Cleaning Foggy or Hazy Headlights

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October 25, 2012

Hazy Headlights on VW RabbitSomeone 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.

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.
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  5. 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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More Solutions

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August 28, 2012

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...

After photo.


February 25, 2014

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.


April 19, 2011

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.


23 Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

August 18, 2011

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


August 18, 20110 found this helpful

Go to an auto parts store or Wal Mart and you can buy a product from 3M Co that will clean up the headlight lens. There may be other products that will also work. You can also check out and type in headlight lens cleaners or words to that effect.

August 18, 20110 found this helpful

Hubby says that most of that is on the inside of the lens covers, he could be wrong but swears he is always right!

August 19, 20110 found this helpful

Nope, it is on the outside.

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!

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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September 12, 2004

Does anyone else have a problem with the inside of your windshield fogging up? It almost looks like a haze. Turning on the defroster does not help. I've tried water and ammonia. That works for a few days, then it's back again. Maybe I put too much water or ammonia in the bottle.



By Scott (Guest Post)
September 13, 20040 found this helpful

Try using White Vinegar on a clean towel. Pour a good amount on the towel and wipe it into the window. After you wipe it in, Take another clean towel and wipe the vinegar off.


This works. I have tried it many times before. After you are finished, you may want to leave your windows open so the smell of the vinegar will disappear

By (Guest Post)
September 13, 20040 found this helpful

I had this problem also. Regular window cleaner did not completely take care of it, either. I went to an auto supply store and got some Armour (I think) car window spray cleaner (NOT the kind in a gallon jug you put in the reservoir) and it worked great! Eventually you have to clean it again, even if you are careful not to touch your windows, because of the outgassing of the materials that make up the interior of your car, along with normal dust and dirt.

September 13, 20040 found this helpful

that haze is from the dashboard letting off gasses. I use to think it was from my hubby smoking. putting a shield over the window to keep the dashboard cooler in the summer might be helpful in not having to clean it so often.


not sure as we moved to a cooler climate. Good luck!

By Ann (Guest Post)
September 14, 20040 found this helpful

I read somewhere to rub a bar of soap over the inside of your car windows, and we tried that last fall and winter, and it did seem to work. of course, it does need to be re-done every few weeks.

By Kim (Guest Post)
September 15, 20040 found this helpful

My grandfather (who was a lifetime mechanic) taught me how to keep my windows from fogging up. When you turn on your defogger, make sure you have it set on "outside air" or fresh air.. not the setting where the air is just recycling around the inside. And make sure it is set on warm..not too hot or cold.

November 18, 20040 found this helpful

Did you check your heater core? If it's leaking it will put a haze all over your windshield that is hard to get off.

By Ray (Guest Post)
October 13, 20080 found this helpful

Angie, Your not alone, I have a 07 Acura TL that I am meticulous about, I have tried every window cleaner on the market as well as making my own and still a day after cleaning my glass it looks like I cleaned with Crisco oil. I think this is caused by gases being released inside the car from the dash and upholstery. I'm checking this and other sites for a solution if I come up with one I will post it.

By Andy (Guest Post)
December 27, 20080 found this helpful

Hi folks, I bought a used 2002 Montana in December when it was very cold. Windows fogged up so much I couldn't see out the side windows at all. No smell of coolant. After spending many hours of investigation, I finally discovered the problem. In the back of the glove box there is a compartment which contains air filters.


I removed the air filters and looking inside with a flashlight I saw in the very back, a little higher on the firewall, a plastic door which was shut. I gently opened it. Now fresh air gets in and NO more FOG. I hope I just saved you some time so you can spend it with your family. -Andy
amolter2002 AT

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August 17, 2011

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


August 18, 20110 found this helpful

You can go to an auto parts store and buy a 3M product for restoring the headlight lens. Wal Mart sells one from 3M Co. Go to,click on auto refinish accessories. There are other companies that also sell restoring kits. I doubt a brillo pad would work. You can also check out items at Type in auto headlight lens restoring kits or words to that effect.

