Cleaning Foggy or Hazy Headlights

Headlight covers over time can become yellowed or hazy. This is a guide about cleaning foggy or hazy headlights.
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October 25, 2012 Flag
9 found this helpful

Someone was just asking about a remedy for yellowed dingy headlights so I thought I would share with everyone what ended up working for me. My car headlights were horribly yellowed after 12 years of ignoring them. I could barely even see when driving at night because that's how bad they were!

Headlight lens restoration kits are $20.00 or more and contain enough supplies for a one time only use. For about the same price you can purchase the items in larger quantity separately and will then have enough supplies leftover for future restorations, and even to use on other projects, plus you might already have some or all of the items needed already on hand to do the job.

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Just follow these steps:

  1. Wash the lenses very well with soapy water, rinse and wipe dry.
  2. Dip a corner of a rag in denatured alcohol (you can purchase it at paint stores and most hardware stores), rub it on the lens in a circular motion, repeat if necessary, until the lens loses at least the majority of the yellow coloration and then rinse.
  3. Quick soak a piece of 800 grit wet sandpaper in water, then sand the lens using small, circular motions until all yellowing is removed, then repeat using quick soaked 1,000 grit sandpaper and then again with quick soaked 2,000 grit sandpaper until lenses are smooth.
  4. It is a must to apply a coat of car wax afterwards to protect the lenses! Rub the wax on in a circular motion with a clean rag and then buff out after a couple of minutes.

By Deeli from Richland, WA

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October 31, 20120 found this helpful

Hey Deeli, I'm going to try this method on my head lights.

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December 3, 20140 found this helpful

You can use Off insect repellent to clean foggy yellowed headlights. Someone told me about this and I didn't believe it until I did it myself. And it worked.

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August 28, 2012 Flag

Recently I noticed the headlights on both my car and especially my son's car were quite hazy, thus reducing visibility at night. I purchased a cleaning kit at the automotive store, (not cheap,) which involved several steps, but didn't notice much difference in clarity of the headlights on either car.

Two weeks ago, I was washing the cars and decided to use one of those white scrubber sponges you see advertised on TV. (Not mentioning any names, as the generic type work just as well, and are a good deal cheaper.) It looks like a little brick, and cleans just about anything. I had used one to remove tar and bug residue from my car exterior before, so thought I might give it a try on the headlights while I was at it. What a great idea! It did a wonderful job on the headlights of both cars, and took just a few minutes. My car was parked in the shade, so these pictures don't do justice to the before and after difference, but trust me, the small investment you make will be well worth it!

By Donna from San Diego, CA

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August 30, 20120 found this helpful

I have used a 3M kit with great results. I doubt a scrubber sponge would work as well. Maybe you didn't follow the directions correctly.

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October 18, 20160 found this helpful

This worked perfectly for me!! 13 year old Mercedes and my lights are now almost clear! Only remaining residue is on the inside. No idea how to handle those!

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April 11, 2015 Flag
0 found this helpful

Does anyone have a DIY solution to cleaning the dirt and yellow off headlight covers on cars? Mine are just so bad!

By Mary P

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April 13, 20150 found this helpful

You could try coating it with hand sanitizer on a rag, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then rub off. Try a corner first, and if it works, do all the lights.

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Anonymous Flag
April 9, 20160 found this helpful

This is a two step process and its about as easy and cost saving as it can get. I started out with Turtle wax polishing compound (around 5.00 at walmart) ..Not the dark red rubbing compound, This is the white polishing compound which is still plenty enough abrasive to remove the oxidation and Yellow haze. Depending on the condition of the headlights, It may take awhile to to remove all of the funk. I used a soft cotton wash cloth to apply the polish and to polish the lens. Dip the cloth into the compound and apply in a circular motion. Fold the cloth so that you can cover as much surface as possible. Use enough so that it doesn't dry out while you're polishing the lense. after your finished, The lens will have a clear clean shine and you could just go with it at this point. But i took it a step further and used Meguires PasteX Plastic polish (arounf $7-8 at walmart. . I polished it with the PlasticX 5-7 times......... lightly rubbing the polish on the surface in circular strokes buffing it out with a soft dry cloth each time. By the time i was finished the lens literally looked like it did the day it was on the showroom floor! Brilliant shiny and super clear!. This is about as easy as i have seen it done. It will take some work. Remember that you are polishing with an abrasive and a mild solvent. So if you keep polishing any painted areas you can actually remove the paint. Just be mindful! I actually removed the lens from the vehicle. Not everyone can do that. If nothing else, tape the adjacent painted surfaces off to protect them. Or..just pay someone to do it. I recently saw where Maaco had it on their toke board at $40-50 per headlight. Good luck.

