Headlights are critical components of any automobile, and while they hold up well, they do require upkeep like any other elements of your car. The lenses for your headlights are typically made out of polycarbonate plastic. The dense and durable surface of this material is ideal for handling the varying conditions and debris that you regularly experience on your daily commute. However, while the material is quite robust, it does not hold up well against the continued abuse of the sun's rays. Most vehicle manufacturers combat this particular dilemma by sealing the outer surface of the lenses with a UV protective film. Unfortunately, even that film wears over time, allowing the plastic underneath to oxidize. As a result, you might be wondering how to clean headlight lenses, or if they can even be restored.

Thankfully, most damage to your headlight lenses can be reversed, especially if you catch it early. You can tell if the oxidation process has begun by the hazing or yellowing of the lens. When this hazing occurs, it likely means that the protective film is damaged or nonexistent, in which case, you can follow the steps below to restore your headlight lenses with little hassle, expense or headache.


When preparing to restore your headlight lenses, you have a couple of options. You can purchase a headlight restoration kit, which should have everything you need to perform the job, or you can buy the elements of those kits separately. Buying the kit removes most of the guesswork when purchasing supplies. However, purchasing a kit might also be wasteful if you already have some of the elements. Therefore, if you decide to buy everything separately, you will need at least the following six things on your shopping list.

  • Different grits of wet/dry sandpaper (1000, 2000 and 3000)
  • Blue painters tape
  • Polishing compound
  • Paste wax
  • UV sealant
  • Microfiber towels


Let's say you need your headlights clean, but you don't want to buy a cleaning kit, or you are unable to. If so, you can do a pretty good job with a toothbrush, some toothpase, a spray bottle full of water, and a cloth. Ideally, the toothpaste should feature baking soda for maximum efficiency. Here's how to restore headlights with toothpaste:

  • Rub toothpaste into the headlight lens with the toothbrush (You can use a rotary buffer for a deeper clean)
  • Keep rubbing to scrub the lens housing clean
  • Spray warm water onto the headlight and wipe away the toothpaste using the cloth

It might seem simple, but if you follow those steps, you should have cleaner headlights. That said, this is an easy fix, so you may want to use a true headlight restoration kit for a better clean. Headlight restoration kits feature cleaning solutions that are designed to clean headlight housings, rather than teeth.