonders with dirty and hazy car headlights. These sponge bits help in removing dirt, the yellowish buildup, and other pollutants which affect the appearance of your vehicle’s headlamp.

However, magic erasers are extremely harmful to your vehicle’s paint and should be used with extreme care and caution. Any slip-up can cost you a paint job worth hundreds of dollars.

How To Clean Headlights Using Magic Erasers

Using a magic eraser is quite a straightforward task. Simply dampen a magic eraser and rub the headlight until it’s cleared of all the dirt and yellow tint. You may need to scrub several times depending on how dusty or smudged your headlights are.

It’s also worth noting that melamine foam in the magic eraser is extremely permeable and hence wears out quickly. You may need numerous magic erasers if your headlights are extremely foggy.

Can You Use Sandpaper To Clean Car Headlights?

Roll of sand paper

You might have already heard rumors regarding sanding being a good procedure to clean a car’s headlights. Sanding is used for multiple purposes, but is it suitable for restoring headlights?

Well, yes, sandpaper stands as quite an effective solution to clean headlights. The rough paper is especially good against foggy headlights which have gone cloudy due to years of oxidation.

Types Of Sandpapers

Before you start sanding your car’s headlights, you’ll need to know which grit of sandpaper works best for your job.

In simple terms, the greater the grit number, the smoother the sandpaper will feel on the surface you’re rubbing it on. This is because there are more sharp edges present per square inch in sandpapers of this type.


Grit Number


Very Fine


It is made of coarse materials with micro-abrasives. Used to sand bare wood and prep for wood stain

Extra Fine


Can eliminate small patches. Used for wood finishing, wet sanding, and sanding between coats

Super Fine


Mostly used to prep for polishing, and sanding plastic or metal with the help of wet sanding

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Ultra Fine


Contains delicate abrasives. Used as a final sanding material for thick finishes

For extremely oxidized lights, I would recommend starting with 400-grit sandpaper. However, if your headlights aren’t too hazy, you can even use 600-grit sandpaper to sand away your headlight problems.

Cleaning Headlights With Sandpaper

One might believe that sandpaper can easily end up scratching the surface of your headlights. However, if you get the right grit number and use the sandpaper correctly, you’ll easily be able to get the results you desire.

Before you start, make sure to use painter’s tape and cover the sides of your headlamp. This is to ensure that you don’t end up sanding the paint off of your car’s exterior. Moreover, also grab yourself sandpapers starting with 400 grit up till 2000 grit.

Step 1: Start off by spraying some water on both the headlamp and the sandpaper, before beginning to sand.

Step 2: Next, sand the headlights gently in a circular motion. Keep spraying water on the surface while you’re sanding the headlights to keep the headlights moist and the sanding process easier.

Step 3: Once you’ve achieved a uniform sanding on the headlamp, move on to sand the headlight horizontally with the same sandpaper. If you’ve been using 400-grit sandpaper, choose 600-grit sandpaper and repeat the process (gentle circular sanding followed by horizontal sanding).

Step 4: Repeat the process and move your way up until you reach a sandpaper grit of 2000.

Step 5: Lastly, to get rid of any sanded-off plastic, clean the headlights with water and a microfibre cloth.

Finally, you can coat your headlights with a proper spray, such as Meguiar’s Keep Clear Headlight. Make sure you leave the coat to dry for at least 5 minutes before respraying the headlight with another layer of spray. After 24 hours have elapsed, your headlights will be as good as new.

Alternatively, you can also use a glob of rubbing compound to polish your headlight until it’s completely clear. For ease, you can use an electric drill to effectively rub the polishing compound all over the headlight.

Can You Use Wax To Clean Car Headlights?

Candle wax on blue table

Most people use wax as a finishing touch after restoring their car’s headlights. However, there is a lot of confusion regarding whether to use wax primarily to clean off cloudy headlights. People claim that wax protects your headlight from UV rays and fogginess, but is it true?

I would recommend against using too much wax on your car’s headlights. Most car waxes contain elements such as carnauba wax, which can badly stain the plastic cover of the headlights. Therefore, you should only use cleaner waxes made specifically for cleaning headlights.

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Why You Shouldn’t Use Wax To Clean Car Headlights

Although many car owners continue to apply wax to their car’s head and tail lights, a vast majority of them have never experienced any negative side effects. This finding, however, does not give you the license to spread every other type of wax on plastic headlights.

Waxes are often made of strong chemicals that might cause the plastic to dull. This won’t happen right away, but exposing the headlights to these waxes for a long time will cause you to experience hazy headlamps pretty soon.

Where Wax Can Be Used

Only waxes made for the sole purpose of cleaning car headlights should be used. Such waxes are known as cleaner waxes. Owing to their polishing properties, these products can keep your headlights crystal clear.

Some of these waxes, such as the Turtle Wax T-43, keep newly refurbished headlights clear and prevent them from corrosion, while others eliminate that murky haze and restore a crisp, clean look.

How To Clean Car Headlights Properly

Close up of hand cleaning car headlights

The headlights are incredibly vital components of your vehicle; without them, you won’t be able to see anything when driving in the dark. Because of their importance, you must clean them regularly, as even a little coating of filth can diminish the brightness of your lights significantly.

Fortunately, cleaning your car’s headlights is a simple task, and there are a variety of treatments available. Some methods include using household toothpaste, sandpaper, baking soda, and vinegar. These DIY methods can easily be implemented at home and don’t require extensive car-care knowledge.

How To Use Home Remedies To Clean Car Headlights

Home remedies include using toothpaste, baking soda, vinegar, and even sandpaper. Here’s how you can use each of these materials to achieve crystal clear headlamps.


Most individuals who want to restore their car’s headlights wind up using toothpaste as a cleaning agent. This procedure is an inexpensive way to refresh hazy lights.

To do this, apply the paste to the plastic cap using your fingertips. Brush the paste into the gaps in tiny, circular strokes to remove the grit. Finally, rinse the toothpaste away with warm water.

Baking Soda And Vinegar

When it comes to cleaning, the combination of baking soda and vinegar is quite powerful. Mix both the components together and use a microfiber cloth to apply them to the surface of your headlight.

This solution should be rinsed and repeated as required. You may even apply wax on the headlights as an additional preventative measure to avoid future damage.

Insect Spray

Another home remedy is using an insect spray to get rid of the foggy look. However, I would advise you not to go overboard with this procedure unless you want irreparable harm to the plastic. Not only can the chemicals in the spray ruin the coating from the headlight, but they can also degrade the plastic layers.

Headlight Repair Kits

You can also use headlight repair kits to prevent the plastic from degrading. These kits are commonly available from hardware stores and give you all the resources you need to get your headlights shining brightly again. You’ll be getting sandpaper, polishes, application cloths, gloves, and an effective surface activator to completely restore your headlamps back to new.

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