How To Clean Plastic Headlights

Even if you take the utmost care to keep your automobile in pristine condition by washing it weekly with high-quality car detergent and replacing worn parts with brand-new ones, the headlights on your vehicle may still cloud up over time.

Now, you can save a few bucks if you decide to clean them and not buy new ones. This will make driving at night and on foggy days a breeze.

While experts recommend that you have your car’s headlights restored by skilled personnel, I have compiled some Do it Yourself techniques to get your car’s headlights sparkling as new.

Continue reading to learn more about these techniques

How To Clean Plastic Headlights

Form a paste of baking soda and toothpaste, then spread it over the headlight. Let it dry for a few minutes, then wipe the paste off with a damp towel. Your headlights will be clean and ready for new adventures.

What Makes the Plastic Headlights Dirty

When the car is still new, the headlights seem new and clear; however, after a few months on the road, they become foggy, making them unclear. But do you understand why this happens?

Let’s learn together some of these reasons

Badly maintained roads

Headlights can become obscured by flying gravel, stones, and other road debris on poorly maintained roadways. The particles scratch and dent the lenses, making them foggy and yellow.


Nowadays days, most cars come with polycarbonate plastic headlights. When exposed to sunlight, polycarbonate material forms tiny crevices that turn yellow, making headlights appear cloudy or hazy instead of clear.

Water vapor

When outside humidity levels are high, moisture can condense within a car’s sealed headlight housing, creating fog. Even as the air around it evaporates, the water vapor is retained inside. This triggers the light to diffuse and form patterns on the surface as it travels through the polycarbonate lens. This then causes blurry visibility when driving.

Chemicals and dirt

Over time, a car’s headlight lenses will accumulate a thin coating of compounds and debris from driving, thus making the headlights cloudy thus reducing night, foggy, and winter weather visibility.

How To Clean Plastic Headlights by Washing

You can clean the headlights by using soap and water

Tools and Supplies

  • Car Soap
  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Soft Towels

The Steps

Step 1: Mix car soap and water in a bucket. The size of the bucket and the amount of water depends on how many headlights you want to wash. You can acquire the car soap online or at your local automotive store.

Step 2: Dampen a soft towel in the solution, then wipe the headlights meticulously until they are clean.

Step 3: Rinse the headlights with clean water to remove the soapy residue. Use clean water from the taps to clean the headlight area thoroughly. If you don’t have tap water, add some water into a sprayer and spray it onto the headlights, leaving them cleaner.

Step 4: Dry the headlight. Instead of letting the cleaned headlight air dry, use a dry soft towel to clean the water residue. This is to prevent remains of water spots that remain on the headlights

How to Clean Plastic Headlights Using Baking Soda and Distilled Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar have a wide variety of applications. Car headlights can be cleaned using baking soda, but vinegar works far better at dissolving and removing gunk.

Tools and Supplies

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Soft Towels

The Steps

Step 1: Mix one part of baking soda and one part of vinegar to form a frothy paste.

Step 2: Rub the paste into your headlights and let it sit for 10 minutes

Step 3: Wipe away the residue with a soft towel

Your car’s front lights will shine brightly in a little time.

How to Clean Plastic Headlights by Sanding

Sanding is one of the DIY techniques I would recommend for you to clean your dirty headlights.

Tools and Supplies

  • 1000, 2000, and 3000 grit sand papers
  • Water
  • Painter’s tape
  • Spray bottle
  • Soft towel

The Steps

Step 1: Put painter’s tape around your headlights before sanding them. Taping off the area around the headlights with painter’s tape before sanding protects the surrounding paint from being accidentally sanded off.

Step 2: Wet 1000-grit sandpaper to smooth up the exterior of the headlights. Wet the sandpaper and the headlight using a spray bottle or wet them with a damp towel. Sand the surface using horizontal strokes while keeping the sandpaper and headlight wet to avoid scratching the surface. Sand for about 10 minutes before wiping off to check progress.

Note: Please use more abrasive sandpaper, such as 600 grit, to restore the clarity of your plastic headlights if they have become severely yellowed.

Step 3: Replace the 1000-grit with 2000-grit sandpaper and continue sanding. Sand in diagonal strokes rather than horizontal ones for about 5-10 minutes. Keep the sandpaper and the headlamp surface wet by spraying them with water regularly.

Step 4: Have the headlights smoothed out using 3000-grit sandpaper. Sand in the same way you did in step 3. While sanding the headlight, it is important to do so in all directions to ensure the entire surface is smooth.

Step 5: Rinse the headlight with clean water. Then thoroughly wipe the headlights with a damp cloth to remove dust and grime. After that, dry the area with a clean, dry towel.

How to Clean Plastic Headlights with Toothpaste

From my experience, toothpaste works like magic on plastic headlights.

Tools and Supplies

  • Gel toothpaste
  • Soft towels
  • Water

The Steps

Step 1: Squeeze the toothpaste onto a dry towel. This makes it easy to scrub the headlight with the toothpaste

Step 2: Scrub the headlight. Scrub and buff the toothpaste onto the headlight evenly to ensure all areas are covered. Do not make the towel nor the headlight wet.

