4 Options for How To Clean Foggy Headlights

Jan 04, 2023

Blue car at night with headlights on.

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Whether you’re commuting to work in the early morning hours or navigating your way home at the end of the night, headlights are essential to help light your way. Unfortunately, plastic lenses tend to cloud up over time. Eventually, you could reach a point where the lights are so dim that there’s no point in turning them on. Follow along for some tips on how to clean foggy headlights to make sure you can see in the dark. 

How to Clean Foggy Headlights

Regardless of the option you choose below (excluding Option 4), the process for learning how to clean foggy headlights will remain the same. 

Step 1: Clean off loose dirt or debris with a mild cleanser and water. Wipe down and dry the surface. 

Step 2: Apply your chosen headlight restorer. We’ll talk about those options more in a moment. Leave it on for a few minutes.

Step 3: Buff with a cloth or buffing wheel to polish the lens and remove any extra cleaner. 

Step 4: Rinse off any remaining headlight restorer and dry lenses with a clean cloth.

If you’re cleaning the headlight lenses, it might also be an excellent time to replace the bulbs. Headlight bulbs can lose brightness over time and should always be replaced in pairs.

Option 1: Headlight Cleaning Kit

Walking into your local auto parts store, you’ll likely see headlight cleaning kits. These kits include a mildly abrasive polishing compound and a cloth or buffing wheel to help polish the polycarbonate plastic that covers your headlights. The advantage of these kits is that they include everything you might need in a convenient package, but they can be a bit costly. 

Option 2: Toothpaste

Who says you need a fancy headlight cleaning kit to ensure you can see where you’re going at night? All you need is a tube of toothpaste. Opt for a cheap whitening toothpaste that includes baking soda in its ingredients list. Follow the steps above, and you’ll get some surprising results. Plus, your headlights will smell minty fresh!

Option 3: Baking Soda

You’re ahead of the game if you’ve already got a buffing wheel or polishing cloth in your garage. You probably have the other ingredients you might need in your kitchen. Baking soda is a natural abrasive, making it great for cleaning and polishing. Mix it with enough water to make a thick paste, then follow the steps above.

Option 4: Replacement

Especially for older cars, sometimes all the polishing compound in the world isn’t enough to breathe new life into your lenses. Once you reach that point, save time and money and instead look into replacing the lenses themselves. In most cases, you’ll be able to order a complete lens unit for each side. These units will often include the turn signals for the front as well. Swap them out, and you won’t have to worry about learning how to clean foggy headlights for a while longer.

Things to Avoid

Many hacks on the internet claim to teach you how to clean foggy headlights, but many do more harm than good. These include: 

  • Bug Spray: The diethyltoluamide (DEET) in your favorite bug spray might make the lenses more transparent — by melting the plastic.
  • Blow Torches: Yes, it works for stadium seats, but you don’t want to melt or potentially compromise the plastic of your headlamp lenses. 

Plenty of options are available for cleaning and restoring your headlights. Avoid these viral hacks because they’re going to damage your lenses. 

Stay Safe Out There

Bright and functioning headlights are essential to driving safely at night or in foul weather. If yours have gotten a little foggy over time, try these tips to help you clean them up. 

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Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.