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3 months ago

How to Clean Foggy Headlights & Restore Your Car to its Former Glory

Out of all the things that can ruin the looks of your car, foggy headlights get the number one place. People usually think that there is no fix for foggy headlamps but that is not the case. In this blog, we will learn how to restore headlights so that they have the same showroom shine again. Before we start with the actual process of restoring headlights, let’s see what causes foggy headlights in the first place.

What Causes Headlights to Become Foggy?

Put in simple words, this is the oxidation from the environment that causes the headlights to become foggy and accumulate an opaque white or yellowish haze on them. Here are the main causes of the headlamps becoming foggy.

  • The outer layer of the headlamps’ covers reacts with the atmospheric oxygen to create a film of opaque material that makes the headlights foggy.
  • Operation at high temperatures causes the headlight covers to react with various atmospheric agents, causing it to go foggy.
  • Headlights have a service age and after that, the material undergoes autolytic changes and turns foggy.
  • In case of a breach in the seals of the headlight assembly, water and dust can enter the headlight making it turn foggy from within.

Hazards of Having Foggy Headlamps 

Foggy headlights do not only give your car a bad look, they are actually a hazard. Here are some of the reasons why you do not want to drive around in a car with foggy headlamps. These things are important to know before you learn the headlight restoration home remedy, we have for you.

  • Foggy headlights cannot put out an adequate amount of light to help you drive at night.
  • Fogginess disturbs the light distribution of the headlights and the light goes out at angles, which can be hazardous for other drivers.
  • The foggy headlamps absorb energy from the light and become very hot, which can ruin the headlamp itself. 
  • Foggy headlights decrease the value of your car if you plan to sell it.

How to Restore Headlights?

Before you start with cleaning the headlight, you need to check if the haziness is caused by a coating on the outside of the headlight or the inside. If the problem is external, you can use one of the four following methods to clean your headlights.

How to Clean Headlights with Toothpaste?

The easiest answer to “how to clean car headlights?” is, use toothpaste. However, this must be made clear that this hack only works on the headlights that are just slightly foggy and are not completely opaqued-out. Here’s how this works:

  • Mix some shampoo in water and put it in a sprayer bottle. Spray the headlights with soapy water and clean them to remove any dirt or grime.
  • Apply generous amounts of toothpaste to a clean cloth and rub it into the headlight. Rub it in circles and make sure you cover every part of the headlight.
  • Spend 5 to 10 minutes per headlight and make sure you use as much toothpaste and water as needed to maintain a constant lather on the headlight.
  • Rinse the headlight with clean water and use car wax to coat the headlight with a thin protective layer to prevent future fogginess.

IMPORTANT: This headlight restoration toothpaste method only works for slightly affected headlights and you only need to apply at the end, to prevent future damage. If your headlamps are pretty messed up, and cleaning car headlights with toothpaste does not work, try one of the following methods.

How to Clean Your Headlights – For Mild to Strongly Affected Headlamps 

If your headlights are too much for the toothpaste hack to handle, do not worry. You just need to bring out the bigger guns. The theory here is simple. You need to remove the layer of affected plastic, shine the headlight, and prevent future degradation as best you can. 

You’ll need the following stuff for this:

  • Three to four low lint wiping cloths.
  • Fine-grit car polish.
  • Masking tape.
  • Soapy water with a sprayer.
  • Plastic/vinyl gloves.

Here’s how to clean your headlights that are more than mildly foggy:

  • Spray the headlights with foggy water and wipe them off to remove any stains or dirt.
  • Apply car polish on the headlights and rub it into them with a wiping cloth, do it for at least five to ten minutes.
  • Spray the headlights with soapy water and clean them to remove any excess polish.
  • Apply car wax on the headlights so that they are protected from future damage.

If you try this method and this too fails, you need to take out the big guns. Let’s see what you can use to clean headlights that do not respond to anything.

Cleaning Extremely Hazy Headlights 

If your car headlights are covered with lots of yellow or white coating and the above two methods, this one will be more than enough. Here’s what you need for this method.

  • A spray bottle full of soapy water.
  • Sandpapers, 400, 1000, and 3000 grit.
  • Low lint wiping cloth.
  • Car wax.

This method might seem to be too daunting to undertake but it is simple. Remember, we are just removing the affected layer and sealing the headlamps against further damage.

  • Spray the headlights with soapy water and clean them to remove any dirt or stains.
  • Sand the headlights with 400 grit sandpaper to remove the layer of oxidized material that is causing them to be foggy. Make sure you use adequate amounts of soapy water when sanding the lights down.
  • Then switch to finer sandpapers (1000 and then 3000 grit) and sand the headlamps until they are smooth to the touch.
  • At this stage, the headlamps will appear rough and scratched, and extremely hazy but that is a part of the process.
  • Apply car polish on the headlamps and rub them. This will return the shine of the headlamps.
  • Apply car wax or a thin film of clear coat to seal off the headlamps and prevent any future discoloration/haziness. 

Using Headlight Restoration Kit to Clean Foggy Headlights

If you don’t feel like going out and buying a bunch of stuff for cleaning your foggy headlamps, you can order a headlight restoration kit online and use it to restore your headlights as a DIY project. There is only one instruction for using these kits:

  • Follow the instructions given by the manufacturer and do not improvise. 

Cleaning Headlights Affected on the Inside 

If there is evidence of water or dust inside the headlight, it can be a bit tricky to solve the problem but here’s a rough outline of what you need to do.

  • Take the headlight off the car. You can go to auto forums or search YouTube to find a way of taking the light off the car.
  • Once the light is off the car, heat the joint between the lens and the body of the headlight with a heat gun to soften the adhesive holding the two parts in place and gently remove the lens.
  • Clean the inside of the headlight with a low lint cloth, make sure you remove every last bit of dirt and moisture.
  • Close the headlight by applying silicone or any other sealant to completely seal the headlight to prevent dust from getting in in the future.
  • Install the headlight back on the car.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does toothpaste clean hazy headlights?

Yes, toothpaste can be used to clean headlights that are slightly hazy. If the lights are extremely cloudy you will need to resort to more intensive measures as detailed above.

How to restore headlights with toothpaste?

The details are given above. Just apply the toothpaste on the headlights and let it work for a while and then wipe it off.

How long do you leave toothpaste on headlights?

You need to leave your headlights covered in a coating of toothpaste for at least ten minutes for the toothpaste to dissolve the oxidized layer and polish the headlights to make them shine like new. 

How to clean foggy headlights with vinegar?

Apply vinegar on the headlights and let it sit for half an hour then wash it down. This only works if the headlights have just started to go opaque and are not severely affected.

How to clean plastic headlights with household items?

You can use toothpaste or vinegar in the ways described above to clean your car’s headlights without having to buy something specifically for this task.

How to remove scratches from headlights?

You can use sandpaper finer than 1000 grit or a specialized headlight polish kit to remove scratches from headlights and make them shine again.

What can you use to clean headlights?

You can use vinegar, car wax, toothpaste, or sandpaper to clean headlights.