Step 3: Continue scrubbing the headlights with a damp towel. This ensures the sticky particle are all wept out.

Step 4: Rinse the headlights thoroughly with clean water and wipe them off with a clean towel. Here you are with a sparkling headlight.

Now that you have cleaned your plastic headlights, how should you keep them sparkling for at least some time before cleaning them again? Let’s go through the finishing touches.

The Finishing Touches

Step 1: Put some polishing compound on a fresh ultra-soft towel and spread it down the surface. After that, apply the polish on your headlamp and rub it in using circular motions until it’s completely covered. Spread the headlight compound in a light, consistent coating, and ensure it encompasses the whole surface.

If you see that not all of your headlamp is as shiny and flawless as you’d want, polish it again.

Step 2: Apply the wax paste on the cleaned plastic headlight to protect the new shiny headlights. Squeeze ¼ of the wax paste onto a soft towel and spread it on the surface of the headlight. You can find the ax paste at our local store.

Step 3: Use a piece of paper or plastic to conceal the area around the headlights. It’s important to cover the area around your headlamps prior to spraying them with UV sealant. You can use painter’s tape to attach pieces of paper shopping bags to your vehicle’s exterior.

Step 4: Put a coat of UV sealer on your headlamps to keep them from clouding. Hold the spray bottle tip 4-5 millimeters from the exterior of the headlamp. The final stage is to encapsulate the headlight in a light coating of UV sealant.

As each brand of UV sealant has a somewhat different application technique, you must review and adhere to the recommendations on the label before beginning.

Step 5: After applying the UV sealant, let the headlights sit in the sun for 10 minutes. For the UV sealant to cure and stick to the headlights’ exterior, you must leave them in direct sunshine. You can also use ultraviolet light to flash the headlamp for 1-2 minutes.

How to Prevent Plastic Headlights from Getting Dirty

They always say prevention is better than cure. Here are some measures you could apply to prevent your headlights from getting foggy and dirty.

Park your automobile somewhere cool, shady, and dry

At midday, cars are more susceptible to damage when the sun is at its highest. Not only is that bad for the car’s outside, but it can also damage the inside components. I advise keeping your vehicles out of direct sunlight and out of hot, stuffy garages. You may also consider covering your car to avoid direct sunlight.

The transparent plastic lenses of the headlights gradually turn yellow when subjected to too much sunshine. A UV protectant spray or a clear vinyl coating are excellent options for shielding them from the sun’s rays.

Remove the haze from the headlights and apply an anti-oxidant coating

Cleaning the car’s components, including the headlights, is just as crucial as cleaning the car’s exterior. When washing your headlights, you should choose chemicals that offer the most resistance and leave no room for oxidation to set in.

These methods are surefire money savers; if you’re interested in plastic maintenance tips, check out our other articles.


Does toothpaste clean plastic headlights?

Yes, toothpaste will clean plastic headlights. Start by washing the headlights with soap and water. Once the surface is clean, squeeze some abrasive toothpaste onto a clean towel and scrub the areas for a few minutes before rinsing with clean water and drying with a towel. Mixing toothpaste and baking soda will give you a better result.

Will WD 40 clean plastic headlights?

WD 40 will clean plastic headlights. Clean the headlights’ exterior by wiping them off with a damp cloth to remove any dirt or dust that may have settled there. Apply a thick coat of WD-40 on the headlights and set it for 5-10 minutes. Next, scrub the headlights with a soft clean sponge before wiping them down with a clean towel.

Can Coca-Cola clean headlights?

Yes, Coke’s phosphoric acid helps clean the headlights by dissolving the oxidation built up over time. If you don’t want to risk damaging or staining your car’s paint, distill it into an empty spray bottle and apply it to the headlight.

Does vinegar clean plastic headlights?

  1. Remove the cover of the headlights
  2. Mix water and white vinegar in a bucket
  3. Soak the headlights in the solution for one hour
  4. Scrub the headlights with a rough sponge after soaking to remove the dirt and grime
  5. Rinse with clean water and wipe clean and dry with a dry soft towel
  6. Reinstall your clean plastic headlights back

What kind of toothpaste cleans headlights?

Use regular toothpaste, not a gel, for the best results. The dull coating of oxidation that gives the lights their foggy appearance can be removed by brushing with an abrasive, but abrasives are not included in gel kinds of toothpaste.

How do I stop my headlights from turning yellow?

Use a surface protectant. A surface protectant may keep your headlights pristine against oxidation, UV rays, dust, and fog. You can also use wax and plastic protectants.

Bottom Line

The sun’s ultraviolet rays cause the headlights to become foggy and dull. However, you can correct this at home. All you require to clean, repair, and safeguard your plastic headlights are included above.

Prevention is the best treatment, but if your headlights get dirty, you may try some do-it-yourself options, such as toothpaste. When you’re done cleaning, don’t forget to polish the headlights for UV protection.

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