How to Clean Your Headlights with Household Items

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Headlights are essential not just for late night drives, but rainy days and misty afternoons as well. Over time though, your headlights are doomed to yellow or fog up themselves. Though there are numerous market pastes, solvents and “exclusive polishes” designed to clear up dull beams, you can also use household items to restore your headlights to showroom condition. 

Read on to discover a few simple means of combating oxidization without breaking the bank.

1: DIY headlight cleaner with dish soap

If you’re wondering how to clean those cloudy headlights, why not give good ol’ dish soap a try? As it turns out, this household staple is a great home remedy for getting the grime off foggy headlights.

Materials needed: 

  • Bucket
  • Warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Sponge

Instructions:
Make sure your beams are clean before you start applying any household solvents and remedies. One of the easiest ways to clean your headlights and tail lights is by using a sponge and soapy water. Cleaning is easier if you rinse your headlights first and allow them to soak a little bit before scrubbing the debris and bugs off. Small, circular motions work best. Once done, remove the residue with a thorough rinse.

And voila! This could very well be one of the easiest, DIY ways to get clean headlights.SHOP TAIL LIGHTS

2: Using baking soda as a homemade headlight cleaner

When it comes to DIY home remedies, one of the best ways to clean yellow headlights is with baking soda. Yup, the very one that’s sitting in your pantry. Not only will it clear up foggy headlights, but it’ll also help when you’re cleaning paint off your fog lights. Just be careful to keep it away from your paint job – lest you want the baking soda mixture to clean that right off your car, too.

Materials needed: 

  • Bowl
  • Warm water
  • Baking soda
  • Sponge
  • Clean cloth

Instructions:
Put about five tablespoons of baking soda in a bowl and mix in enough warm water to form a paste. After you’ve given your headlights a basic cleaning, apply the paste to the headlights with a corner of your sponge. Go on, be generous. Polish your headlights with the clean cloth, using more of those small, circular motions. 

The baking soda acts as a buffing agent, soaking up the oxides and clearing up your yellowed plastic headlights. And because the baking soda does most of the work, you don’t need to apply an excessive amount of pressure when polishing. Repeat this step as often as needed until you see the results you want. 

Be careful not to rub any of the baking soda solvent on your paint around the headlights, as the baking soda’s abrasiveness could tarnish your paint job. When your headlights look brighter, rinse them off, then give them one last wash with dish soap and warm water. Finally, dry your headlights, turn them off and stand back to enjoy your handiwork.

3. How to clean headlights with vinegar

Foggy lenses got your nighttime visibility to an all-time low? Fortunately, this is a project that can be done DIY. Clean headlights are just an hour away with a bit of white vinegar and warm water.

Materials needed: 

  • White vinegar
  • Warm water
  • Rough sponge/soft cloth
  • Plain cooking spray 

Instructions: 
To clean your headlights with vinegar, you’ll remove the headlight lens or cover from the front of the car and fully immerse it in a white vinegar bath. Leave it there for about an hour and the vinegar’s acidity will begin to loosen any of that caked-on filth. After the headlight cover has been soaking, use a rough sponge to rub away the grime and re-install the cover. 

Vinegar is a great way to clean foggy headlights, but it pulls double-duty when it comes to restoring the shiny sheen of your headlight lenses. If your headlights are covered with scratches, you can also use a vinegar bath to resurrect their showroom quality, but with a slightly altered procedure than the one above. 

After letting the cover soak in the vinegar bath for the prescribed hour, gently rinse it off and dry it with a soft cloth. Then, spray some plain cooking spray onto the cover. The cooking spray is great because it cleans and shines your cover at the same time. Next, buff it to a shine with a soft cloth — make sure it’s soft to avoid further scratches on the headlight cover. 

Basically, you want to treat the cover as gently as you would treat a pair of glasses.

SHOP HEADLIGHT COVERS

 

4. How to clean headlights with bug spray

Bug spray: great for keeping those little pests away, but for cleaning your yellow headlights? It’s not just a rumor. Bug spray, like Off, can help you say sayonara to dirt, grime, and UV damage that’s been piling up on those headlights. 

