Headlights can grow cloudy because the plastic is susceptible to oxidation and the accumulation of dirt and grime. One of the best methods for cleaning them uses something in you have in your medicine cabinet: toothpaste. This method will work on accumulated grit, grime, and oxidation on headlights.
Step One: Gather the Right Tools
To clean your headlights, you need the following:
- Paint masking tape
- Toothpaste (one that contains peroxide or baking soda works best)
- Soft microfiber cloth
- Car wax
- Water (putting it in a squirt bottle can make it easier to apply)
- Dish soap (any variety, but Dawn works best)
Choose the Right Toothpaste
When choosing a toothpaste, pick any brand or type and it will work. However, Colgate with peroxide or baking soda works best. This is because whitening toothpaste has more grit than a non-whitening paste. Choose paste instead of gel because it is thicker. If you do choose a gel, look for one that has microbeads, which work as a scrubbing agent.
Step Two: Wash
Use dish soap and water to scrub the headlight vigorously, removing any large patches of debris or dirt. Wipe the light completely dry, taking care to dry areas around the light, as well.
Step Three: Tape
Use the masking tape to isolate the headlight. This will ensure you don't get any toothpaste on other areas of your vehicle. While the toothpaste probably won't harm your paint, you don't want to take any chances.
Step Four: Scrub
Put the toothpaste on a toothbrush and start scrubbing in small, circular motions. Make sure you scrub the entire headlight. If you don't have a spare toothbrush, you can also use a cloth. However, a toothbrush is best because it gives you added scrubbing power. Add more water and paste as necessary.
Step Five: Rinse
After giving the headlight a thorough scrubbing, rinse the headlight with water. Make sure to remove all the toothpaste.
Step Six: Repeat as Needed
If all the dirt and fog isn't removed, repeat the process.
Step Seven: Buff
Add car wax to a clean cloth and buff the headlight. This will provide protection against future clouding.
Why It Happens
Headlights are made of plastic or polycarbonate. Over time, the oxygen in the air can cause the lenses to oxidize. This causes clouding and reduces visibility which is unsafe. Additionally, headlights get a film from the dirt and grit on the road.
How It Works
As a normal part of car maintenance, you need to remove this film. The reason toothpaste works on headlights is because it scrubs the plastic removing the film.
Word of Caution
While toothpaste is relatively safe for headlight plastic, it can be beneficial to test this on a small area before covering your entire lens. This will ensure the toothpaste and the material don't cause any unforeseen reactions.
In addition to using toothpaste on headlights, you can use toothpaste on your car to buff out small scratches that haven't penetrated the clear coat. After giving it a light rub down, use water and the microfiber cloth to make your car shine again. This also helps on dull spots.
Overtime your headlights can become cloudy. This is because of the dirt and grit that your car gets on it during normal driving and oxidation of the plastic. Getting it clean doesn't need to clear your wallet. Simply head to the bathroom and grab a tube of toothpaste and an old toothbrush.