Should You Clean Your Headlights with Lemon and Baking Soda?

Updated: Mar. 22, 2023

Here's what I thought about this auto hack.

Lemon And Baking Soda Car Headlight Cleaning Hack Cianna Garrison For Family Handyman Front of CarCianna Garrison for Family Handyman

You may wash and detail your car regularly, but one component on a vehicle can be a bit harder to clean—headlights. No matter the age of your car, headlights can be challenging to keep clean. Older ones may tend to yellow or get a thick film of dirt and grime. But even newer headlights can get caked in mud, dust or dirt. Worse, if your car’s headlights get scratched or chipped from rocks or other elements, keeping them clean becomes even more difficult.

Of course, several options on the market exist to restore and polish auto lights or just give your headlights a clean, including professional headlight cleaning services or a foggy car headlights restoration kit. But before you spend too much money, there’s an easy cleaning hack that might save you some cash—cleaning headlights with lemon and baking soda.

How to Clean Headlights with Lemon and Baking Soda

@christinanomura Saw a hack and had to test it out. It worked! 👍🏽 Cleaned both lights within 5 minutes #headlights #headlightscleaning #headlightsrestoration #headlightshack #carhacks #quickhacks ♬ Time After Time – Paratone

TikTok creator Christina Nomura (@christinanomura) shared an easy way to clean headlights—using two everyday pantry items. But how do you clean headlights with lemon and baking soda? It’s as simple as it sounds.

  1. Cut a lemon in half.
  2. Bring baking soda and the lemon half outside where your car is parked. (I recommend doing this outdoors rather than parked inside a garage because it’s a bit messy.)
  3. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto the lemon half. Don’t be surprised if you hear a bubbling reaction from the baking soda on the lemon.
  4. Use your lemon half coated with baking soda to scrub your headlight in a circular motion gently.
  5. Once you’ve scrubbed your whole headlight, rinse the solution off with water and dry your headlight with a gentle towel.
  6. Repeat on your other headlight, adding more baking soda (and the other lemon half) if needed.
  7. Enjoy cleaner headlights!

Does This Hack Work?

Lemon And Baking Soda Car Headlight Cleaning Hack Cianna Garrison For Family Handyman TestFamily Handyman, Cianna Garrison for Family Handyman

I tried the cleaning headlights with lemon and baking soda hack on my 2017 Toyota Corolla. My headlights weren’t too caked in mud or other debris, but there was a noticeable layer of dirt. It had recently rained in my area, so some of this dirt may have been due to the rainfall. But I’ll be the first to admit my car is dirtier than I think. I don’t do small maintenance cleans regularly, and I certainly don’t target my headlights unless I’m washing the entire car. Furthermore, I’ve always been uncertain of how often I should wash my car in the winter, even though I’m not in an area that gets snow.

So, when I took a look at my headlights, they were worse off than I thought. I took the half lemon and baking soda and scrubbed away, and was pleasantly surprised when the baking soda didn’t seem too abrasive, as I was worried using it could scratch the plastic. All in all, I spent about five minutes per headlight. After they were sufficiently scrubbed, I washed my headlights off with a garden hose and dried them. The result was a sparkling clean plastic that looked nearly perfect.

While I don’t think that the lemon and baking soda hack would totally cure yellowed headlights or headlights that are well-caked in mud, I do think that if you had a moderate dirt layer on your headlights, this is a quick maintenance clean that is useful and effective. Still, I’m not sure how regularly using baking soda on your headlight’s plastic coating would affect the integrity of the plastic, so I would do this rarely and proceed with caution. Since the compound is a gentle abrasive, keep in mind not to scrub too violently. For those who use baking soda as a cleaning agent a lot, take note of these things you should never clean with baking soda, like glass and wooden furniture.

You can use other hacks to for dirty headlights if you don’t have baking soda and lemon. Another home solution is to try cleaning your headlights with toothpaste.