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:

  • 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
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
1-40 of 45Next »
pameele9 days ago

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

jessyratfink (author)  pameele9 days ago

Whaaaat? That's awesome! :D

second2nun420 days ago

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

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.

kudzu631 month ago

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

This works! I tried to clean my own headlights on my truck which is a 2009, and I saw a little improvement. However, I then cleaned 1 headlight on my roomate's 2000 Honda and boy was it noticeable. I called him over to see the fix and he kept asking how I cleaned it and when I told him he could not believe it. I use colgate with the "regular flavor." I then made him clean his second headlight and now we can see the 3 lights bulbs that are in there! :D Thanks so much!

Dakota Joel982 months ago

Am I the only one that is thinking: Who the heck discovered that toothpaste would clean headlights LOL. Anyway nice job, and I am doing this tomorrow and will try to post pics.


probably the same guy that discovered snails are edible lol

Or the guy that said "I'm gonna eat the next thing that comes out of that chickens' butt"....

Oh goodness that's right! The chicken-butt-food! and to think I actually had eggs this morning. :(

I know right! lol

Toothpaste is so awesome. I use it to clean jewelry too.

Some toothpastes have a polishing agent, usually pumice which causes micro scratches so I use regular peroxide and soak jewelry.

mellofly1 month ago

cool thanks.. my 2002 trailblazer thanks you too!! lol

Thank you! Just saved us almost $200

kretzlord2 years ago
wonderful re-use here. I was wondering, how long does the clarity last? The commercial products generally have a "sealer" or "finisher" that seems to add a shine and supposedly keeps the lens clear for a longer time. Any ideas on this, or a diy version of the sealer?

Hi! Take it from an old CD restoration trick: Once you finish with the old toothpaste trick, dab a small amount of pure carnauba wax (I bought about two pounds long time ago for a furniture restoration project) And rub off with clean cotton rag turning often.This fills remaining surface scratches and seals the surface for a 3 o 4 years (in CD use) maybe 6mo to a year in auto applications.

You can probably try a clear coat spray paint
Badgolfer1 month ago

Just use a tennis ball to rub it in. Works great.

I have tried this, and it takes a whole lot more than 5 minutes. Plan on at least a half an hour. It took me 2 hours, but I have some physical limitations and had to stop frequently.

tinaciousz1 month ago

I love step 3.

I did this, it worked very well! I did one better afterwards and sprayed wd-40 on a rag and polished them...idk what the wd-40 will do but it seems to make them easier to keep clean

Kathleenlw1 month ago

awesome. Heading for the car with toothpaste in hand

Ahmedqatar2 months ago

I need to clean my car's headlights so i will try your way!!

deepta5 months ago

This is a must do! thanks for the tut! i read somewhere that should not use the whitening ones! any insight on that?? or any toothpaste will do??

tucker3176 months ago

I tried this on hubby's headlights. They were not as bad as some I've seen, but it took some serious elbow grease to even see any results. I used cheap Pepsodent on my first try with no results, then added some baking soda to make a gloppy paste of the toothpaste/baking soda. After scrubbing and rinsing 4-5 times, the headlights are much better, but still have a light "film". My neighbor came over to see what I was doing - he was just washing his car and I thought we'd try it on his car b/c his headlights are REALLY bad - yellow and probably barely visible at night! But too many distractions with his granddaughter. Bummer, cause that would have been a good test.

sean723910 months ago
Baby tooth paste works even better!
veeguy1 year ago
Fantastic! I was at Wal Mart earlier tonight and was looking at kits to polish lenses. They ran from $14.- to over $20.- I am going to sell this car, and didn't want to spend this on headlight polishing, so I passed. I'll be heading out to the garage tomorrow AM, right after I brush *my* teeth to give my Hyundai some "oral care". Wish me luck!
GreyWarden1 year ago
nice dude! I live in the middle of nowhere NM! My right headlight is like that lol.
Takelababy2 years ago
First thing in the morning....... thanks
sa2nz2 years ago
Thank you
timwikander made it!2 years ago
First attempt. Not too bad. I think I may need to do this 3 or 4 times haha. I live in bug country Maryland and I think I've got a few layers to go through.
This is exactly what I needed!! Cheap and effective. The best combination.
eoverton2 years ago
Actually, this is a fairly old trick among auto restorers, who are frequently faced with the problem of scratched plastic on things like instrument clusters. Here again, toothpaste is the solution.

While you're at it, newspaper is actually good stuff to clean auto glass.

And dipping aluminum foil in Coca-Cola and rubbing it on rust spots on a bumper will remove them. Actually, Coca-Cola is also great at removing oil stains from concrete. Something to consider if you need one more reason to kick your soda habit...
Sounds like you have more than one Instructable up your sleeve! You should post them!
Hint taken. Next time I do any work on any of the cars around here, I'll take a notebook and a camera and get to work... ;-)
I agree with scoochamaroo :)
onemoroni12 years ago
This is a great idea. I use "soft scrub", but will try this too.
kd7eir2 years ago
Exactly my kind of information! Keep up the good work.
1-40 of 45Next »