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5 Quick & Easy Ways to Restore Cloudy Headlights

Educational  ·  April 18, 2023

5 Quick & Easy Ways to Restore Cloudy Headlights

All cars experience natural wear and tear over the years, and it’s more than just the parts under the hood that get old. Exterior parts like your headlights can become cloudy and go dim even when the light is still good. Is there something you can do about it?

Headlights become cloudy due to oxidation since the acrylic surface is exposed to the sun’s UV rays. You can give them a wash and polish to see if that helps. If not, try using toothpaste, baking soda and vinegar, household window cleaner, or even WD-40 to penetrate the oxidation and scrub it off.

You may opt for professional servicing to deal with the cloudy headlights but try reading this guide if you’re the type who loves spending weekends tinkering with your car. You can easily fix cloudy headlights using everyday household cleaning products.

What Causes Cloudy Headlights?

Before restoring your cloudy headlights, you must first understand how they got that way. Then you’ll see how and why some solutions work better than others.

Exposure to the sun is the primary reason why a car’s headlights become cloudy. Headlights are made of acrylic, and they’re constantly exposed to the sun’s powerful UV rays, causing the material to oxidise and turn yellow over time.

A clear topcoat can help delay oxidation, but the headlights will still become cloudy eventually.

Knowing how to clean cloudy headlights can prove handy, especially when you’re trying to keep your car’s maintenance cost low while keeping it looking its best.

How Can You Restore Cloudy Headlights?

There’s some good and bad news when it comes to restoring cloudy headlights. The bad news is that the more severe the oxidation, the more challenging it is to restore your vehicle’s headlights.

In other words, the longer your headlights have been cloudy, the more difficult it’ll be to clean them.

The good news is there are plenty of quick and easy methods you can use to restore your headlights. So, if one doesn’t work, you still have many other options.

Here are 5 quick and easy ways to restore cloudy headlights:

1. Wash and Polish

The cool thing about these fixes is they only require everyday household cleaning products – no fancy tools or expensive products. You may already have them at home, but before you rummage through your cupboard or pantry, it’s best to start with the basics. Let’s do a simple wash and polish.

That's right! The first way to restore cloudy headlights is to give them a thorough wash and polish.

Remember: cloudy headlights are caused by oxidation on the light’s surface. If that oxidation isn’t severe, you’ll find that a wash and polish is enough to make it look like new again.

If that doesn’t give you the desired results, then you can use the other methods below.

2. Toothpaste

Another popular remedy for cloudy headlights is toothpaste. That’s because toothpaste is a gentle abrasive, i.e., it’s suitable for removing stains from a hard surface.

After all, if it’s safe to use on our teeth, you can expect it to be gentle on your cloudy headlights, too.

Apply toothpaste all over the headlights, then scrub the surface with a rag. Depending on how severely clouded those lights are, you might have to reapply and continue scrubbing several times.

3. Baking Soda and Vinegar

It seems like almost any household cleaning problem can be solved with baking soda and vinegar. Those two products work so well together because the vinegar’s acid breaks down the baking soda, releasing carbon dioxide in the process and lifting dirt from the surface.

It’s easy to see how that can also work for cloudy headlights.

Mix 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda with just enough vinegar to create a thick paste. You’ll soon notice that you’re making an abrasive paste similar in consistency and texture to toothpaste. The difference is that the baking soda/vinegar paste is slightly more aggressive at removing stains, so don’t use it on your teeth!

Next, use a clean cloth to scrub and polish your foggy headlights with that paste. After a few minutes, rinse the headlight surface clean and repeat the process as many times as needed.

4. Window Cleaner

Another standard household product that you’ll find effective in restoring cloudy headlights is the window cleaner. Think about it: these products contain chemicals specifically chosen to remove dirt from surfaces exposed to the environment.

Start by washing your cloudy headlights with water and soap for the best results. Doing so will remove any loose dirt and oxidation from the headlight surface.

Dry the headlight and spray its surface with window cleaner. Give it a few minutes before gently scrubbing and wiping the window cleaner away.

Repeat the process as many times as necessary to clean your headlights thoroughly.

5. WD-40

The popular penetrating oil WD-40 is known for its many uses. Unfortunately, there have been so many claims about its usefulness that it's hard to tell what you can or can't use it for. 

Maybe you already know about its efficacy on cloudy headlights, but for many, it’s an aha moment.

The WD-40 formula can penetrate through the effects of oxidation on cloudy headlights, making it possible to clean and restore them.

Again, give your headlights a good wash to remove any loose dirt on the surface. Then, spray those headlights with WD-40.

Leave it for 5-10 minutes so the WD-40 can penetrate the oxidation. Then wipe with a clean cloth.

Final Thoughts

Car headlights eventually become cloudy due to oxidation on the acrylic surface, which occurs because of constant exposure to UV rays.

Thankfully, you can clean cloudy headlights using several solutions. Start with a simple wash and polish to see if that works. If not, use toothpaste, baking soda and vinegar, window cleaner, or WD-40.

Of course, you can hire professionals to detail your car and restore your headlights. Use CarpartAU’s Directory to find auto detailers in your local area and contact them directly.


By Ray Hasbollah

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