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Here’s the Pantry Staple Duo That Can Clear Foggy Headlights in Seconds

Plus, the viral cleaning method pros say you should steer clear of

If driving at night has seemed a bit dimmer than usual, you may not need to run to the eye doctor for a stronger lens prescription — it may not be your eyes at all. It could be your car’s headlights, which can fog up and lose their brightness over time. If this has happened to your set of wheels, don’t worry — you don’t need to shell out thousands to have to them replaced. Try one of these expert recommended tips on how to clean foggy headlights and get your car’s headlights looking like new again.

Related: Eye Doc: Look *Here* While You Drive + 8 More Genius Tips to Improve Night Vision Behind The Wheel

Why headlights get foggy

How to clean foggy headlight so they don't look as dirty as this one is.

“Headlights get foggy primarily due to oxidation, caused by exposure to UV light from the sun and other elements like rain and road debris,” explains car detailing expert Richard Jefferies. “This oxidation affects the outer layer of the headlight lens, which is usually made of polycarbonate plastic, leading to a cloudy or foggy appearance that can significantly reduce visibility.”

In some cases, fogging can also be caused by moisture getting into the headlight itself, typically due to a small crack or hole in the surface, which leads to condensation on the inside of the lamp.

Related: Speed Clean Your Car: 10 Hacks That Leave Your Car Sparkling In Half The Time and At Half the Cost

How to avoid headlight fogging

In short, if you plan to keep your car for a long time, some headlight fogging is inevitable. But you still have options to slow it down, says Alex Jones, owner of Automobilia Auto Salon.

“One effective measure is to apply a UV protectant sealant to your headlights every six months or so,” says Jones. Two to try: Meguiar’s Keep Clear Headlight Coating, or EastUp Headlight UV Protect Coating. “This helps form a barrier against the harmful UV rays and other oxidative agents and can slow fogging considerably.”

Additionally, parking your vehicle in a shaded area or using a car cover can minimize UV exposure and slow down the oxidation process, says Andrew Blazina of All American Mobile Detailing.

How to clean foggy headlights using DIY methods

If your headlights have a minor amount of fogging or yellowing, a simple mix of toothpaste and baking soda may help.

“Combined, non-gel toothpaste and baking soda can polish away the outer layer of oxidized material, revealing a cleaner and clearer lens underneath,” says Jones. “The toothpaste and baking soda combination provides a gentle yet effective abrasive action.

It’s the mechanical action of rubbing the toothpaste against the lens that yields results. However, these methods might not work if your headlights are excessively oxidized or if the damage has penetrated deeper into the plastic, beyond what surface polishing can remedy.”

To do: Squeeze some toothpaste that contains baking soda (or add some yourself — you’ll need about a quarter-size dollop of toothpaste and one teaspoon of baking soda for each light) directly onto your headlight, covering the entire surface in an even layer. Next, use a toothbrush to scrub the toothpaste onto the surface of the headlight, working in small circles until you’ve scrubbed the entire surface. Once done, rinse using your hose or a spray bottle filled with water and wipe clean with a paper towel — you may need to repeat the process more than once to achieve ideal results.

Watch the magic happen in the YouTube video below:

It’s also good to note that if your headlight is fogging due to condensation inside the lamp, neither this nor the storebought methods below will help. In that case, you’ll need to consult a mechanic who can help find and repair wherever moisture is getting in.

What methods to avoid trying to clean foggy headlights

Viral TikTok videos started a sensation claiming that bug spray containing DEET — that’s N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide for the chemists at home — could clear up headlights even better than store-bought kits. So what do the experts think?

“DEET can temporarily clear foggy headlights because it dissolves the outer layer of the lens, removing some of the oxidation,” Jefferies explains. “However, this method can cause damage over time, eventually irreparably harming the outer layer of your headlight — and this doesn’t even count damage to your car’s paint job or any rubber it comes into contact with if it drips — so it isn’t something I recommend.”

Prefer a store- bought solution?

If your headlights are extremely oxidized or you just prefer to move beyond a DIY fix, “I recommend looking for restoration kits from reputable brands like 3M, or Meguiar’s,” says Jefferies. “These kits generally include a sanding pad, polishing compound and sealant, offering a comprehensive solution for restoring headlight clarity with a balance of abrasion and polishing carefully designed not to damage the lens.”

For more car cleaning stories, click through the links below!

Car Experts Reveal Easy Ways to Remove Tree Sap From Your Car + the One Thing You Should Never Do

Speed Clean Your Car: 10 Hacks That Leave Your Car Sparkling In Half The Time

Car Finish Enemy #1: Bird Poop. Here’s How to Clean It Without Making Things Worse

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