Why Do Headlights Get Foggy? (Not What You Think)

Foggy headlights can appear on all sorts of vehicles- old, new, standard trim and even upper-class trim vehicles. They not only obstruct the brightness and clarity of the headlights, but they are also one heck of an eyesore.

Therefore, you may then wonder how headlights become foggy, and if there’s a way to fix the issue. If so, keep reading this article to see what I discovered!

Why Do Headlights Get Foggy?

The foggy headlight or oxidation of the headlights happens simply when the polycarbonate lenses on newer vehicles are exposed to outdoor elements, such as UV rays from the sun. UV rays and also road debris cause microscopic scratches to form on the lenses, causing this oxidation or better known as fogginess or cloudiness.

Are you having problems with your headlights looking foggy and don’t know what to do about it? If so, keep reading to learn more useful information and tips on the subject!

How Do I Get Rid of Foggy Headlights?

Oxidation is not too hard to get rid of on your own without spending a lot of money on the problem. In fact, there are some home remedies that can help you fix this problem yourself for free.

You can start by locating some baking soda and vinegar in your house (if you don’t have any, toothpaste will work as well).

Next, grab some Windex and wash the headlight lens thoroughly. Afterward, you can use a rag and add some compound (your baking soda and vinegar or toothpaste) to the headlight lens or the rag, and rub it in like you would if you were waxing a car.

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Whip the compound off and clean the headlight lens again. You should see some major improvements, and you can repeat the process until you achieve the desired look.

Unfortunately, there is a chance that if your headlights have been foggy for a while, you may not be able to fix the issue and will need to purchase a new lens.

Will WD-40 Clean Foggy Headlights?

Will WD-40 Clean Foggy Headlights?

If you’re in a pinch and you don’t have any homemade or home remedy compound to clean up your foggy headlights, then WD-40 can spiff up your headlights.

However, you don’t want to make a habit of using WD-40, as it’s not only less effective in the long run, but it’s also a liquid that can leak through your lenses and possibly cause damage to the headlight assembly and even cause your headlight to blow.

Will Magic Eraser Clean Headlights?

Using the Magic Eraser from Mr. Clean can help clear up your headlights, and it can also get rid of some gooey yellow residue that your headlight might be harboring.

However, the Magic Eraser is not really a great car cleaning product and does not have a lot of power for jobs like this. Therefore, if your headlights have been foggy for a while, the effect from this method may be miniscule.

Does Coca-Cola Clean Foggy Headlights?

While Coca-Cola should only be used in a pinch, the acid in soda can help break away the oxidation causing the fogginess on your headlights.

If you put any kind of cola in a spray bottle, you can spray it onto your headlights and let it sit for about 10-minutes. Afterward, thoroughly wipe it clean (you may need to rub it in quite hard).

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However, note that if your headlights have bad or long-term oxidation on them, Cola might not be so effective if at all.

Does Lemon and Baking Soda Really Work on Headlights?

Does Lemon and Baking Soda Really Work on Headlights?

Lemon and baking soda is just as effective as the baking soda and vinegar method mentioned above.

Your advantage would be not heading out to the store, so whichever ingredient you have to mix with the baking soda laying around the house is a bonus.

Will SOS Pads Clean Headlights?

You can use an SOS Non-Scratch pad to clean headlights, but make sure you use some sort of lubricant (simple soap and water would work great in this situation).

Will Steel Wool Clean Headlights?

Steel wool is a great applicator you can use to get those nasty-looking headlights clean. You just want to make sure you wipe/clean your lens really well when you’re done, because the steel wool tends to leave fragments behind.

Will Acetone Clean My Headlights?

Some people use acetone followed by a strong polish, but your best bet is to stay away from this product for cleaning your headlight lens, as it might cause you more problems than it’s worth.

Can You Clean Headlights with Rubbing Alcohol?

You can clean your headlights with rubbing alcohol, but the component itself won’t get rid of the fogginess. Using one of the remedies above then using rubbing alcohol to clean the leftover mess off works really well.

Can You Buff out Headlights?

Buffing out your headlights would be like the equivalent of using baking soda or toothpaste.

The difference is if you don’t just have some car rubbing compound hanging around, you would have to buy some from the auto parts store, and these types of products are not cheap if you intend to purchase a good-quality brand.

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Does Bug Spray Clean Headlights?

Does Bug Spray Clean Headlights? 

Some bug sprays have the chemical DEET that strips away the cloudiness from the headlight lens.

This might sound like a good idea, but there is no guarantee that this chemical or any other chemicals in the bug spray will be safe for your vehicle’s clear coat or paint.

What Grit Sandpaper Should I Use for Headlight Restoration?

If you’re not sure what you’re doing and you don’t want to buy a new headlight lens, then use one of the methods above or buy a new headlight lens first.

However, if you feel you can do this project, you’ll want to start with a 400-600 grit sheet to remove the first layer of oxidation.

Next, you want to sand out the roughness with an 800-1000 grit sheet of sandpaper, followed by 3000-5000 grit. Make sure to remember that you’re not sanding wood, so use more of a buffing motion, especially when you get to the higher grits.

To know more, you can also read our related posts on whether or not toothpaste cleans headlights, how much does it cost to replace headlights, and why do headlights turn yellow.


Foggy headlights can result when a new vehicle is exposed to sunlight and other outdoor elements. In order to remove the fogginess, you can clean the lens with baking soda and vinegar, lemon and baking soda, steel wool and other similar methods.

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