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How to Clean Headlights: a DIY Guide

Last Updated: 30 Apr 2019

Earlier or later, car owners face a very unpleasant problem that is called dirty and foggy headlights. It is quite a common issue so that lots of people are wondering how to defog headlights. But let’s first find out what are the reasons:

  1. Sand or dust;
  2. Small stones on the road;
  3. Weather conditions, in particular, rain and snow;
  4. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation;
  5. Low bushes, scratching the car;
  6. Influence of strong chemical components of the environment;
  7. Mechanical effects of external character.

As you can see, the reasons can be different. But are they really too dangerous? Go on reading and see whether you need cleaning the headlights or not.

Why You Should Restore Your Headlights

It goes without saying such an issue can cause lots of inconveniences and even accidents. When a car has yellowed and dull headlights, a driver has less visibility while moving on the road. It is not just a question of an attractive look or a person’s reputation. More important here is an increasing possibility of having an accident. Additionally, drivers could not pass the necessary inspections. What about your headlights? Are they in good condition or also need a magic stick? If yes, then do not hurry to buy new lenses as we have prepared the list of the best tools to overcome such difficulty. Go on reading and find out how to clean headlights easily and quickly.

Bring to notice that all these tips are really simple and you don’t need to buy some special things to clean headlights. Our experts have tried a lot of them and now are ready to present the best ones. Overall, it is up to you to decide which method to choose to get rid of this annoying problem. We will be also glad if you share the result with us in comments. Maybe your recommendations will help other drivers select the best headlight cleaner.

1. The Bug Spray Method

Some specialists do not recommend bug spray headlights treating. Want to know a secret? It is because the spray contains DEET that may remove the oxidation of headlights. Moreover, the result will not please you for a long time. The problem may occur again within a month or several days. If you decide to try it, then apply the towel and do not spray it directly on the headlights.

Pros: A reasonable price.

Cons: The result is not long lasting.

2. Clean Headlights with Baking Soda and Vinegar

It is not a secret that people are accustomed to using household cleaners for different purposes. If you ask Google “what can I use to clean my headlights”, you will definitely come across such things as baking soda and vinegar. So why not try them as well? Just take a toothbrush or microfiber cloth and rub either soda or vinegar into the lenses. You can also apply a combination of them. Do it and repeat if necessary. However, it’s better to try such a cleaner on low-cost headlights in order to see the result and make the final decision whether this method suits you.

Pros: Always available.

Cons: This method may require some special efforts as you need to remove headlight assembly from the car.

3. Using a Headlight Restoration Kit

There are so many restoration and cleaning kits these days so everybody can choose the one based on his expectations and available budget. Of course, some of them are better and some worse, but it’s just a question of a person’s preferences. We recommend you to make the final decision on purchasing this or that kit according to the customers’ experience. Just devote some time to finding and reading reviews of real people and their impressions of the ready restoration kits. Check what they offer to clean headlights with and start experimenting with your own car.

Pros: Affordable price.

Cons: You need a lot of time: an hour or even more. It is more suitable for drivers who have experience of using such tools. The headlights may become dull again in just a few months.

4. The Toothpaste Method

Who on Earth doesn’t have toothpaste? It is always by your side, or at least you can go to any local shop and purchase a tube right now. All in all, you will be impressed with how simple, cheap and effective will be to clean headlights with toothpaste. Moreover, you won’t risk to spoil the headlights and worsen the given situation.

However, remember using exactly toothpaste, not gel. It will be great if the toothpaste contains baking soda. If not, then just apply some of it by itself. Believe, such means will act in your hands. It is because soda helps achieve an excellent result without any special efforts.

When you are done with cleaning the headlights, you should apply toothpaste on the plastic. Don’t be afraid to do something wrong and just put a solid layer. Take a convenient toothbrush and start with small circles. Step by step, brush the paste into the plastic. It will help delete all available dust and grit. You will need only 5-10 minutes to perform this. Next, use warm water in order to remove available toothpaste residues from the plastic. Feel free to repeat the procedure to enhance the overall result quality.

Finally, make sure the plastic is clean and dry as much as it is possible. You can also add a layer of paste wax to this area. Leave it to dry and afterward buff it out. Believe, you will be impressed with results as they will last longer than after other methods. Unfortunately, it is not still a durable solution.

Pros: It is always close at hand. The result keeps longer than when applying other methods.

