Taking Care of Your Vehicle: 5 Tips on How to Clean Car Headlights

Written by Danny Collins
Last updated: October 19, 2023

A car’s headlights can appear dirty fast, especially for second-hand vehicle owners. Over time, these vital components can quickly lose their lustre, diminishing the vehicle’s aesthetics, functionality, value, and safety. These factors are essential while you use your car and even if you decide to sell your vehicle in the future. 

Understanding the reasons behind foggy headlights and their implications is also crucial for any car owner, whether you’ve just bought your first vehicle or have plenty of experience on the road. 

So, in this blog, we explore the importance of clear headlights, offering you five essential tips on how to clean car headlights effectively.

What are Foggy Headlights? 

Headlights, crafted from polycarbonates, offer durability and scratch resistance. However, when exposed to UV rays, the outer layers degrade due to oxidation. This degradation manifests as cloudy, foggy, or dull headlights, diminishing the clarity of the emitted light. A yellow tinge often accompanies this deterioration. 

These visual cues signify more than just a cosmetic issue; they impact visibility, compromising your safety on the road.

Why is it Important to Keep Car Headlights Clean?

Headlight on a vintage car.

Maintaining clean headlights isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s a matter of safety that is crucial for all vehicle owners. Grimy headlights, depending on their level of dirt, obscure your vision of the road and make it challenging for oncoming drivers to see you.

Excessively dirty headlights can lead to being pulled over by the police, as they can be deemed a safety hazard. 

Ensuring clear headlights enhances your ability to see and react to the road and enables other drivers to spot your vehicle, reducing the risk of accidents. 

Be aware that potential buyers can view your vehicle’s accident history via car history checks.

5 Tips on How to Clean Headlights on a Car 


1. Use Toothpaste 

Toothe paste on toothe brush.

If you want an easy way to clean your headlights, toothpaste is an option you can find in your home. Using toothpaste involves the following:


  • Before applying this inexpensive solution, ensure you’ve washed the headlights with soapy water to prevent scratching. 


  • Once dry, use plain toothpaste without particles. Squeeze a small amount onto a cloth or sponge and gently scrub the headlights in circular motions.


  • Rinse headlights with water.


The baking soda content within the toothpaste helps remove the dirt from headlights. This method saves you money and offers a simple yet effective way to revive your headlights, enhancing both their appearance and your safety on the road.

2. Use Vinegar and Baking Soda 

Vinegar bottle laid on table.

This natural remedy effectively cleans foggy lights and ensures your headlights shine brightly, enhancing your visibility on the road.


  • Start by washing the headlights with soapy water, ensuring they are dirt-free. 


  • After allowing them to dry, create a mixture of equal parts baking soda and white vinegar. 


  • Apply this solution onto the headlights using a soft cloth or sponge, gently scrubbing the surface to break down grime and restore clarity. 


  • Once you’ve covered the headlights thoroughly, rinse them off and dry them with a clean cloth. 

3. Try Sandpaper 

Beige sandpaper.

For a more enduring solution to clean a headlight, sandpaper can work wonders, although it requires careful handling. Use the following steps to ensure you clean your vehicle without damaging it.


  • Begin with light pressure to avoid damaging the lens. Depending on the oxidation level, start with 400-grit sandpaper, using it in circular motions.


  • Then, switch to horizontal strokes, ensuring even coverage. 


  • Periodically spray the headlights with water to remove dust particles.


  • As this method progresses, move to higher grit sandpaper, repeating the circular and horizontal motions. 


  • If necessary, repeat the process using a higher grit sandpaper each time. This option not only removes oxidation but also provides a smooth surface. 


  • After achieving the desired clarity, polish the headlights for a pristine finish.


Remember, while it demands patience and precision, sandpaper offers a lasting solution, ensuring your headlights stay clear and bright and enhancing your driving safety and overall vehicle aesthetics. 

4. Use Lemon Juice and Baking Soda 

Lemons in a bowl next to a knife.

Another solution if you’re wondering how to clean foggy headlights is to use lemon juice and baking soda. For this method to work effectively, follow the steps listed below.


  • Begin by cutting a lemon in half and generously sprinkling baking soda over it. 


  • With the baking soda side down, use the lemon as a scrubber, applying gentle pressure in circular motions. The acidic lemon juice and the abrasive baking soda effectively remove grime and oxidation.


  • After scrubbing, wipe away any residue with a damp cloth, revealing headlights that are not only clean but also brilliantly clear. 


This eco-friendly method revitalises your headlights without too much effort or expense.

5. Use Window Cleaner 

A man's hand cleaning a red car's headlight with a cloth.

One of the best ways to clean headlights might be in your cleaning cupboard: window cleaner. This solution includes the following:


  • Apply a few drops of window cleaner to a microfiber cloth and gently rub the headlights in circular motions. This car headlight cleaner effortlessly cuts through the grime, revealing the headlights’ original clarity. 


  • Wipe away the residue with a damp cloth once you’ve finished cleaning. 


This method ensures your headlights shine bright and emphasises the simplicity of regular upkeep.

Our other tips for looking after your second-hand car can also help you maintain your car and help with value if you decide to sell it later.

What are the Legal Implications of Modifying Your Car’s Headlights? 

A fast-moving sports car.

While enhancing your vehicle’s headlights might seem appealing, it’s crucial to understand the legal ramifications. 

Any modifications, including headlight alterations, can impact your car insurance, potentially increasing premiums. 

Always check your insurance policy to confirm its suitability for your modified vehicle. You must also declare these modifications to your insurers; failure to do so might void your coverage. Sometimes, you may need a particular policy to protect you and your vehicle. 

Be cautious, as certain modifications, like aftermarket LEDs, are illegal in the UK. It’s your responsibility to ensure your modifications align with regulations. 

You must also ensure your headlights comply with legal dazzle limits. 

A black-gloved hand polishing a silver car near headlight.
Knowing how to clean dull headlights isn’t just a matter of aesthetics — it’s a fundamental aspect of safe driving. By following our expert tips, you’re enhancing your car’s appearance and prioritising your safety on the road. 

However, responsible car ownership extends beyond clean headlights. When buying or selling a vehicle, conducting checks, like a car tax check, and ensuring your car tax is up-to-date are equally crucial.

Contact us today and see how Reg Car Check can help you with all the appropriate checks on your vehicle.