Does Cleaning Headlights With Toothpaste Actually Work?

Internet trends suggest that toothpaste makes a great headlight cleaner. But is this actually true?

Your headlights are meant to give you a wide, clear beam of light at times of low visibility, but they can’t do their job if they’re dirty. Fogged-up or dirty headlights aren’t as effective as they need to be to keep you safe on the road. The good news is, cleaning your headlights is a simple DIY project you can accomplish with a handful of household items.

One headlight-cleaning method that’s gone viral recently features toothpaste as the primary ingredient. Many people online seem to swear by this method. But does it actually work?

Here, we’ll examine the main causes of dirty headlights, and whether the ingredients in toothpaste make an effective headlight cleaning material.

Cleaning Headlights With Toothpaste

What Causes Foggy Headlights?

The most common cause makes the most sense: Your car picks up plenty of dirt and chemicals in transit, and over time those substances make your formerly crystal-clear headlights cloudy.

Oxidation also can cloud your headlights. A special coating on your headlights prevents sun damage, but that coating wears off eventually. When an unprotected plastic headlight gets hit by too much sun, it can oxidize and turn yellow.

Scratches and cracks can also make your headlights look dirty. Sometimes water vapor creeps inside headlights and make them fog up.

How Does Toothpaste Work?

If your dirty headlights are physically damaged, toothpaste won’t do much to restore them to their former glory. But if they’re covered with chemicals and dust from the road, toothpaste could actually provide a potent polish.

Toothpaste polishes and whitens teeth with small amounts of chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, and those same chemicals can clear up your headlights. The view is still not clear? Learn how to adjust headlights.

How to Clean Headlights With Toothpaste

  1. Wash the headlight with a rag and water to remove any dust and dirt. Headlights should be as clean as possible before you apply any toothpaste.
  2. Once you’ve done a preliminary washing, dry the headlight completely.
  3. Seal off the area directly around your headlight with painter’s tape to prevent damage to your vehicle’s paint job.
  4. Apply about the same amount of toothpaste you use to brush your teeth to the headlight, spreading it across the surface until it’s all covered with a thin layer of paste.
  5. Polish the surface with a microfiber cloth. Scrub with the cloth in tight, circular motions to remove as much grime as possible. A hard-bristled toothbrush might help break through the most stubborn dirty spots.
  6. When you’re satisfied with the polish, thoroughly rinse off the headlight.
  7. Once the headlight is dry, apply a coat of UV-resistant sealer to its surface.

Harrison Kral
After spending his college summers pouring concrete and building decks, Harrison Kral decided to find a way to put his insider knowledge of construction to use…. just in an air-conditioned setting. He’s an established writer and editor in the DIY space who has written extensively on the home building industry, the housing market, and general DIY trends.