Blue BMW with Clear Headlights as Featured Image "How To Clean Yellow Headlights at Home"

How To Clean Yellow Headlights At Home: Vinegar & Baking Soda

Last Updated on September 6, 2023 by Chase Manhattan

infographic showing the reasons why you should clean your yellow headlights asap
If you’re on the fence about cleaning your headlights, keep this in mind as we move forward.

Dirty or foggy headlights can significantly reduce visibility when driving at night or in poor weather conditions. They not only diminish the appearance of your car but also pose a safety hazard. This is why it’s imperative that you clean foggy headlights immediately, and then keep them from fogging up again in the future.

That is exactly what I’ll show you how to do in this comprehensive guide: we will explore the causes of foggy headlights and provide effective solutions to clean foggy headlights and how you can go about preventing them. We will also discuss how to clean yellow headlights at home using a baking soda and vinegar mixture.

Otherwise, it may be worth considering replacing your headlights. Often, this can be the less time consuming method to get some clear headlights but can also be more costly. So weigh out the options, and see what works for you. Anyway, keep reading, and let’s get to it!

Chase Manhattan

example of a foggy and yellowed headlight that needs to be cleaned

What Causes Car Headlights to Get Dirty, Foggy, or Yellow?

There are several factors that can cause car headlights to become dirty, foggy, or yellow over time. These include:

  • excess moisture

  • uv ray exposure

  • accumulated surface grime

Keep reading for more details in each specific case, then further down I’ll show you have to protect from each one of these hazards.

Excess Moisture

Moisture can accumulate inside the headlight casing, ltding to fogging. This usually occurs when the seals around the lens of the headlights are not functioning properly, allowing water to seep in. Over time, this moisture can cause the headlight lenses to become foggy and less effective.

UV Exposure

Prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays can cause damage to plastic headlights. The UV rays break down the outer layers of the plastic, leading to oxidation, which results in a yellowish or foggy appearance.

Surface Grime

Dirt, road debris, and other contaminants can accumulate on the surface of the headlight lenses over time. This buildup of dirt can obstruct the light emitted by the headlights, reducing their effectiveness and causing a foggy appearance.

Related read: Does AutoZone Replace Headlights for Free?

instructional infographic showing how to use vinegar and baking soda to clean headlights
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How To Clean Headlights With Vinegar and Baking Soda

One effective and affordable method for cleaning foggy headlights is using a mixture of vinegar and baking soda. This DIY vinegar solution is easy to prepare and can help restore the clarity of your headlights.

Supplies You’ll Need

  • Baking soda and vinegar mixture
  • Microfiber towel, cloth, or sponge
  • Spray bottle filled with water
  • Clean, dry cloth

Prepare The Baking Soda and Vinegar Mixture

To create the headlight cleaning solution, mix equal parts baking soda and white vinegar in a small bowl. The mixture should form a thick paste, similar to the texture of toothpaste, which will be used to scrub the headlight lenses.

Cleaning Process

  1. Begin by wiping any dirt or debris from the headlights using a microfiber cloth or sponge.
  2. Apply the baking soda and vinegar mixture to the headlights, covering the entire surface of the lenses.
  3. Using a clean microfiber cloth or sponge, gently scrub the headlight lenses in small circular motions. Be careful not to apply too much pressure, as this may scratch the plastic. Moderate elbow grease will suffice.
  4. Once the headlights have been thoroughly scrubbed, use a spray bottle filled with water to rinse away the baking soda and vinegar mixture.
  5. Dry the headlights using a clean, dry cloth or paper towel. If necessary, repeat the process until the headlights are clean and clear.

In Video Format:

infographic showing an example of a headlight resotration kit that can be used to clean foggy headlights

Clean Foggy Headlights With a Restoration Kit

For a more comprehensive solution to cleaning headlights, consider using a headlight restoration kit. These kits often include everything you need to clean and restore your headlights, such as polishing compounds, sandpaper, and protective coatings.

Follow the instructions provided with the kit to ensure the best results. Typically, this will involve cleaning the headlights, sanding away any oxidation, applying a polishing compound, and sealing the lenses with a protective coating.

Be sure to evaluate the kit prior to making your purchase. Some kits are entirely DIY, with everything you’ll need included; whereas some kits are dremel and buffer kits like those found when waxing your car with a buffer. Ideally, you want a kit similar to what is used to remove car scratches.

Read more: Best Clear Coat for Headlights

Temporary Headlights Fixes (for Foggy Headlights)

If you’re in a pinch and need a quick fix for foggy headlights, there are a few temporary solutions that can help improve their appearance and functionality.

ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid)

Applying a small amount of automatic transmission fluid to a clean cloth and rubbing it onto the headlight lenses can help remove oxidation and improve clarity. However, this is only a temporary solution, and the fogging may reappear over time.

Bug Spray

Some bug sprays contain ingredients that can help remove the oxidation from headlight lenses. Apply the bug spray to a clean cloth and gently rub it onto the headlights.

Be sure to avoid direct contact with the car’s paint and other plastic parts, as the bug spray may cause damage. This method provides a temporary improvement in headlight clarity but may need to be reapplied regularly.

How To Avoid Future Fogginess (Maintain Clean Headlights)

To prevent your headlights from becoming foggy or yellow in the future, consider the following tips:

Wax The Headlight Lenses

Applying a high-quality car wax, like carnauba wax, to your headlight lenses can help protect them from UV damage and oxidation.

Amongst the many benefits of wax, the wax forms a protective barrier on the surface of the lenses, preventing contaminants from adhering to the plastic and causing damage. Be sure to reapply the wax regularly to maintain its effectiveness.

Apply a Protective Film

Another option for preventing foggy or cloudy car headlights is to apply a protective film to the headlight lenses.

These films are designed to protect your headlights from UV exposure, oxidation, and other environmental factors that can cause damage. They are typically easy to install and can be a cost-effective solution for maintaining clear headlights.

In conclusion, foggy or cloudy headlights can be a safety hazard and negatively impact your car’s appearance. By understanding the causes of foggy headlights and implementing the cleaning and prevention methods discussed in this guide, you can ensure your headlights remain clear and effective for years to come.

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