Introduction: Clean Your Headlights With Toothpaste

Picture of Clean Your Headlights With Toothpaste

So you're driving around super late at night in the middle of Nowhere, NM - and you realize you can't see a THING.

And you and your significant other talk about cleaning the headlights, or getting new bulbs, or something. But the store bought kits cost way more than you can afford because you just spent all your money on a cross-country move. And then one of the lights goes out and you replace it, and it doesn't make much of a difference.

So what do you do? Google it, and then wind up cleaning them with toothpaste.

I have to admit I didn't know if this would work, but I am pleasantly surprised.

When I go to pick up the boy at work tonight I will SEE ALL THE THINGS!

Step 1: What You'll Need:

Picture of What You'll Need:
  • regular ol' toothpaste
  • old towels or rags
  • water for rinsing
  • a pair of filthy headlights
I'm using old bar mop towels and Arm & Hammer toothpaste. We bought it to actually clean our mouths, but it is the worst thing I've ever put in my mouth. Hooray for reuse!

Or, you could try any of these amazing things with it.

Step 2: Scrub!

Picture of Scrub!

Squeeze out a bit of toothpaste on the rag and scrub the headlight.

Scrub however you want. Circular motion adds nothing.

Watch how fast the grime comes off! Shoo howdy!

Step 3: Admire Headlight Dirt.

Picture of Admire Headlight Dirt.

Your rag/towel/cloth of choice will look like this. Good job!

I can't say that yours will look much worse than this, though... our Altima is old and very dirty. I'm pretty sure it got vacuumed for the first time ever in 12+ years before we moved to Oakland. Tyler admitted to only washing it maybe once a year too. FOR SHAME

Step 4: Rinse and Be Excited.

Picture of Rinse and Be Excited.

I rinsed them with a little water and wiped them down again to make sure all the gunk was gone. Easy! I included some before and after photos to convince you.

So now you know what to do: go buy toothpaste instead of a $30 kit.

(And sorry for the lack of pretty pictures this time. A dirty car that killed thousands of bugs while crossing the US is not the most glamorous of subjects. :D)


pameele (author)2014-10-13

Know what else works really great??? Bug repellent!! (Off!, Repel, etc) Just spray on and wipe off years of yellow film!!! :)

I had a can of Off from a few years ago that I was going to throw away so I thought I'd try it. Headlights were totally clear in minutes!! Happy Happy Happy

chrisstarnes (author)pameele2015-01-20

Do not use off or any bug repellent it melts the plastic it will melt whatever plastic it touches i watched a YouTube video on it that everyone should watch the guy that makes the most useful videos channel is chrisfix

flagy (author)chrisstarnes2016-08-16

absolutely correct... and it wont last long.. best way is rubbing compound.. or 600 fine water sand paper then graduate to 800 fine... use watter while your doing it... takesva lil longer .. aply a lil muscle.. finish it up with car wax,,,


NancyS61 (author)pameele2016-03-18

I will try the bug spray cause the toothpaste didn't work for me.

james neally (author)pameele2015-04-10

james neally (author)pameele2015-04-10

chrisstarnes is correct. The bug repellent will work, but in the long run you won't have head lights left. It will look good for a few days but then return even worse and as you continue to re apply the plastic is being burned off.

jessyratfink (author)pameele2014-10-13

Whaaaat? That's awesome! :D

kudzu63 (author)2014-09-05

You should have used some WD40 to clean the bugs off before taking the pics. WD40 is another amazing general purpose product.

tom.bonavia (author)kudzu632015-02-15

WD40 will remove crayon from anything!

second2nun4 (author)2014-10-02

I just did this!!! Not only are my headlights clean they also smell minty fresh!!!!

phyllis.hagerman (author)2014-09-06

I will tell you a easier way one Mr. Clean magic eraser don't take very long. Just wet the eraser and rub in a swirl motion for a few minutes and this really works.

allegrafi (author)2017-09-11

Nice post. Here's another thing you can use: diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. Their skeletons are made of a natural substance called silica. Silica works wonderfully and safely (think tiny sandpaper particles) and it took about half of the time (and mess) of toothpaste. Thanks for getting me started with this process though! You took the time to post great photos and came up with a very clear and humorous step-by-step process. Bravo!

AshleyS231 (author)2017-07-09

Did it! Worked wonders! 100% blemish free? no. But 100% better than before!

rsanch8695 (author)2016-07-18

I tried Fixo Dent and now I can't get my hand off the headlight!


AshleyW131 (author)2017-03-11

Well it worked for me after just one application. I think I will do it again to get it extra clear. I wish I had a before and after, but it looks 100 times better!! And it's cheap! ?

Marekot (author)2017-02-24

My right headlight is a little dimmer than my left so I have tried this.

Nofancyname (author)2016-12-11

Worked perfect for me!

