How To Clean Your Car Headlights the Natural Way

Posted on August 10, 2011 by Courtney

The last time I visited my parents, I pulled into the driveway and my dad immediately said, “What’s wrong with your headlights?” I got out to take a look, and sure enough, they were filthy. But it wasn’t just dirt that was causing the plastic casing around the headlights to turn cloudy; it was all kinds of road grime and other gunk that was making my lights not shine as brightly as they should. (Apparently it’s pretty common. Chalk that up to car maintenance issues I’d never considered before!) A simple car wash wasn’t going to fix the problem, so I started looking for possible solutions.

A quick date with Google told me there are lots of chemical solutions available for cleaning headlights, but they’re expensive, toxic, and would involve a trip to the store. Fortunately, I found a way to make my headlights look like new again, using only things I already had at home. Here’s how I did it! 

What you’ll need:

Bucket of water
Two rags
A few tablespoons of baking soda, poured into a cup
A squirt of dish soap or castile soap

What to do:

1. Take everything outside to where your car is parked.

2. Squirt the soap into the bucket of water and swirl it around. Drop one rag into the soapy water.

3. Scrub your headlights with the soapy rag. You just want to get as much extra grime cleaned off before you start removing the caked-on stuff. You may want to let the soapy water sit on the headlights for a little while so the grime will be soaked through, making it easier to scrub off.

4. Use the other rag to dry off each headlight.

5. Pour a little water into the cup with the baking soda in it, just enough to make a paste. Use the wet rag to scoop a dollop of paste out of the cup, then smear it on the headlight. Use your fingers to buff in a circular motion, really scrubbing the baking soda into the plastic. Repeat with the other headlight.

6. Periodically, you may want to splash some water on the headlight to wash off the baking soda, then start again with the buffing. Continue until all the grime is gone and your headlights shine brightly once again.

This does take some elbow grease, and it may take several passes with the baking soda to buff off all the grime. But it’s cheap, it’s effective, and it doesn’t involve toxic chemicals (plus, you can skip the gym that day because your arms just got quite a workout!)

What are your green car maintenance tips?


  1. This is great! I just saw a paid TV ad for a “magic” cleaner that does this exact thing and my partner thought we should get it because our headlights are cloudy. I held back because I couldn’t figure out what was in it – but I NEVER thought trying this. Very timely – thanks!

    August 10th, 2011 at 12:22 pm
    Comment by Dillon
  2. Thanks for this tip! I’ve noticed the same cloudy appearance with my headlights and was wondering if I had somehow broken the seal allowing water to enter. I’ll give this a try and hopefully my headlights will be shiny new again!

    August 10th, 2011 at 12:23 pm
    Comment by Vanessa
  3. Honestly I have never heard of doing this. But I do have a car in need of it. Will try it- But would the buffing be easier with a buffing wheel?

    August 10th, 2011 at 7:51 pm
    Comment by Rob
  4. Thanks for this, Courtney! I’d been thinking of getting that headlight cleaner I’ve seen advertised on TV lately. So glad you gave me a greener alternative!

    August 11th, 2011 at 12:20 pm
    Comment by Deborah Adams
  5. Wow. This worked great for my daughter’s car. But it took a LOT of elbow grease!!

    October 21st, 2011 at 2:17 pm
    Comment by Brad
  6. i just looked on google for help to get rid of the haze on my 94 chevy truck and i found one that calls for tooth paste and i just did it ten mins ago and it worked great just put crest tooth paste on rub on in circles let sit for a couple mins the rub off thats it. but im going to try your idea iin a few mins to see if it takes of more

    November 15th, 2011 at 9:53 pm
    Comment by scott moss
  7. [...] How to Clean Your Car Headlights the Natural Way by Courtney [...]

    December 26th, 2011 at 9:50 am
    Pingback by Best of The Greenists Week – 2011′s Most Popular Posts
  8. this is awesome atleast someone took the time to try something new thats affordable since they are always trying to scam us outta well earned money, its like taxing a used car you buy when the original owner has paid it off already, tell me how thats right? thanks for being kind enough to share this info with us!!!

    January 7th, 2012 at 4:52 pm
    Comment by Cody
  9. I wondered about using baking soda for this because I use it for so many other cleaning jobs. Last night, I tried the toothpaste method and it worked great. Will use baking soda for my other car and see which one is easier and/or more effective. Thanks for the tip.

    February 19th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
    Comment by Juve
  10. This method worked fantastically!! Such a great idea without having to replace the lens covers or having to use the harsh chemicals! Thanks for the idea!

    February 29th, 2012 at 9:33 pm
    Comment by Shelly Sullivan
  11. all the grime and discoloration is from peoples muffler all the smoke is basicaly getting painted on to the headlights it isnt from water or anything else just from peoples mufflers/tailpipes

    March 12th, 2012 at 11:19 am
    Comment by John

    MAY ,23,2012 FROM THE A.T.L.

    May 23rd, 2012 at 7:54 am
    Comment by April Monique
  13. this seams like a great way to clean my headlights and its so much chaper than buying something that does the same thing

    May 28th, 2012 at 11:35 am
    Comment by Jonathan
  14. Tried this today. Sweatin’ like a whore in church! Seriously skipping my workout today. I give this method a C+. It kind of worked, but even after repeat cleanings, there’s still a slight haze – which is frustrating, because my arms are burning the flame of a thousand suns.

    June 2nd, 2012 at 4:20 pm
    Comment by Scott Nelson
  15. worked great thanks

    June 9th, 2012 at 9:20 pm
    Comment by jennifer

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If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It


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