Did you know you could clean oxidized headlights? We didn’t until we looked at buying new headlights. Who knew that polycarbonate plastic could be so expensive?
We didn’t, so we went looking for alternatives, and found out that our headlights were just dirty. With a little elbow grease, we made these auto parts look like new again! Stuff that can get on a headlight includes masking tape, car wax, painters tape, road debris, and oxygen.
That’s a lot of things to clean off, but you do not need any exclusive commercial products to do that. All you need is some white vinegar, baking soda, and other household products to make it all disappear. We all know that plastic fades over time.
Even your plastic Tupperware will become yellow over the years. The same holds for your plastic headlight covers. Sunlight, air pollution, and acid rain can contribute to the problem. To keep our car in tip-top shape, we need to clean oxidized headlights about once a year.
Tips for Cleaning Oxidized Headlights
When you take the time to wash your car, be sure you pay attention to your headlights. If they are foggy, you need a special cleaner to restore their brightness and make visibility easier. For headlights that look like new, not like foggy headlights, then read about cleaning a car headlight below.
1. Cleaning a Car Headlight with Toothpaste
Toothpaste works on our teeth because it is mildly abrasive. It rubs off the plaque while not harming the tooth itself. Toothpaste works well on headlights because it will not hurt the glass of our headlight lenses while removing the buildup from the surface.
To clean headlights with toothpaste, you need an old toothbrush, one teaspoon of white, non-gel toothpaste, and your own elbow grease. Place the toothpaste on the toothbrush, and rub in on the headlight in circular motions. Make sure you are not using toothpaste in excess, as you only need a small amount.
Keep going until you’ve covered the whole headlight. Remove any leftovers from masking tape on the headlight. Wipe off with a soft cloth. Repeat until all the yellow tinge is removed from the headlight.
If you scrub the car with toothpaste rather than just the headlights, you can potentially damage the car wax or the polishing compound on it already so be careful only to keep the toothpaste on the headlights themselves.
You need some glass cleaner to wash off the extra toothpaste after you are done cleaning. Use a spray bottle on the lens and a paper towel to wipe.
2. How to Clean Headlights with WD40
If you learn how to clean headlight lenses with WD40, you may never need anything else to do the job. WD40 was initially designed to work on missiles to penetrate cracks and fill them with oil. This solution does the same thing here, filling in the microscopic cracks between the oxidized parts of your headlights.
With a clean microfiber cloth and two sprays of WD 40, you can make your headlights new again. Fold the paper towel twice, and spray it twice with WD 40. That’s all you’ll need to clean plastic headlights.
Wipe it along the surface of the headlight, and you’ll see it looking like new once again. You may need to repeat the process every six months or so, as the oil is washed off your car by rain and other precipitation. You’ll never worry about cloudy headlights again!
While you are at it with the WD40, you might as well work on your vehicle tires with this homemade tire cleaner to get them shiny again, too.
3. How to Clean Headlights with Vinegar
Yes, vinegar and baking soda can clean car headlights, too. Headlight cleaning with baking soda takes advantage of the slightly abrasive compound that is a little tougher than toothpaste and is great for stubborn foggy spots.
It can remove the damage from UV light, road debris, and salt from your car headlights. Make up this paste when cleaning headlights for a beautiful shine.
Before you start, make sure you have a clean car. If you want to wash it at home, follow this how-to guide for homemade car wash soap with vinegar.
When used correctly, these ingredients make a mild abrasive to remove all the oxidation from your headlights. Do not use too much elbow grease, as too much effort can damage the plastic. Place a teaspoon worth on a soft cloth, and carefully rub it on the headlight with circular motions to scrub the oxidation, Wipe with a clean microfiber cloth. You should have a clean car with spic and span headlights.
If you have glass headlights and not plastic ones, don’t worry. Glass is almost entirely non-reactive, so it’ll never oxidize or be damaged by UV rays.
4. Sandpaper Can Also be Used when Cleaning a Car Headlight
Cleaning a car headlight sometimes can be tricky, especially when there is oxidized build up. If nothing else has worked, you’ll have to get out a heavy-duty headlight restoration kit. You will want three different grits of sandpaper, 800, 1400, and 2500.
The lighter sandpaper will remove the oxidation, and the bigger grit will smooth out the plastic. Make sure to tape off the paint, so you don’t damage it. Start with the lower grit sandpaper and rub it in circular motions over the plastic lens.
Put some elbow grease into it to make sure all of the cloudy headlights are removed. Have a clean cloth around, so that you can wipe off the residue. Then, you have to move to the 1400 grit sandpaper to start smoothing out the headlight.
Find the rougher patches of the headlight and patiently scrub them until there is little resistance. Be careful and don’t push too hard as you might damage the headlight. Finally, do a once over with the very fine grit sandpaper, and make sure the whole thing looks new again.
If there is any surface damage, fix it this time around. If this remedy doesn’t work, consider this car headlight cleaner. With a little clear coat and wax, you’ll never know it was a yellowed headlight, or ever had a cloudy appearance and it will prevent future buildup, and prevent future oxidation.
If you or your friends are driving around with yellowed headlights, you can tell them how to make their car look shiny and new again. Or, if you aren’t entirely satisfied with the chemicals in an off the shelf cleaner, make sure to use these environmentally friendly alternatives.
Once you know how to clean oxidized headlights, you might want to share these tips on Pinterest or Facebook for anyone else who wants to restore their own headlights.