One of the most critical safety precautions a driver can take when driving at night or in low-light circumstances is effective headlights.
Foggy headlight lenses will reduce the effectiveness of your headlights. So, if you find the light coming from the headlights’ surface isn’t clear, it’s likely your vehicle has cloudy headlights and you are risking your life, and that of other drivers.
Drivers can notice foggy headlights have a yellowish, dirty tinge to them, and it is the foggy look you see, which causes this on headlights.
The thick plastic headlights are made from polycarbonates are to blame for the fogginess in the headlights.
These plastic lenses are significantly more scratch-resistant and durable than the earlier glass lenses. However, different surfaces need different treatments, so pay attention to your headlight materials. (Learn How To Clean Whirlpool Dishwasher)
The outer layers of this polycarbonate plastic break down and degrade over time as they are exposed to dust, UV radiation, the effects of acid rain and more. Such influences make headlights foggy as the headlight surface is no longer clear.
Luckily, in our guide, you don’t need to dash out for a headlight restoration kit. You can clean oxidized headlights using stuff you have at home.
By the end, you’ll have much more information on dealing with oxidized or cloudy headlights so you can see while you are driving.
What’s The Best Thing To Clean Headlights With?
Most auto supply stores carry at least one product for cleaning headlight lenses that have become fogged because of UV exposure.
Look for “headlight restoration kit” or “headlight lens restoration” items.
In an emergency, folks who need to clean oxidized headlights have a few additional possibilities. Toothpaste and baking soda help clean headlights. Using these household products to clean your car’s hazy headlights is simple.
Both home remedies can clean your headlights to remove fogging without scratching or damaging the headlights.
Cleaning your car’s headlights doesn’t require a lot of supplies. Here are a few things to have on hand:
What You Need
- Baking soda or toothpaste
- Old rags
- Latex gloves (in case of sensitive skin)
- Clean water
- Soft-bristled brush
- Mild cleaner
Let’s see how to clean foggy headlights.
Clean Headlight Surface
You’ll want to make sure you’re working on a clean surface before you start. Using a mild cleanser, gently wipe away any dirt, particles, dead bugs, or crud that has gathered on the surface of your headlights.
After cleaning your car headlights, wipe the surface using a dry towel or rag until it’s completely dry.
Use DIY Headlight Restorer
Apply a generous amount of glass cleaner to your headlight lenses, be it from a headlight restoration pack, toothpaste, or your baking soda.
When using baking soda, make a thick paste by mixing with a little water. After the application of your glass cleaner, let your lens dry. (Learn How To Clean Super Glue Off Glass)
Remove Glass Cleaner
Using circular motions, clean oxidized headlights using your brush. Remember, the cleanser you use is abrasive, so take it easy as not to gouge or scratch the plastic surface. You can see the yellowness or fogginess vanish with your car headlight cleaning actions.
Remove Excess Cleaner
Remove any traces of residual cleanser from your lens using a clean wipe or towel. Spritz with water any stubborn bits and polish your car headlights until dry using your towel.
Use some glass cleaner in a spray bottle and a clean towel to add back the shine after you clean your headlights of all the road debris and oxidization. (Learn How To Clean Bathtub Drain)
The above is very easy, as even toothpaste contains abrasive particles. Just make sure you use the white toothpaste and not the gel type.
Clean Headlights With Vinegar
Vinegar is a fantastic cleaning solution on its own but mixing vinegar and baking soda together creates a chemical reaction powerful enough to remove hard-to-remove rust, road debris and dirt build-up from headlights.
Vinegar and baking soda can clean oxidized headlights as the two compounds work together while retaining the abrasive properties of the baking soda.
Make sure your car is clean before you begin. Follow this how-to instruction for homemade car wash soap with vinegar if you want to wash it at home.
Separate any areas using masking tape so you don’t damage any painted surface as you clean the edges of your headlight cover on your headlights.
It is best to wear gloves (plastic or vinyl gloves) when carrying out this process, even if the compounds are harmless.
It can be a messy job to restore your headlights, and should you have sensitive skin, the reaction could irritate you.
Recipe to Clean Headlights
- 1 cup of baking soda
- 1/3 cup of liquid dish soap
- 2 tablespoons of white vinegar
- Soft cloth
- Microfiber cloth
- These components work as a mild abrasive to remove oxidation from your headlights and restore them to their original condition.
- Just take it steady, as too much force to the car headlights plastic can cause more damage.
- Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl to make a thick paste.
- Using a soft cloth, massage some of the polishing compounds on the headlight in circular motions to remove the oxidation.
- After you have gone over the entire surface, using a clean cloth wipe the surface.
Don’t panic if your headlights are made of glass and not plastic. Because glass is almost non-reactive, it will never oxidize or be harmed by UV light.
How To Clean Headlights With WD40
The cleaning capabilities of WD-40 or 3-in-1 oils are combined with the abrasive action of baking soda in this mixture.
If the headlamp contains problematic stains, such as embedded rust, it is advised. If you use this mixture, make sure the oil does not get on the car’s moldings or other plastic components. You may avoid this by using masking tape.
With masking tape or something similar, create a frame around the headlight to protect the paint.
- To make a dense mixture, combine the WD-40 and baking soda. Look for a smoothness akin to toothpaste to get a sign of how dense it should be.
- Rub the DIY polishing compound in small circles over the entire surface of the headlamp. The more time you spend the better for your headlights.
- Wash with soap and water to ensure that all the oil is removed.
- Use a glass cleaner and clean cloth to clean the car headlight.
Some motorists also fold a paper towel and spray this with WD40 before wiping it across the surface of the headlight. WD40 has water repellent properties and can stop dirt and grime sticking to the plastic lens.
For upkeep, follow the process to wash your headlights with automotive soap and then spray with WD40, or you can apply wax as a clear coat to protect the lenses from UV rays.
One thing to note with WD40 is, it has a shelf life of 5-years, so if you have an old can, it could be best to get a new can, to deliver the best results to cleaning your headlights with WD40.
On some occasions, you can find either dirt or discoloration on the rear of the headlight lenses. The reason here is the small opening manufacturers put in the rear to let the heat out.
It is possible for dirt and water to seep inside. From this, you can have a dirty surface or more often you see condensation on the insides of your headlights.
Use Sandpaper To Clean Car Headlight
Cleaning a car headlight can be difficult, especially when oxidized buildup is present. Wash your car first so you don’t clean dirt and grime and causing more damage.
You’ll need to gain a heavy-duty headlight restoration kit if nothing else works. You’ll need sandpaper in three different grits: 800, 1400, and 2500.
The oxidation will be removed with the lighter grit, and the plastic will be smoothed off with the higher grit.
To avoid damaging the paint, tape it off. Begin by rubbing the lower number of grit sandpaper over the plastic lens in circular motions.
Make sure all the hazy headlights are gone with some elbow grease. Keep a clean cloth nearby to wipe away the residue with a microfiber cloth. After that, smooth out the headlamp using 1400 grit sandpaper.
Locate the rougher areas of the headlight and brush them gently until there is no resistance. Take care not to push too hard, since this could harm the headlight.
Finally, give everything a once-over with the extremely fine-grit sandpaper to make it look brand new. This time, if there is any surface damage, repair it. If it doesn’t work, try this auto headlight cleaner.
With a little clear coat and vehicle wax, you’ll never know it was a yellowed headlight or even had a foggy appearance, and it will prevent future accumulation and oxidation.
Wash your car headlight and add some car wax for protection against UV and the weather. Some car wax comes with added UV protection and can delay the restoration process of your car highlights for much longer.