Car detailing

How To Clean Headlights?

Find out how to clean your car headlights, whether they’re dirty, yellowed or have condensation. Learn more about your car with Panda Hub.
Written by
Chloe Miller, Apr 12, 2024

Learn why your headlights are foggy, yellowed or dirty and how to clean them here!

Headlights can be overlooked when cleaning your car, but they’re vital to driving safely.

Learn how to check your headlights, fix condensation and fix yellowing in this article.

Whether your car has spent over a decade in the sun, or is fresh from the dealership, we’ve got you covered.

How To Clean Headlights? | Panda Hub

Headlight Cleaning Routine

We would advise you to routinely clean your headlights when cleaning the rest of your car exterior.

However, you may be wondering if you have to treat your headlights any differently, here’s our advice.

  • Use a reputable mild cleaning solution to break down dirt and debris, then hose the solution off.
  • Don’t wipe your headlights before cleaning them, you may damage the clear coat with debris.
  • Ceramic coat your headlights along with the rest of your car, this will provide the ultimate protection.

Why Headlights Fog Up

There are a couple of different reasons that your headlights may fog up, appear dirty or yellowed.

However, it is usually easy to figure out the cause of the issue. Here are some signs you need to look for, and what they mean.

Condensation on the inside - If you see condensation on the interior of your headlights, that means air and moisture are able to enter the interior of your headlight housing.

How To Clean Headlights? | Panda Hub

You should initially check for cracks, and if none are found, you may have an issue with the gasket surrounding your headlights. 

If the issue has suddenly appeared and you’ve recently been in an environment with heavy moisture, or have parked your car in a cold place, you may see condensation that is likely to solve itself.

However, if condensation persists over time, there is likely an underlying issue that will need to be addressed.

Yellowing - If your headlights are noticeably yellow and hazy, with no condensation inside, your headlights have been exposed to UV light from the sun, and have started to oxidize. All headlights come with a clear coat that protects the plastic, however, over time debris and UV light will wear down the clear coat, and the UV light causes the outer layers of the plastic (typically polycarbonate) to degrade and oxidize, leading to yellowing.

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Cleaning Headlights at Home

Each of the above issues do have home remedies, however, you should consult a professional if they aren’t effective.

Now that you know which issue you have, let’s fix it!

How To Clean Headlights? | Panda Hub

How To Clean Foggy Headlights

When you spot condensation in your headlights, acting quickly is best. This way you can minimize potential damage and safety issues. 

First, you should move your car to a warm place, or directly into sunlight.

This will give the condensation a chance to evaporate out with proper airflow. If this doesn’t work, there is likely a problem with the gasket (seal) around the headlight.

This should be addressed by a professional.

If this step was successful, you should test and change bulbs accordingly to ensure they haven’t been damaged by the exposure to water.

Do not attempt to remove headlights at home if you are inexperienced. If you do choose to remove the headlight and then replace it, you must align the headlamps correctly.

How To Clean Headlights? | Panda Hub

How to Clean Yellow Headlights at Home

If you’ve found that your headlights are yellowed and have received too much UV light exposure, we can help you get them looking new with just a few items from your kitchen and bathroom. 

Do NOT use bug spray to clean your headlights; this will make your headlights seem clear temporarily, but will contribute to further damage later by weakening the polycarbonate plastic.

You’ll need:

  • Microfiber cloths
  • A soft bristled brush
  • Baking soda / Toothpaste (Mild abrasive)
  • Mild cleaning solution
  • Gloves (rubber or rubber alternative)

Here are the steps to removing yellowing from your headlights:

  • Begin by cleaning the surface of the headlights with your mild cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth. Spray the solution, allow it to sit for a few minutes, and then wipe off in straight motions using a clean microfiber cloth.
  • Now, apply your mild abrasive of either toothpaste or baking soda. If you’re using baking soda, add a small amount of water to create a thick paste before applying. Gently apply the abrasive, then allow it to sit for a couple of minutes.
  • Using your soft bristled brush, gently rub the abrasive into the plastic using circular motions. Be wary of focusing on one area for too long. You should see the plastic begin to clear up as you go.
  • Once you’ve done an even pass of the entire headlight with the above technique, use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe away or buff the residue away.
  • If slight yellowing remains, repeat the cleaning and buffing process once more, gently.

Your headlights should be clean, clear and yellowing free after this! If yellowing remains, you should consult a professional detailer - they may provide an initial consultation remotely if you show them your progress.

Our Recommended Professional Solutions

If you’d like a comprehensive professional detailing kit to deal with your yellowing headlights, we would recommend the below product and following their application instructions.

Sylvania - Headlight Restoration Kit

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