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How to Clean Hazy Headlights in Minutes

foggy headlights removed using toothpaste

Foggy or hazy headlights can make cars look neglected and even reduce its resale value. For those that are worse effected, it can even cause you to fail your inspection due to safety concerns.

The reason for the failure is due to the fact that cloudy headlights can decrease your visibility at night by distorting any light that does break through the headlights from the bulbs.

Some people think that because a headlight has become foggy/yellow, they need to buy a new headlight lens. However, this isn’t the case because you can either choose a headlight restoration kit or even use DIY methods to return the headlights back to their factory finish.

Table of Contents

What Causes Headlight to Become Hazy and Yellow

Headlights can become cloudy from oxidation, road damage, dirt and water vapor. Hazy headlights are less common in newer vehicles but older cars will always eventually suffer from it.

Oxidation of the headlights is the result of the lens being exposed to UV rays that causes the clear coat to crack or fade. Strong chemicals used in cleaning products can do further damage to the clear coat too. Usually a compound for oxidation can cut back the hazy headlights to an almost new finish.

Road Damage is usually unavoidable and sadly, the debris can cause chips and pits on the lens, which breaks the clear coat and leaves it exposed to elements.

Dirt can build up on your cars headlights that then attacks the clear coat the longer its present on the lens. Not only that, the build up can reduce the light that’s emitted from your bulb through the headlight.

Water Vapor is built up inside the headlight from moisture entering someway or another. Usually after changing your car headlight bulbs, many people forget to secure the rear of the headlight properly, which allows moisture to enter. This can give the effect of the headlight looking cloudy but luckily it’s not permanent.

How to Fix Foggy and Hazy Headlights

Fixing foggy headlights is something that anyone can do and its really much easier than you’d expect. Whether you use a restoration kit or DIY methods, we discuss some fixes below than can be achieved in under 5 minutes.

Clean Hazy Headlight using a Cutting Compound

For the avid detailers, using a combination of a polishing machine and an abrasive cutting compound is the best method. I have seen car owners use sandpaper with a 2500-grit rating and personally I have never needed to go to this extent.

The correct abrasive cutting polish used with a rotary polishing machine has provided excellent results each and every time. Using the following steps with a car polishing machine on foggy MK5 golf headlights gave the following results.

polishing buffer to remove hazy headlights

The process used for cleaning hazy headlights with a polish include:

  • Thoroughly clean and then dry the headlight
  • Protect surrounding areas with detailing masking tape
  • Pour blobs of cutting compound to the buffer
  • With the buffer switched off, rub the headlight with the buffer to spread polish
  • Use the polishing machine to work the compound into the headlight
  • Gradually speed up the machine
  • Buff off the polish residue
  • Repeat if there were any areas missed on the headlight

To extend the lifetime of the headlight, I would recommend that you apply a wax onto the headlights. Using this approach to clean foggy headlights is highly effective and relatively quick.

Clean Hazy Headlights using Toothpaste

Most people use toothpaste to clean their teeth but have you seen what it can do to headlights? Toothpaste is a light abrasive and acts in a similar way to a cutting compound by removing a small layer of clear coat. If you do choose this method, we strongly advise that you avoid using toothpaste that contains extra crystals. Instead, stick to a normal plain toothpaste with no additives. Otherwise you could end up scratching your headlight.

To remove yellowness and foggy headlights, use the following steps:

  • Clean the headlight and remove any dirt
  • Protect the surrounding areas with masking tape
  • Add water and dampen a soft cloth
  • Add a blob of toothpaste to the cloth
  • Rub toothpaste in circular motion with pressure into the headlight
  • Continue to rub for 5-10 minutes
  • Clean and rinse the cloth
  • Rub the toothpaste residue from the headlight
  • Allow to dry and pat yourself on your back for a great result

The toothpaste method is used by many car owners and is highly effective. Another product that you can use instead of toothpaste is bug repellent. However, the most popular household product to clean headlights certainly is the mighty toothpaste.

How to Prevent Hazy Headlights

As mentioned at the end of both of removal methods, car wax is the best form of protection. The wax builds a protective layer against UV Rays as well as dirt. Another less obvious method is to park in the opposite direction to the sun. This is a more direct approach at avoiding direct UV rays damaging your headlights.

There are also many plastic protection films that will provide a long term solution to protecting headlight. These films can also be used all over your car for all-round protection.

procarreviews author

Written By Dan

About the Author

Dan is an automotive journalist and owner of over 10 cars ranging from supercars, tuned cars, classics and your good old beater cars. He always likes to get his hands dirty with nut and bolt restorations or detailing sessions using the best products on the market.

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