JulieR75 (author)2016-05-30

I just tried this with rubbing compound (medium grade). It literally took 2 minutes to do BOTH front headlights. Amazing results!

WilliamL181 (author)JulieR752016-09-24

Polishing compound would be a better choice, less abrasive, finer grit.

NancyS61 (author)2016-03-18

I tried this with toothpaste and it didn't work for me.

WilliamL181 (author)NancyS612016-09-24

It's the very mild abrasive (usually diatomaceous earth) in toothpaste that does the trick. Gel toothpaste will only make them smell good.

AkshayV14 (author)NancyS612016-08-16

1. make sure you are not using a gel toothpaste.

2. if the headlight is really in bad shape, repeat the application 2 to 3 times.

AkshayV14 (author)2016-08-16

toothpaste with a salt and sodium is the best way for headlight restoration.,.

AamirR1 (author)2016-07-16

Thanks for the useful DIY. Definitely gonna try.

NeilP33 (author)2016-05-25

Toohpaste containing baking powder works best or just mix regular toothpaste with some bicarb !

IsaiahF7 made it! (author)2016-04-29

Im going to try it

ERIK_IOT (author)2016-04-28

Looks minty!

ParkT (author)2015-11-07

I asked my neigbor about cleaning her headlights while I was outside and she punched me. Guess I should have not used the wax on wax off karate kid gesture.....

ljohnson8311 (author)ParkT2016-04-13

took me a minute....then i laughed.

ParkT (author)ParkT2015-11-07

just kidding, I tried it and the toothpaste worked, may try WD40 next

Mary LouC (author)2016-03-28

YES.....the insect repellant works scrubbing and leaves them nice & shiny. It's a lot less work than the toothpaste method and a lot cheaper than the stuff you can buy in the automotive department.

scott.w.turner.1 (author)2014-11-17

I've tried this twice and it didn't work either time. Is it possible only certain types of toothpaste work?

Yes must be a fluoride toothpaste to help prevent cavities.

Actually My Headlights have never had Cavities.

All I know is that green/blue/red gel toothpaste definitely does not work!

If you used a standard white toothpaste and didn't see any results, chances are your headlights either have sun damage or they're just old and cloudy. You might need to sand them down or find something stronger.

RichardG133 (author)2016-03-06

Woah! Big difference. Worked great :)

Joelanie31 (author)2015-08-04

Toothpaste did'nt work for me.but I tried olive oil and it worked! I guess you can use any kind of oil

KathrynO1 (author)2015-07-25

I have done this I was so shocked wish I could upload pic don't see how?

MikeO8 (author)2015-06-29

What I want to know is, why don't they make headlights out of the same plastic as the tailights? That would make too much sense I guess....

DemetrisM (author)MikeO82015-06-30

Because the headlights need to be transparent therefore the same plastic cannot be used..

Teeka1 (author)2015-06-25

Worked amazing! I used colgate with baking soda and peroxide cost a buck at the dollar store lots of water for rinsing and bam in 10 minutes my headlights were like new! Thanks for the blog!

au-artist (author)2015-06-19

quick update ...jessyratfink is right striped toothpaste doesnt work but i did find some bicarbonate of soda ( mild abrsive ) just used a small amount on a damp clean cloth rubbed it for a few seconds and off it came wiped it down and i could actually see the bulbs ....once again a big thank you

au-artist (author)2015-06-19

thanks for this, i do alot of night driving and my headlights were drivig me insane it was even worse when the road was wet. again thank you

HeatherM10 (author)2015-06-09

I've also used chrome polish, which works great.

glenda.gardner.98 (author)2015-05-26

I've been using toothpaste to clean my headlights for years. I like to use Arm & Hammer Dental Care: Maximum Strength Cleaning. I even use an old toothbrush to put it on with/scrub with. Using toothpaste has always helped clean my headlights. I'm fixing to clean the headlights on my 2004 Toyota RAV4 this morning.

debnova (author)2015-04-13

Wouldn't the bug spray be oily and get on car surface?? I am going to try the toothpaste idea, hopefully find the best paste. Anyone know HOW LONG this method lasts? Thanks. p.s. some car wash guy wanted $70.00 !

rachidstraining (author)2015-04-08

I read some of the comments about using bug repellent. How deos is compare to tooth paste? Which one does restore the headlights better and longer? Anyone has used both methods?

boetting (author)2015-04-06

Works on plastic headlamp covers very well. Had so much haze from the oxidized plastic that night driving became a hazard. Toothpaste is slightly gritty and lightly buffs the haze/oxidation away. Took maybe two minutes of rubbing at the most for each headlamp cover and was much cheaper, easier, and effective than any kit or service the loacal dealer could provide.

born blonde (author)2015-03-24

My car is 12 years old and wasn't expecting miracles but hey ho.....very pleased with the result!

About This Instructable




Bio: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @makingjiggy to see what i'm working ... More »
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