The oxidation of your headlight lenses makes your car look a bit unsightly from the front — and it poses a safety hazard. There are multiple ways you can improve the look and clarity of your headlights. You can use a store-purchased headlight restore kit, make your own kit or use some common household products for an quick restore. Using common household products isn’t as effective as sanding the lens, but it is effective in restoring some clarity quickly and efficiently.

If your headlights have a cloudy appearance originating from the inside of the lens, it is caused by moisture leaking past the seal of the headlight lens. On some models, a leaking lens seal can be repaired, while on others you have to replace the entire headlight assembly. Headlight assemblies break easily, so consult a professional mechanic if the lens is fogged on the inside.

Use Toothpaste

Things You’ll Need
Spray bottle filled with water
Towels
Toothpaste
Step 1: Clean the Lens
Spray the headlight with water, then wipe away any dirt and grime with a towel.

Step 2: Rub Toothpaste Onto the Lens
Apply a small amount of toothpaste to a towel, then rub it onto the headlight lens. Go over the headlight several times, adding a little more toothpaste as needed.

Step 3: Inspect the Clarity of the Lens
Wipe away any residual toothpaste on the lens. If there are still areas that show oxidation, repeat step No. 2 until the headlight surface has a uniform surface.

Step 4: Clean off the Toothpaste
Spray water on the headlight lens, then wipe it dry.

Use Baking Soda

Things You’ll Need
Cup or small mixing bowl
Vinegar
Baking soda
Towels
Spray bottle with water
Step 1: Make the Solution
Put 4 tablespoons of baking soda into a cup or mixing bowl. Add an ounce of vinegar to the baking soda.

Step 2: Apply the Solution
Use a towel to soak up some of your new sodium acetate solution. Rub the solution onto the headlight lens. Wet the towel several times and continue rubbing the lens until all of the fading is removed.

Step 3: Clean the Lens
Spray the lens with water to wash away any leftover solution. Wipe the headlight lens and area around it dry. If the headlight doesn’t show enough improvement, repeat the process.

Use Rubbing Compound

Things You’ll Need
Rubbing compound
Towels
Small polishing pad
Step 1: Apply Rubbing Compound
Put some rubbing compound on a towel, then apply an even coat to the headlight lens.

Step 2: Scrub the Lens
Rub the rubbing compound into the headlight lens in a circular motion. Cover the entire surface of the headlight evenly as you scrub to prevent a spotty finish.

Step 3: Polish the Lens
Use a circular motion with a small polishing pad. Continue polishing until the headlight lens is clear and free of oxidation. Wipe away any residual compound from the headlight assembly or surrounding body.

Sand the Lens

For superior results, sanding is the best option. Buy a kit from your local hardware store — it comes with the backing pad, several different grit sandpapers and polish. If you intend to do this on several cars, make your own kit to save money.

Things You’ll Need
Soap and water
Masking tape
Spray bottle filled with water
Towels
Drill (1200 to 1600 rpm)
3-inch sandpaper backing discs
3-inch p-500 grit sanding discs
3-inch P-800 grit sanding discs
3-inch P-3000 grit sanding discs
Headlight polish
Step 1: Prepare the Headlight
Clean the headlight lens with soap and water. Dry the headlight lens and the surrounding area with a microfiber towel. Tape off the areas of the body around the headlight.

Step 2: Coarse-Sand the Lens
Attach the backing disk to your drill according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Attach a P-500 grit sanding disc to the backing pad. Set the drill to turn forward — clockwise — and start sanding the headlight lens. Work down from the top of the lens as you sand back and forth across he headlight. Continue sanding until all yellow coloring and large defects are removed.

Step 3: Sand Away Scratches
Remove the P-500 disc from the backing pad and replace it with a P-800 disc. Repeat the sanding procedure until you can only see fine scratches on the lens. Wipe the lens clean with a dry towel.

Step 4: Wet-Sand the Lens
Remove the P-800 grit disc from the backing pad and replace it with a P-3000 disc. Spray water on the headlight and the sanding disk. Continue sanding until you see a white substance building up on the lens. Make five or six more passes over the headlight once you begin to see the white buildup.

Wipe the lens clean with a towel. You should see that the lens is now smooth and a lot clearer than it was when you started. Continue wet-sanding as needed until the entire lens is smooth and free of oxidation.

Step 5: Polish the Lens
Remove the P-3000 grit disc and replace it with a headlight-polishing pad. Apply a small amount of headlight polish to the polishing pad, then rub it evenly across the lens without turning on the drill. Once the lens is evenly coated, polish the lens in the same fashion as you previously sanded it. As you polish the lens, it will become crystal clear.