How To Clean Yellowed Headlights

Want your vehicle's headlights to emit light resembling something from a horror movie instead of providing visibility while driving? Don't fret! It's high time we repaired this problem and restored the sparkle of the lamps to their former stage. Whether you are driving through streets that get dimmer and dimmer or there is consistent darkness that surrounds you, bright and clear headlights are a must for safety and style.

Realistically, headlights that are yellowed serve only to make the vehicle look unattractive and may as well blur your visibility on the road. However, don't panic because a solution is lying in your garage or at the auto store counter. Using the basic items from your home and a bit of scrubbing, you can part the angelic film covering your headlights and welcome in the new era of transparency and glimmer. You can use a specialized headlight restoration kit or less effective but comparatively cheaper household items. Here, we’re about to explain both methods. So, let’s start!

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Why Do Headlights Turn Yellow?

Before we get into the methods to clean yellow oxidized headlights, it is better to understand why they turn yellow in the first place. The most common reason is the UV rays from the sun. When you park your car under the sunlight or travel a lot in the daytime, the UV rays react with the plastic surface, turning it yellow. This phenomenon is called oxidation.

Although car manufacturing companies give them some protective coating, they eventually wear off with time, exposing the surface to UV radiation. But you don’t have to worry as we discuss removing oxidation from headlights with a home remedy.

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Ways To Clean Yellowed Headlights

Now you know why headlights turn yellow, it’s time to fix them in three simple steps. Gather the right items and tools to clean headlights yellowing from the inside:

  1. Microfibre Cloth OR Old Towel
  2. Masking Tape
  3. Headlight Cleaner OR Restoration Kit
  4. Water (For Rinsing)
  5. Mild Soap
  6. Soft Brush
  7. Gloves (For Safety)

Step 1: Make Headlight Ready

First, you will need to prepare the headlight for cleaning. It includes cleaning the dirt or dust from the surface. You can do it by rinsing the headlight with soapy water. Damp the cloth in the solution and rub the dirt off the surface.

After cleaning the area, dry it with a clean towel or cloth. Now, cover the headlight’s surroundings with masking tape. It is necessary to protect the car paint from chemical damage.

Step 2: Apply The Headlight Cleaner

Now, put a generous amount of headlight cleaner on the surface. Use a clean rug or microfiber cloth to spread the cleaner. Gently move the cloth in small circular motions with light pressure and a firm hand. You can also use a soft brush with fine bristles to scrub off the yellowish color. However, don’t try too hard. Otherwise, it will leave scratches over the surface. Also, using a proper restoration kit with specific tools for this purpose is much easier.

Step 3: Scrub Off Stubborn Stains & Finish The Job

You will see the results after a few minutes of rubbing. Take another clean cloth to wipe off the residual cleaner. You may notice some less attended spots or stubborn stains that had not been cleaned in the previous session. Rub some amount of the cleaner (again) over the area until you are satisfied. When you are done, rinse off the surface with water. Carefully remove the masking tape, and admire your work.

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5 Alternative Methods To Restore Foggy Headlights

Although the above method includes the general process with the proper headlight cleaning agent, only some have it in their home. So, how to clean yellowed headlights at home if you don’t have a restoration kit? Luckily, we do have some alternative solutions that may help you out.

1- Toothpaste

Besides cleaning your teeth, toothpaste can also clean your car’s headlights. But how to clean yellowed headlights with toothpaste? Well, the process is almost identical to the method mentioned above. You only need to apply toothpaste instead of a special cleaning agent on your yellowed headlights. Although toothpaste acts as a buffer for small scratches, it is chemically abrasive (mildly) too. Several chemicals present in it, such as silica or baking soda, can remove polycarbonate plastic oxidation.

Additionally, toothpaste contains hydrogen peroxides (a disinfectant), which removes stains and smudges. Don’t worry! They are still safe for your teeth. Furthermore, toothpaste can polish the headlight lenses, glass lenses, or plastic lenses and their parabolic cavity. After sanding and polishing the yellowed headlights, apply a protective clear coat to ensure long-lasting clarity and prevent future discoloration.

Hence, you won’t get clearer headlamps but brighter light down the road. And luckily, it is quite a cheap alternative. But remember, it is unreliable, as results don’t last long.

