How To Clean Headlights Properly


Do you recall the day you acquired the automobile you enjoy driving around? Everything in the car, including its headlights, was super clean. After years of use, however, you may have noticed that the car’s headlights appear foggy and cloudy.

This occurs due to the materials used to make the headlights. Some headlights are made from plastic while the others utilize polycarbonate instead of the traditional easy-to-break glass. Foggy headlights may affect your visibility as you drive around. It is caused by oxidation or the build-up of:

  • Debris that get into the headlights from the road like grit or grime
  • Atmospheric chemicals

To ensure your safety while driving, you will need to repair the headlights by cleaning them frequently. This will ensure that you can drive the automobile even late in the night. Usually, the oxidation occurs once the plastic or polycarbonate material begins to degrade after a period of exposure to ultraviolet light. 

There are various methods that one can use when cleaning headlights. This article provides a summary of some of the most effective and reliable methods of cleaning car headlights.

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What You Will Need To Clean Headlights

There are different items you will require when cleaning the headlights based on the method you find most preferable.

Method 1

How to clean car headlights that are foggy and cloudy using toothpaste 

For this, you will require the items below.

  • Car wax
  • Masking tape
  • Gloves made of plastic or vinyl for people whose skin is sensitive
  • Soft cloth
  • Preferred type of toothpaste
  • Clean Water

Toothpaste is an effective method of acquiring clear headlights, since it is made with a mild abrasive that scraps off the dirt and stains. This works wonders and is more affordable over the other methods.

Method 2

How to clean oxidized headlights with an automotive polish and a glass cleaner

For this method, you will need the following.

  • Automotive polish
  • Car wax
  • Glass cleaner
  • Masking tape
  • Plastic or vinyl gloves ideal for individuals with a sensitive skin.
  • Rotary buffer
  • Soft cloth
  • Clean Water

You can easily get the main items from the nearest auto part store. While the glass cleaner makes the headlight easy to clean, the polish contains coarse abrasive ingredients that effectively get rid of all the surface dirt. We highly recommend using this method, since it is not only simple but also effective.

Method 3

How to clean car headlights using a polishing compound kit

For this, you will need the following items.

  • A sealant that comes with the kit
  •  A cloth
  • A masking tape
  • Mild detergent from the kit
  • Polishing compound
  • Sandpapers with varying arrays
  • Clean Water

This method is suitable for the over-oxidized headlights and is more complicated in comparison to the other methods. You can get the kit from the nearby auto parts store although it is costlier than the materials needed for the other methods.

You, however, can opt for it if you have used the other methods but find the headlights still cloudy. It is ideal for intensive headlight cleaning. 

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Step by Step Instructions

Method 1: Using toothpaste

1. Cleaning using soap and water:

After gathering all the required items, begin by thoroughly washing the headlights with soap. Scrub the dirt off using a sponge or cloth and rinse the soap off with plain clean water. Allow the headlights to air-dry before assessing how clean they now look.

2. Putting a masking tape protection:

Use the masking tape to protect the vehicle parts surrounding the headlights from being scrapped accidentally. Put on the gloves if you have sensitive skin and apply a little water on the soft cloth. Squeeze a dab of the toothpaste on the damp soft cloth.

3. Cleaning using the toothpaste:

Rub the cloth laden with toothpaste against the headlights in small circles and concentrating more on the stained areas. For thorough cleaning, spend around 5 minutes on each dirty part.

Keep adding water and toothpaste as you proceed with the cleaning process. After scrapping the entire headlight, rinse off the toothpaste with plain clean water. Leave the headlights to air dry. 

4. Car wax:

This headlight cleaning process is not perfect if you do not apply some car wax for durability. Apply the wax in a circular motion using a soft cloth to avoid damaging the headlights. Once you are finished, consider rinsing the headlights again with clean water. Allow them to air dry before driving the car.

Method 2: Using automotive polish & a glass cleaner

1. Taping off:

Assess the state of the headlights to determine whether cleaning them will have them fully repaired. Once you have all the cleaning materials, take the masking tape and attach it around the headlights.

This will help protect other areas from unnecessary damage during the cleaning process. You can then proceed to put on the gloves if your skin is sensitive. 

2. Spraying the cleaner:

Spray the headlights with the glass cleaner that will help remove all the dirt from the surface. Proceed to rinse off the glass cleaner from the headlights’ surface using the soft cloth acquired. Avoid being rough on the headlights during cleaning so that you do not cause any damage.

3. Applying the automotive polish:

Add the polish on another piece of soft cloth and rub it in circular motions against the surface of the headlights. If you have little time to spare, use a rotary buffer to apply the automotive polish efficiently. Keep adding the polish as needed until you are done.

After polishing, rinse of the headlights with clean water and allow them to air dry before using the car wax to prevent oxidation in the near future. 

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Method 3: Using a polishing compound kit

1. Using the masking tape and cleaning product:

Cover the areas surrounding the headlights with the masking tape to avoid unwanted damage from abrasion.

Put on the gloves obtained, especially if you have a sensitive skin. Wash the headlights by applying the mild detergent on the soft cloth and scrubbing thoroughly. Rinse of the cleanser with clean water.

2. Polishing compound and sandpaper application:

Get another soft cloth and apply a bit of the polishing compound on it. In small circles, rub the cloth against the surface of the headlights for cleaning. Take your time (around 5 minutes for each part) so that the polish can be effective.

Then get the coarsest sandpaper and deep it in water before scrapping off the dirt from the headlights’ surface. Do this for each sandpaper and use them from the coarsest to the smoothest. Be sure to dampen them before use.

3. Rinsing and car wax:

Use plain water to rinse off the polishing compound and debris of the sandpapers used. Get the sealant or car wax that comes with the kit and apply a little on a soft cloth.

Rub this against the surface of the headlights to reduce cases of future oxidation. You can leave the headlights as they are or rinse them with plain water if you find it necessary.

What are your thoughts about this tutorial? Did you find the methods discussed on how to clean car headlights helpful? We have focused on the easiest, least expensive, and most effective headlight cleaning methods.

The materials required for each step can be obtained easily from the nearest general or auto part stores. We know that foggy, oxidized, or cloudy headlights are a major problem and could cause accidents if used at night.

As such, it is important for you to consider the method that best fits your budget, availability, and preference. Feel free to share your thoughts about this article in the comment section. If you liked the article and would like your friends to know more about headlight cleaning, please share it with them.

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