Can Toothpaste Be Used To Clean Headlights?

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Medically reviewed by Othman Lahmaydi, RDH

There are many DIY tricks that work just as well or better than specialized cleaners. One such trick that every car owner should know is using toothpaste to clean headlights. But is toothpaste really effective at cleaning headlights? 

Toothpaste is effective for cleaning dirty or cloudy headlights since the abrasive ingredients in the paste help remove dirt and chemicals. Other effective options include glass cleaners, automotive wax, and car polishing kits. For a more permanent solution, treat your headlights with a UV sealant. 

If you decide to try using toothpaste to clean your vehicle’s headlights, always make sure you do it properly. Let’s take a closer look at why toothpaste is effective at cleaning headlights, how to use it to properly, and which alternative headlight cleaners are best. 

Can Toothpaste Be Used to Clean Headlights?

Big headlight cleaning on the car with power buffer machine at service station

Toothpaste can be used to clean headlights that have a thick layer of dirt and chemicals. If your headlights become cloudy over time, you can use toothpaste to clean and polish them.

While many of the car cleaning tips you see online might not actually work, this one is time tested and worth a try.

Toothpaste contains hydrogen peroxide and mild abrasives that help clean your teeth. These ingredients have the same effect on a car’s headlights; they can remove dust, grime, and chemicals that may build up on your headlights, making them cloudy. 

However, toothpaste won’t do much for your headlights if they’re physically damaged from scratches or the sun’s UV rays. Most headlights are made from plastic that may become oxidized when exposed to the sun. While you can add a special coating to your headlights to prevent this, you have to clean them first. 

If you’re not sure whether the headlights are cloudy due to dirt or oxidation, try cleaning them thoroughly with toothpaste. If they’re cloudy even after cleaning, you may need to repair the headlights and then coat them with an antioxidant agent. 

Which Toothpaste Should You Use? 

The best type of toothpaste to clean your car’s headlights is a simple whitening paste that contains hydrogen peroxide as an ingredient. Our favorite is this one from Crest (on Amazon). Even gel-based toothpaste will clean your headlights, although they don’t contain as much abrasive material as whitening ones. 

Using toothpaste as a cleaning agent is effective, but it will only work on plastic headlights. If you use toothpaste on the car’s paint, it will only damage your vehicle. 

How to Clean Headlights With Toothpaste

Before using toothpaste to clean your headlights, give them a good wash and remove any loose dirt or grime from them. You can then gently rub the toothpaste on the headlights to remove the remaining dirt.

Follow these steps to clean your headlights with toothpaste: 

  1. Clean the headlights thoroughly with soapy water. Avoid using any cleaning products that contain an abrasive material, and use a special car cleaner if you can. 
  2. Use a microfiber cloth (on Amazon) to dry the headlights thoroughly. Avoid anything that’s abrasive as it may damage the paint around the headlights. You can also use painter’s or masking tape to cover the area around the headlight. This will protect the paint from getting damaged or faded by the toothpaste. 
  3. Add a dab of toothpaste to the headlight and use a microfiber cloth to distribute it evenly. You can gently rub the toothpaste on the plastic surface, just as you would do when brushing your teeth. 
  4. Rinse the headlights with warm water. 
  5. Apply UV sealant (on Amazon) to the headlights to protect them from oxidation. UV sealant isn’t expensive, and you can get some at your nearest auto dealership or online. Some people recommend using car wax to protect the headlights, but it’s best to first apply UV sealant. 

Other Ways To Clean Headlights

Polish front headlight

Toothpaste doesn’t have to be your go-to solution for cleaning hazy headlights. Glass cleaner, automotive polish, and specialized car polishing kits will also clean and polish your headlights.

Some of the best headlights cleaners include: 

Glass Cleaner 

Glass cleaners — like Windex (on Amazon) — are readily available and can be pretty effective at cleaning the car’s headlights. They aren’t abrasive and won’t damage your headlights in the long run. Glass cleaner is effective at removing most chemicals and dirt that accumulate on the headlights. 

However, glass cleaner won’t add a protective layer and may not be as effective at cleaning oxidized headlights. 

Automotive Wax 

If you want to protect your headlights, automotive wax (on Amazon) is an effective solution. It’s more abrasive than most cleaning products, and it will buff the headlights.

Automotive wax can help treat oxidized headlights, but always make sure the surface is clean before you apply it. 

Car Polishing Kits 

If you don’t want to experiment with your car, you can always use a multipurpose car polishing kit (on Amazon). These kits usually contain a separate polish for headlights and can be quite effective at treating oxidized headlights.  

Not all car polishing kits are the same, but most contain a cleaner polishing compound and abrasive cloth or sandpaper to treat oxidized headlights. You can also apply UV sealant to the headlights after polishing them. The UV sealant will protect the headlights from becoming cloudy again and give them a smoother finish. 

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