Cons: It requires some time and accuracy.

5. The Wet Sanding Method

The wet sanding headlight cleaning method is another way to improve the look of your headlights. It is great as offers a permanent result. However, you should keep in mind that the process of cleaning will take a lot of time and efforts. There is also a necessity to leave the car for 24 hours so you won’t be able to use it for own purposes. The last step also requires avoiding contact with the wind for not to deal with dust. As you can see, you may be not very pleased with actions, but if you want to enjoy the best result, then keep calm and do your best.

Pros: Long-lasting result.

Cons: It requires time and labor.

6. Sandpaper

It is very important to use soapy water while applying sandpaper. It is necessary to dip the tool into the water before direct grinding. Sandpaper is an excellent method for making your headlights transparent. But be careful with glass variations. You may scratch them easily. Choose special tools from specialty stores for cleaning glass. In extreme cases, you need to decrease it.

If you just want to apply sandpaper on your headlights a little bit and make them more transparent, then prepare a few pieces. Start with the largest size, about 800 micrometers, and finish with the smallest – 2500. Some do the opposite; in fact, the effect is the same. During the process, press the headlight slightly but not too much.

Pros: Lets your headlights shine.

Cons: A possibility to damage the lenses.

7. Polish

The peculiarity of the polishing process is cleaning of the surface of the headlights from damages which are represented by numerous small chips and scratches. Headlight restoration DIY means to perform work during which the surface of the upper layer of the material will be removed. It will let eliminate the shortcomings effectively. This procedure does not require a long study of special literature and any unusual tools. Everybody can successfully do such work if there is no desire or opportunity to take the car to the service.

If you decide to start polishing headlights, then you need to make the preparatory stage. This will save the delicate elements from damage and protect them. In particular, if you use polishes with toxic compounds.

Most importantly, you need to clean off dirt and dust before polishing. There is nothing complicated or special about this process. Purchase a simple glass cleaner, as well as a rag. It is necessary to spray the liquid on the headlight, then wipe it. If you do not want to spend money at this stage or there is no time to go to the store, there is a way out.

Use available tools that can become a substitute. A simple dishwashing gel would be an excellent option as well as soap, shampoo, or any detergent. Do not use toxic powders for washing machines; they can simply damage the plastic glass lights.

How to Clean Headlights. 7 Easy Steps

Even a novice car enthusiast can polish the headlights with his own hands. It is important to comply with all technical requirements and rules, take into account the peculiarity of the polished material and how deep the damage is. Many drivers successfully manage to bring the old translucent lenses in excellent condition if they show patience and accuracy. This process does not take much time and effort, and the beauty and functionality of the headlights will be a reward for the efforts made. Polishing of headlights at home makes it impossible to achieve perfect transparency. The performance will always be 20% different from new ones. But in comparison with the acquisition of new headlights, such process will ensure the functionality and decent look of the car for a long time without applying to a service. So if you are also wondering how to clean my headlights, then this guide is just for you.

Step 1

Prepare the headlight. Remove all available dirt with any soap, glass cleaner, shampoo, etc.

Step 2

Choose a method of cleaning the headlights from the list above. Think properly. Look at the advantages and disadvantages of the chosen method. Search for other drivers’ experience and try to make a final decision.

Step 3

Prepare all necessary tools. Maybe you will need to buy something. You’d better spend some more time for a proper preparation rather than starting the process without necessary tools.

Step 4

Make sure you follow all safety rules before polishing. Be attentive with all liquids and put on work gloves.

Step 5

Take into consideration internal polishing. Keep in mind that the exterior cleaning of the headlights will not always help remove dirt and cloud elements.

Step 6

Follow all instructions in order not to face possible difficulties. Work carefully and do not hurry. You’d better spend more time but be pleased with the received result in the long run. Ask for help if there is such a necessity.

Step 7

Enjoy the result and take care of the headlights. Each of the suggested options is suitable for polishing. The headlights can be both glass and plastic. All in all, they will look like new if you do everything strictly according to the instructions. Use toothpaste or sandpaper? It all depends on your preferences and financial possibilities. And remember to take care of the headlights constantly; so you won’t have to polish them every year.

We hope, this article was useful for you. Maybe it answered some of your questions, and after reading, you can decide which method to apply. If not, then feel free to ask any extra questions below. We will be glad to help you with getting an astonishing result in a short period of time with minimum efforts.

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