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August 18, 2011 Flag
0 found this helpful

Could a Brillo pad be used to remove the film and oxidation that is on the headlight lenses? I have used the toothpaste method and the baking soda method and neither helped.

By Gary

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August 19, 20110 found this helpful

I had the same problem with my car. My brother used a buffer with a liquid cleanser on it. I would not recommend using a Brillo Pad, that would scratch it up and make it look even worse!

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August 19, 20110 found this helpful

If is on the inside why have companies made a product to restore the outside of the lens and not the inside of the lens.

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Anonymous Flag
March 30, 20160 found this helpful

I got so frustrated that I tried a brillo pad, now I have dingy and scratched headlights!

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August 17, 2011 Flag
0 found this helpful

Could a Brillo pad be used to remove the film and oxidation that is on the lens? Also, I would not use much pressure, but the cloudiness seems to remain. I have used the toothpaste method and the baking soda method and neither helped. Thanks if you could answer this question.

By Gary

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August 20, 20110 found this helpful

Use brake fluid on an old wash cloth just lightly dampen it and wipe only the plastic part of the headlight. I have used the kits and find they are hard to get off with out a buffer. Got this little tip from my husband.

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September 15, 20110 found this helpful

The cloudiness is caused by sun damage to the outer surface of the plastic lens which has to be removed. You could use 2000 grit, wet and dry paper auto cutting compound or auto cutting polish, and a bit of elbow grease will bring them up like new.

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Anonymous Flag
April 16, 20160 found this helpful

Try using the toothpaste with a small buffing wheel made to use with a drill gun. Use a 2000 or higher grit buffer pad and when finished use car wax solution to help keep the cloudiness from returning so quickly. You may have to use this process more than once to see better results. That's why I did and I am very pleased with the outcome shod cost around 10 dollars.

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October 23, 2012 Flag
0 found this helpful

How you do remedy the dingy yellow film on vehicle headlight lens?

By Suzyn

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Anonymous Flag
October 25, 20120 found this helpful

Headlight lens restoration kits are $20.00 or more and contain enough supplies for a one time only use. For about the same price you can purchase the items in larger quantity separately and will then have enough supplies leftover for future restorations, and even to use on other projects, plus you might already have some or all of the items needed already on hand to do the job.

Step 1: Wash the lenses very well with soapy water, rinse and wipe dry.

Step 2: Dip a corner of a rag in denatured alcohol (you can purchase it at paint stores and most hardware stores), rub it on the lens in a circular motion, repeat if necessary, until the lens loses at least the majority of the yellow coloration and then rinse.

Step 3: Quick soak a piece of 800 grit wet sandpaper in water, then sand the lens using small, circular motions until all yellowing is removed, then repeat using quick soaked 1,000 grit sandpaper and then again with quick soaked 2,000 grit sandpaper until lenses are smooth.

Step 4: It is a must to apply a coat of car wax afterwards to protect the lenses! Rub the wax on in a circular motion with a clean rag and then buff out after a couple of minutes.

ReplyWas this helpful?Helpful? Yes
October 25, 20120 found this helpful

I didn't want to pay the $20 or more dollars for the restoration kit and just put up with it for months on end. Then one day my friend and I were discussing the issue and she said that she read a tip on another site that said to use 'Soft Scrub' bathroom cleaner. I had some under my sink and thought "what the heck, it can't hurt." I used it and it made a tremendous difference! It didn't remove all of the yellow, but I can now see at night again! Maybe if you do it once a month or so, it might take all the yellow out eventually, but I'm happy with what it did to my lenses.

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October 25, 20120 found this helpful

Clean a clouded headlight lens with toothpaste. Use a soft cloth.

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April 19, 2011 Flag
3 found this helpful

If your automotive headlights get yellow or dirty, try to clean them with some rubbing compound. Just make a past and rub it into the headlight plastic covers and then wipe off. They will come clear like new.

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February 4, 2012 Flag
0 found this helpful

How do I clean automobile headlights? Mine are really stained. I know they have the kits, and the pros, thanks!

By Bella B from Houston, TX

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February 5, 20120 found this helpful

My husband sprayed Pam on ours, then rubbed then with a soft clean cloth, and it cleared them up.

