Foggy headlights are a common form of wear and tear that your car will experience over time. This condition is caused by oxidation when the plastic headlight case is exposed to direct sunlight. Even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal, oxidized headlights can reduce your night-time visibility on the road by up to 50%.
This article will cover how you can clean headlights using household products, special headlight restoration kits, and with professional help.
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Options for Headlight Cleaning
1. Household Products
Cleaning a headlight lens is a straightforward process that you can do at home using everyday household products and some elbow grease.
Your best bet is slightly abrasive products like the following:
- Toothpaste – Squeeze a little toothpaste on a cloth. After a quick pre-wash, wipe outwards from the centre of the light until you’ve formed a smooth coat of toothpaste, which should clean the lens exterior effectively. Rinse with water. Later in the article, we cover this process in detail.
- Dish soap – Regular dish soap has chemicals that break down dirt and grime. Apply some on a wet sponge and rub onto the lenses, then rinse off with water.
- Baking soda – Baking soda has a double-cleaning effect. It’s useful for cleaning foggy headlights and also removing any other stains as well.
- Vinegar – Vinegar is helpful for cleaning a yellow lens because of its acidity. For the best results with vinegar, remove the entire front light cover and soak it in a vinegar and warm water mixture for an hour.
These household abrasive cleaners can be a cheap and effective method for removing the damage caused by UV rays.
2. Headlight Restoration Kits
If you’re not getting the results you want using the household products listed above, your second option is to use a headlight restoration kit. These kits include a cleaning spray or polishing compound to work on hazy headlights.
A kit like that will also include other useful products like a microfibre towel and, in some cases, UV protection liquid that forms an additional protective coating between the lens and sunrays.
See our picks for the best headlight restoration kits.
3. Professional Headlight Restoration
If your lamps have been hazy for a very long time, then household cleaning products and DIY restoration kits may not be enough. To bring your headlights back to their original condition, you’ll need some professional help.
Your local auto detailer can use a professional-grade compound on the glass to get the job done. Plus, they’ll have power tools to restore hazy light lenses for sanding and to buff them out, while ensuring no damage is caused.
Professional light restoration isn’t cheap. Still, it’s worth it if your headlights are hazy and too hard to clean at home.
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How to Clean Headlights with Toothpaste
Here are the steps you’ll need to follow to clean your hazy headlights with toothpaste.
Step 1 – Pre-Wash
Start by cleaning the headlight cover’s surface with soapy water and a wet towel. Wipe it clean, then let it air dry for a few minutes.
Doing this will help remove any loose dirt and sand coating the surface and maximise the toothpaste’s effectiveness.
Step 2 – Apply With A Cloth
Instead of applying the toothpaste directly onto the surface, use a wet cloth instead. Microfiber cloths are best because they remove more dirt and don’t leave any streaks or scratches behind.
Use automotive tape to section off the headlight and ensure you don’t damage the surrounding paintwork. Then wipe using circular motions starting from the centre and working your way outwards.
You’ll have to do this for at least five minutes on each section that you’re cleaning. The toothpaste needs some time to react with the plastic lens, especially if they’ve been yellow or hazy for a long time.
Step 3 – Rinse, Dry, and Repeat
Remove the tape that you applied earlier, then wash the toothpaste off the cover and allow it to air dry. If the headlight lenses are still murky, you’ll need to repeat the process. A fine-grit sandpaper can also be helpful. Sandpaper is abrasive and can sand down exceptionally worn-out surfaces.
You could also do add some polish or wax to the surface, forming a clear coat to protect the plastic from future oxidation.
Cloudy or yellow lights are easy to overlook if you’re driving an old vehicle. But even though many people might think that they’re harmless, they can make driving riskier by reducing the output of your headlights and undermining visibility on the road. So, if you think that your lights are becoming affected, it’s always best to clean and polish them before it gets worse.
Cleaning them sooner is also much easier and cheaper to do than trying to restore exceptionally hazy lights some time in the future.
What Can I Use To Clean My Headlights?
You can clean your vehicle lights with household products like toothpaste, dish soap, baking soda, or even vinegar. For better results, you can buy a DIY restoration kit from your favourite auto accessory store. They include cleaning solutions specially formulated to clean automotive lights.
Does WD40 Clean Headlights?
Yes, WD40 spray can be effective when used on cloudy headlights. However, it’s not advised to use WD40 as your regular cleaner because the oil in WD40 can leak into the headlight bulb, causing it to blur or burn out. WD40 has protective qualities for moving mechanical parts, but it’s not meant for cleaning or polishing in the way car wax is.
How Do You Remove Oxidation From Headlights?
To thoroughly remove oxidation from vehicle lights, you can soak it in a combination of vinegar and baking soda. By soaking it entirely in this homemade mixture, you’ll remove the oxidation from both inside and outside the lamp cover. Some gentle sanding with very fine grit sandpaper is also helpful to remove tough oxidation.