The 3M Headlight Lens Restoration System helps restore hazy or fogged headlight lenses, increasing visibility on the road and the appearance of a vehicle. Using it will save hundreds of dollars versus replacing dull and foggy headlights. It's easy to use and comes with detailed instructions.
-Designed to restore clarity to headlight lenses that have become yellowed, cloudy or hazy
-Improves the performance of the headlight

August 20, 20110 found this helpful

Perhaps its on the inside? Could be.You wouldn't want to scruff it up, especially if you can remove it & check to clean the inside. I can't see why else it wouldn't come clean if you did all that to the outside. And try vinegar! Hope this helps. Good Luck. : )


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August 20, 20110 found this helpful

You can buy a kit or just take it to a body shop and they will polish the headlights for you. Lens are no longer glass but some kind of acrilic that scratches.

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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July 9, 2018

What do you recommend for cleaning dingy auto headlights?

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February 4, 2012

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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October 23, 2012

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

By Suzyn

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September 12, 2010

What can be done for interior cloudiness of headlight covers?

By Kacky from Wrightsville Beach, NC


September 12, 20100 found this helpful

3M makes a product to dress up the faded lens. It is available in Auto stores. You will sand the lens using products that come in the kit. You sand using an electric drill. If you go to and type in "3M products to restore headlight lens" some sites will come up so you can see the product and read the step by step directions.


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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.

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.

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 16, 2014

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


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May 14, 2011

How do I make frosted headlights clear?

By Gail


Gold Post Medal for All Time! 846 Posts
May 16, 20110 found this helpful

Whether you mean the plastic cover or the bulb itself I honestly don't think there is a way other than purchasing new that are already clear.

May 16, 20110 found this helpful

Just a week or so ago I saw one of those infomercials advertising a new product that does just what you're asking for. SS but don't remember the name. It was something like clear lens. Perhaps you could try the "As seen On TV" web site. GL. After seeing it wish I'd paid more attention as my 97 Cadi lenses are getting cloudy!
Gale from Ca.

May 16, 20110 found this helpful

Hi Gail
After my 1st post to you I went to as seen on TV and found the product to clean car headlight's called Fast Brite Lens restore and costs $10. plus shipping. Good luck. I'm going to try it too.
Gale in Ca.

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April 11, 2015

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 11, 2012

I have an '88 Mercury Cougar and my headlight covers are so bad, as far as being cloudy. I can no longer drive at night! I have looked and tried all the things I've heard and read about with no luck. Why if manufacturers make them for the cars, then why can't we buy them when something happens to them? Seems the car companies could stand to win in this situation!

By Lisa S. from Mt.Vernon, WA

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February 22, 2010

Does anyone have any idea on how to get the fog off of the inside of headlights? I really don't want to buy new ones. The outside is clean, it's just the inside of them that is foggy. Thank you.

By k.sowders


February 22, 20100 found this helpful

It may look foggy on the inside but I think it is on the outside. 3M Co. mades a product sold in automotive stores that will clean the outside of the lens. A little time consuming so check out what has to be done and the price of the product. Or you could check out salvage yards to see if they have the lens for your car that would be in good shape.

February 25, 20100 found this helpful

I agree with foxrun - it is on the outside. The product that does the cleaning is actually an extremely mild abrasive that is applied and polished. You need to use the product from the automotive store, anything else is too harsh.

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February 28, 2015

My husband and I recently purchased a Turtle Wax headlight cleaning kit and cleaned them as directed and now our headlights have a foggy film on them. What's the best way to remove the film?

By Leanne D.

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How do you get hazed over looking headlights on a used car to look clear again? Thanks.

By Shirley

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March 24, 2014

What is a good, simple way to clean a car's headlights?

By Linda P.

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August 8, 2013

I tried toothpaste, the kits from the auto store and nothing helps! It's $1200 each to replace them do you think a deoxidizer will work?

By Anne

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

April 19, 2011

I just recently got my first car. To my surprise, my new car's headlights weren't the best. They were foggy and didn't look the way I thought a new car's should look.


January 10, 2011

I have a friend who cleaned his headlights on his '72 Chevy with toothpaste and they looked great but when I tried it on my '89 Mustang they just clouded up.


September 12, 2010

The plastic head light covers on my '98 Chrysler Town & Country van have developed a heavy film covering over them.

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