Over time, you might notice that your headlights just don’t look the same. It happens slowly, but the lenses appear to fog up, even though there’s no water present inside the lens. Most people aren’t sure how to clean headlights because the method isn’t the same as the body panels on their car.
Cloudy or foggy headlights don’t just look bad, they also can put you at serious risk. The haziness can cut down on just how well you see at night, which is especially dangerous when travelling down dark roads. It could literally be the difference between you seeing a hazard in time and crashing horribly.
How to Clean Headlights
Modern car headlights feature a polycarbonate plastic lens. The material doesn’t chip or crack nearly as easily as glass, but over time it can start to turn cloudy. There’s not much you can do about preventing this because exposure to sunlight and chemicals in the air triggers the reaction.
Replacing the headlights isn’t a very practical solution because that can run you a pretty good chunk of change. Instead of just being puzzled by this problem, you can learn that cleaning foggy headlights is actually pretty simple. You don’t need to be an automotive guru or have a bunch of special tools. In fact, cleaning headlights and restoring their original look can be done with some common materials.
The most common household method for cleaning foggy headlights is toothpaste, of all things. The stuff does a great job of cleaning your teeth, so why not your headlights as well? Interestingly enough, the buildup caused by oxidization on your headlight lenses is actually pretty similar to the plaque that gathers on your teeth.
Instead of using a toothbrush for cleaning headlights, you need to get a soft sponge. Anything abrasive, such as a scouring pad, can permanently damage the lenses. Apply a healthy amount of toothpaste to the sponge, then rub it around on the headlight lenses in a roughly circular motion for a couple of minutes or so. It does help if you push hard, especially if your headlights are especially cloudy.
From there, you need to wipe off the excess toothpaste with a clean cloth. Then you can apply car wax, the same stuff you use on the body, and follow up by wiping it off as well. That should leave your headlights looking bright and as good as new.
Another DIY headlight cleaning method combines the power of vinegar, baking soda and soap. You start off with a bucket filled with a small amount of water. Pour dish soap in, then wet a clean cloth in the mixture. Use that cloth to thoroughly clean off the headlight lenses.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
The next step is to put some baking soda in a cup, then add the vinegar. Immediately, the mixture will expand, fizz and bubble, but it’s safe for you to touch and even breathe in (but it won’t smell great). Dip another clean cloth in the cup, using it to apply the mixture to the headlight lenses. Like with the toothpaste, it doesn’t hurt to push hard and keep at it for a few minutes, depending on how bad your headlights look.
After rubbing the mixture onto the lenses, dry them thoroughly with a clean cloth. You can wax them to create a nice shine.
One of the most unexpected household remedies for cloudy headlights is bug spray. Funny enough, some of the chemicals that help drive away mosquitos and other pesky critters also can power through the dirt and oxidization in the plastic.
Here’s how to clean headlights using bug spray: carefully spray some solution on a clean, soft cloth until it is well soaked. Rub it around on the lens in circular motions for a few minutes, again pushing hard.
Like with the other methods, you can wipe off any excess bug spray with a clean cloth, then apply wax.
Dish Soap and Salt
There’s yet another combination of extremely common household items which, when combined, can remove the cloudiness from your headlights. In a bowl, combine warm water with dish soap and salt. The soap is to remove dirt and other contaminants, while the salt is gently abrasive, helping to scour off the stuff that won’t budge otherwise.
You actually remove the headlight from your car and place it, lens-down, in the mixture. Let it soak for a while, then scrub it clean with a fresh sponge for good measure. Wipe it off with a clean cloth and apply wax, if you so choose.
As you can see, learning how to clean headlights is an easy afternoon project that is well worth the increased visibility and safety for both you and your passengers.