Materials needed: 

  • Bug spray
  • Soft cloth 

Instructions:
If you’re wondering how to clean foggy headlights, bug spray like Off just might be the way to go. Apply some to a soft cloth and rub it onto your cloudy headlights using — you guessed it — small, circular motions. 

The bug spray’s chemicals help remove some of the UV- and dirt-damaged plastic from the headlights’ surface, resulting in a cleaner, shinier appearance.

5. How to clean headlights with toothpaste

If you think of cloudy headlights a bit like dirty teeth, then it makes perfect sense that toothpaste is a helpful home remedy used to clean headlights. Even if you’ve never compared your car’s grill to the one in your mouth, that tube of Colgate might just be your saving grace when you realize your headlights have gone from a bright beacon of light to nothing more than a soft glow.

Materials needed: 

  • Toothpaste
  • Soft cloth 

Instructions:
If you’ve ever brushed your teeth – and we know you have – then you already know how to clean your headlights with toothpaste. Simply take the toothpaste and squeeze some of it directly onto your headlights. Start from the middle and spread out toward the corners of the headlights with your cloth. Continue until the toothpaste is completely wiped away. 

Simple, straightforward and easy to repeat, if needed.

 

6. Making a DIY headlight cleaner with salt and dish soap

We’ve already mentioned dish soap as one of the ways to clean foggy headlights, but adding salt gives it a bit of extra power when it comes to standing up to the bully that is dirt on your headlights.

Materials needed: 

  • Warm water
  • Dish soap
  • Salt
  • Bowl
  • Sponge 

Instructions:
Pour some warm water, dish soap, and salt into a bowl and immerse your headlight lens/cover in the mixture. Household soaps DIY remedies like this are great for removing grime. Because well they’re specifically designed to cut through grease. 

And the salt gives your DIY mixture an abrasive texture, chipping away at dirt and other things stuck to your lens plastic. After letting your cover soak, give it a good scrubbing with your sponge. The soap-and-salt combo should easily remove any crud.

 

7. How to clean yellow headlights with denatured alcohol

Did you forget what the original color of your headlights looked like long ago? Cast away cloudy headlights and yellow plastic covers with denatured alcohol, the home remedy ready to make the leap from bathroom cabinet to garage superstar.

Materials needed: 

  • Denatured alcohol
  • Soft rag 

Instructions:
Wash your headlights well using soapy water, then rinse and dry. Dip a corner of your soft rag in denatured alcohol, which you can find at most paint or hardware stores. Rub the solution onto your lens. Repeat until your headlights lose some of their yellow hue. Rinse your headlights thoroughly and dry again. 

To further protect the lenses, apply a coat of car wax — which we have in high supply. Use a clean, soft rag to rub the wax on in a circular motion, and buff it out after a few minutes.

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The above home remedies are great for clearing up faded or foggy headlights, but the results may only be temporary. If your vehicle’s headlights are irreparably cloudy and you’re experiencing decreased light output, headlight protection film, like from XPEL can protect your headlights from being sandblasted and UV damaged back to where they were when you started — or, since you’re already here, pick up a new set of headlights from AutoAnything.

SHOP HEADLIGHTS NOW

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Mike Cote
My 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road Access Cab 4x4 offers bed space to camp in, haul my dirt bike around, and it's been done up to take on the trails. Favorite mods include my Icon coilovers to soak up the bumps. My Walker Evans 501 Legend wheels wrapped in Toyo RT tires give me the clearance from my upper control arms to fit (and they look darn good) and the over-sized tires take on rocks with plenty of traction. My Rigid Industries fog lights have kept me out of a ditch or two when night wheeling. Growing up going to car shows and helping my dad work on the family vehicles ignited my passion. My best memory was the first time I flushed the coolant. My dad forgot to tell me to keep my face out from under the drain plug. Never made that mistake again!

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