2- Cleaning Agents

Some people use household cleaning agents, such as rubbing alcohol, glass, or window cleaners, to fix yellowed headlights. However, they are a great alternative if your car headlights are foggy. They can easily remove dirt or dust through the plastic cover and headlamps. After cleaning foggy headlights, you'll notice comparatively brighter light. However, they cannot address the yellowness.

3- WD-40

WD-40 has been a lifesaver for many years. And it can help you in this context, too. But how do you clean headlights with WD40? Take a rag and clear off the dust. Apply WD-40, spread it with a microfiber cloth, and continue till you get a shiny headlight. Wash off excess solution, and Voila! Its versatile lubricating and deoxidizing properties fade off the UV light’s effects. While the results are amazing, it still has durability issues. Like toothpaste, the yellowed headlight and headlight lens don’t remain clean for a longer period. So, you may need to apply it again or go for a better option, like proper headlight cleaning solutions.

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4- Solutions

Talking about solutions, you can also recover yellowed headlights with homemade solutions. Now, this category is broad enough, and we cannot cover each solution, but below are some famous and effective ones that are readily available.

Lemon & Baking Powder

As dubious as it sounds, pairing lemon with baking powder can easily fix the car headlight’s yellowness. To perform it, you need to cut a well-sized lemon in half. Put some baking powder on the freshly cut uneven surface. Now, turn it over the headlight, squeeze it a little to release some juice, and rub the lemon in circular motions. It will take some time, but you eventually observe the effect.

While this hack is effective for many people, its results may vary. For some people, it still doesn’t work. So, you have to try it at your own risk. But wipe off the solution instantly after use, as lemon juice can damage your car’s paint.

Vinegar & Baking Soda

Some people have also reported cleaning yellow headlights with baking soda and vinegar. You need to make a solution with one part of vinegar and two parts baking soda. Mix them well in a container to create a paste. Create it close to your car, as they will react almost immediately. Take some amount in a cloth and rub it over the headlights. It will remove the yellowness after some time. Rinse off the extra paste after finishing the job. Again, keep the paste away from the car paint, as it can damage it.

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Magic Eraser

Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser is great for removing stains or dirt. But these special sponges are also amazing at cleaning yellowed headlights. Let’s learn how to clean headlights with a magic eraser. Mask the headlight surrounding to protect the paint. Dip the magic eraser in water, but don’t soak it entirely. Gently rub the wet eraser over the headlights in a circular motion. Constantly wet the sponge if it gets dry. After 5-10 minutes, you will see the headlight is cleaned. Dry it with a paper towel.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Restore The Yellowed Headlights?

Yes, you can restore yellowed headlights through various techniques. However, the techniques are effective as long as they are made from plastic. Yellowed glass headlights are not easily restorable.

How Can I Make My Headlights White Again?

You can make your headlights white through several methods. The best option will be using the headlight cleaner or restoration kit. However, you may also find some home remedies to make them white again. But, they are only sometimes effective.

Can Toothpaste Remove Yellow Stains From Headlights?

Although you may find it useful, as toothpaste does fix yellowed headlights, it’s not always guaranteed. In many cases, it easily removes the yellowness of the plastic due to hydrogen peroxide present in it. But the method doesn’t work for everyone.

Which Liquid Can Clean Yellowed Headlights?

While the specific solution perfectly cleans yellowed headlights, the second-most effective liquid is the mixture of vinegar and baking soda. It is more of a paste than a liquid but serves the same purpose. The other solution is baking powder with lemon juice.

Will Vinegar Clean Car Headlights?

Vinegar is a strong acid but cannot clean a yellow headlight alone. You will need to pair it with baking soda so that it can work on the plastic chemically. However, prepare the solution near your car as their reaction is rapid.

Is Sanding Necessary To Clean Yellowed Car Headlights?

Even though sanding is one of the best methods to clean foggy headlights or yellowed headlights, it is not the only solution. Cleaning yellowed headlights without sanding is also possible, and the above article is evident.


Cleaning your yellowed headlights is relatively easy, as you can do it at home. The main concern is adopting the right tool or effective method to get results. Since now you know how to clean yellowed headlights and some alternative methods other than using a headlight restorer, you’re all set to pick a method and get to work. Don’t forget to share with us which method works best for you.

Emma James

A distinguished writer with an impressive 8-year track record of contributing to various prominent informational websites.

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