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February 5, 20120 found this helpful

The cloudy headlight is caused by oxidation and uv rays from the sun and a few other factors. Pam is not going to remove any oxidation. The best way is by abrasives that remove the oxidation and then polish. Oxidation of the lens is similar to oxidation of metal only that is called rust and Pam is not going to remove rust. It has to be abraded.

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February 5, 20120 found this helpful

I have read about cleaning them with brake fluid. Have not tried it but I will try it first when need to. Good Luck.

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February 16, 2014 Flag
0 found this helpful

What is the best and easiest way to clean the headlights on your car?

By GG

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February 18, 20140 found this helpful

I haven't tried this myself, but read that a dull or dirty headlight/tail light can be cleaned with toothpaste. Slightly dampen a cleaning cloth (an old T-shirt will do!) Squeeze a small amount of toothpaste onto the cloth, and rub over the surface of the lens. Use a 2nd cloth to rinse the paste from the light lens. Wipe the light lens with a cloth or paper towel, or let air dry.

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March 9, 20140 found this helpful

My husband and I, cleaned the headlights on my car just last week, using the toothpaste idea. Just keep in mind that it must be a toothpaste that contains a whitener. Worked great and my car is almost 8 years old!

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September 12, 2010 Flag
0 found this helpful

What can be done for interior cloudiness of headlight covers?

By Kacky from Wrightsville Beach, NC

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September 15, 20100 found this helpful

For a small fee a body shop will polish the lens of your headlights and they will look like new. Any dust or film that is on the inside will be removed also.

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September 21, 20100 found this helpful

We tried a product from the auto store, kinda worked but not all the way clear. I suggest you go with Anna Parker.

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February 7, 20110 found this helpful

The yellowing you see is oxidation from sun exposure. There are degrees of oxidation, and the degree to which it can be removed depends on how much work you are willing to do. The only way to completely restore a yellowed headlight is to remove the oxidation, exposing new live plastic.

If there is extensive micro cracking deep into the plastic, the headlight may not be restorable, but surface oxidation and micro-cracking can be successfully removed. The trick is to remove just enough plastic to make the lenses clear again and then protect them from future damage.

Yes, the creams and pastes will work to some extent in making the lens look clearer temporarily, but this is mostly a result of filling in the micro pitting / cracking on the damaged lens, and doesn't last. They are a quick cheap temp fix at best. The kits such as the ones made by Permatex, Meguires and Turtle Wax do work really well, but you have to follow the instructions exactly, or you will damage the headlight, as some here apparently have. One trick I have found that helps is to if at all possible, remove the headlight from the vehicle, as it makes it a lot easier to do a proper job.

Now to the kits. They are all basically the same in that they have 1) Abrasive sheets, pads, or sandpaper, usually in grits of 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500, and 3000. 2) Some sort of polishing fluid or paste. The trick with the abrasives is to start with the FINEST one that will remove the oxidation (1000 grit is the coarsest I'll start with) and to keep the headlight and the sandpaper pad very wet. Soak the paper for a few minutes in water, and keep a spray bottle of water handy to keep the headlight and paper wet.

Spray the headlight, the, sand back and forth in one direction with the 1000 grit (keep it wet) until most of the oxidation is off and you have a smooth surface. Then wipe the residue off with a wet terry cloth towel, and switch to 1500 grit, sanding 90 degrees to the direction you did with the 1000 grit. (Again keeping everything very wet.) Wipe it off again and now go to the 2000 grit, 90 degrees from the direction of the 1500 grit. lastly, wipe it down one more time and repeat with the 2500 or 3000 grit.

Now wipe off all the sanding residue, take a clean terry cloth rag and use the polishing paste or liquid liberally, and polish in a circular motion, until the lens becomes clear and shiny. Step back and admire your hard work.

The Turtle wax restoration kit comes with a lens sealing wipe, that you apply in one direction, then let cure for 24 hours which will prevent re-oxidation. If you aren't using their kit, you can apply Plastix polish or one of the aforementioned cremes with UV protectant. Then, whenever you wash the car, take a few minutes to touch up the headlights, and you shouldn't have to do the heavy duty cleaning/restoration again.

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February 25, 2014 Flag
0 found this helpful

If your headlights are already damaged as in you've used sandpaper and/or restorer and NOTHING is bringing them back from the fog, you can use baby oil on a paper towel and buff until clear after you wash them well.

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