How To Clean Foggy Headlights?

Have you noticed your vehicle’s headlights have grown foggier over time, even though you’ve kept up with car washes and other general maintenance? Are you having difficulty seeing the road in front of you at night or are worried about your visibility to other drivers?

Foggy or yellowed headlights are a fact of life for many drivers, but they don’t have to be for you and your vehicle. Read on to learn what you need to know about headlights and the headlight restoration process from experienced auto technicians.

What are Foggy Headlights?

If you notice that the light emanating from your headlights is a lot less clear than it once was, chances are your vehicle is suffering from foggy headlights. Sometimes drivers will also notice that their headlights are not only a lot less bright, but also that the light has a yellowish, dingy tinge to it. This is also caused by headlight fogging.

When in a pinch, people who need to clean foggy headlights immediately have a few other options that can also get the job done. Toothpaste and baking soda can be effective cleansers for cleaning headlights. Both products are abrasive enough to take off the fog without scratching or damaging the headlights. Polishing compounds such as Rain-X might also be effective enough to remedy UV damage. In general, it’s worth having a cleaning kit in your garage or home!

What Makes Headlights Cloudy?

  • Oxidation: Acrylic headlights oxidize when exposed to UV light. Headlight lenses come with a clear topcoat to help prevent this, but eventually, the coating wears off, and sunlight turns the hard plastic yellow.
  • Flying debris: Your headlights take a beating from gravel, road salt, and other debris that gets kicked up as you cruise down the road. This wears down the topcoat and creates pits and scratches on your headlights, adding to their cloudy appearance.
  • Dirt and chemicals: After several years on the road, a thin layer of dirt and chemicals form on the lenses. This opaque layer dims the beam coming from your headlights.
  • Water vapor: Headlights are manufactured with a watertight seal, but wear and tear can cause this seal to break. Condensation then forms inside the lens where you can’t wipe it away. The water droplets scatter the beam of light, further impairing nighttime visibility.

Related Posts: How To Clean Headlights? (3 Easy Methods)

How To Clean Foggy Headlights

You don’t need a lot of supplies for cleaning the headlights on your vehicle. Here are a few things you’ll probably want to have on hand:

  • Cleansing kit, baking soda, or toothpaste
  • Old rags or towels
  • Latex gloves for sensitive skin
  • Water for rinsing
  • A soft-bristled brush
  • Mild cleanser

Let’s take a look at the steps required to clean foggy headlights.

1. Clean the Surface Of Debris

Before you begin, you’ll want to make certain you’re working with a clean surface. Spritz your headlights with a mild cleanser and gently wipe away any dirt, particulate, dead bugs, and gunk that may have accumulated on the surface.

2. Towel Dry

After cleansing, wipe down the surface with a dry towel or rag until it’s moisture-free

3. Apply Headlight Restorer

Distribute a fair amount of cleanser – this is the product from your headlight restoration kit, toothpaste, or baking soda – fairly thickly over your headlight lenses.

If you’re using baking soda, you’ll want to mix it with a small amount of water first to make a thick paste. Leave your cleanser on the lens for a few minutes to allow it to dry just a bit.

4. Remove Cleanser with Brush

Using circular motions, work your way around the surface of the headlight gently with your brush. Remember, the cleanser you’re using is abrasive, so be careful not to gouge into the plastic surface.

You should see the yellowness or fogginess disappearing from the lens as you work your way around it.

5. Clean Off Excess Cleanser

How To Clean Foggy Headlights

Using your clean rag or towel, buff away any residual cleanser from your lens. Spritz any stubborn, dried-on bits with clean water and then polish until dry with your towel.

It’s as simple as that. Once you’ve cleaned up your foggy headlights, you should immediately notice increased visibility and brighter, whiter headlights!

How to Keep Headlights from Turning Yellow

Park your car in the shade: If possible, park in the garage or under a shady tree. If you don’t have that option, face your headlights away from the sun when parking outside to reduce UV exposure and slow the oxidizing process.

Wash your car: Every three months, wash the headlights with automotive soap to clean away dirt and chemicals that promote fogging.

Polish the headlights: Use a non-abrasive polishing medium and a microfiber cloth to polish your headlight lenses and remove early signs of yellowing.


How do you fix cloudy headlights?

Toothpaste and baking soda can be effective cleansers for cleaning headlights. Both products are abrasive enough to take off the fog without scratching or damaging the headlights. Polishing compounds such as Rain-X might also be effective enough to remedy UV damage.

How do I stop my headlights from fogging up?

Inspect the seal around the headlight bulb socket for deterioration. Coat with silicon spray to ensure a good seal when the bulb is replaced or apply Teflon tape if necessary. Make sure the tape is tight to prevent moisture from entering the headlight through cracks and gaps within the rubber socket seal.

Does WD 40 fix cloudy headlights?

You can use standard WD-40 spray to clean foggy headlights. Instead of spraying the WD-40 directly onto the headlight, apply it to the cloth. Work the WD-40 into the headlight covers using circular movements so you don’t leave any streaks. Within a few seconds, you’ll notice your headlights clearing up.

How can I make my headlights crystal clear again?

Car wax can be used to restore the clarity and shine of the headlights. Apply a small amount of car wax to the headlights and rub it in with a soft cloth or sponge. Let the wax dry completely, then buff the headlights with a clean cloth to remove any excess wax.