How to Properly Clean Foggy Headlights

August 17th, 2023 by

Headlights are an important safety feature on all cars, as they let you see and be seen at night and with limited visibility. If your headlights become dirty, foggy, or damaged, they won’t perform as well, which is a safety issue that you should take care of right away. Taking your car to professional servicing is the best way to handle any issues as important as being able to see when you are driving at night or in fog. However, there are a few things you can do at home, such as cleaning and polishing as a temporary fix.

How To Keep My Headlights From Getting Dirty?

headlight on a gold sports car

Your car’s headlights can get dirty from a number of sources. Mud can splash on them if you drive on a dirt road after it rains, dust and pollen can accumulate in dry weather, and insects can get hit as you drive. If you’ve driven through mud or along a dusty road, it’s time to clean your headlights to keep them bright. You can wash your car’s lights with soap and water or a cleaning product, such as Windex, or even take your car through a carwash if the rest of it is dusty too.

In addition to accumulating dirt and dust, as your headlights age, the plastic is exposed to UV light from the sun, which can cause them to get foggy and discolored.  This fogginess can block some of the light from your bulb, making it dimmer, which can be unsafe for driving in low-light conditions. To keep your headlights from getting foggy, one thing you can consider is coating them with a protective film. This thin film can be painted onto the headlights and offers scratch resistance and UV protection to help prevent unwanted fogginess.

What Sprays Can I Use To Clean My Headlights?

If your headlights get dirty, there are a few things you can do to clean them. One option is sprays labeled for cleaning and clearing headlights. These offer an easy-to-use solution for discolored and foggy headlights. Chemical Guys Headlight Restorer is a one-step product you can get for around $20. Other options you might find in an auto supply department are cleaning kits, such as the SYLVANIA headlight restoration kit, that include a surface activator, a clarifying compound, and a final clear coat for blocking UV light, along with applicator cloths and fine sandpaper for polishing your headlights.

What At-Home Remedies Are There for Cleaning My Foggy Headlights?

If you don’t feel like going out and buying a specialized kit, there are some at-home remedies you can try to clear up your foggy headlights. Which one you choose might depend on what you have in the house or what’s available at the corner store. These are only temporary solutions, so you’ll have to repeat the process after a few weeks to months, while the restorations kits on average last a few months to two years. Or ask to have your lights professionally spruced up the next time your car is in for a tune-up.


Rubbing on toothpaste is one home remedy for foggy headlights. It’s abrasive enough to scrub the cloudy surface layer of your headlights yet not so abrasive that it leaves scratches. First, wash off any dirt and debris on your headlight so you won’t rub these in. Next, take a soft cloth or rag and apply toothpaste to it, then rub in a circular pattern over the whole headlight. After you’ve given it a good scrubbing, rinse off the toothpaste and check your work. If any areas are looking worse than others, you can go over them again.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Another method you can try if you don’t have a spare tube of toothpaste is using baking soda and vinegar. Like the toothpaste, there’s enough abrasion in the baking soda to scour your lights clean with a bit of work. Make the baking soda into a thin paste with the vinegar and stir to combine. After you’ve washed and dried your headlights, you can start scrubbing them by dipping a towel in the baking soda mixture and rubbing it over the surface of the headlights. Rinse and check the headlights for clarity. If they’re looking good, your work is done.


WD-40 has a reputation as a fix-it-all and can clear up your foggy headlights. It has a few downsides in this application though, as it might only last a couple of days, and there are some indications that over-use can cause oils from the product to leak through around the lens and damage the bulb. But if you want to give it a try, it might work until you can get your hands on a more permanent solution. Wash and dry your headlights, then shake your WD-40 and spray onto the surface. Wipe off and you’re done.

How Long Do Headlights Live for?

Headlights are a necessity for driving in the dark. It’s important to replace the bulb as soon as one stops working, as it’s illegal and dangerous to drive with only one working headlight. But how long do headlights last before they need replacing? That depends on what type of bulb you use. The halogen bulb is an inexpensive and common type of bulb that can last from 450 to 1,000 hours of use. Powerful high-intensity discharge lights on average last for about 5,000 hours, while the increasingly popular LED headlight lasts up to 30,000 hours.

Need Professional Help With Cleaning Your Headlights?

Are you tired of scrubbing your headlights every few months to get rid of that reoccurring cloudiness? Maybe it’s time for professional treatment. If you live around the Boardman and Youngstown area of Ohio and want to have a professional take care of your foggy headlights, then contact us at Cochran Cars, or call our service team at 844-417-7333 to schedule an appointment. We also offer new and used cars for sale, so call the sales team at 844-417-7332 if you’re looking for a new ride, or come by one of our three dealerships today.

Headlight by Arwen_7 is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0

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