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!
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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
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second2nun45 months ago

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

I'm sure the pedestrians you run over appreciate that! :)

:) :) :)

kudzu636 months ago

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

WD40 will remove crayon from anything!

pameele5 months 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

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
jessyratfink (author)  pameele5 months ago

Whaaaat? That's awesome! :D

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.

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

Aron3132 years ago
Dude!!!!!! This is exactly what i have been telling my friends! I tell them all the time that toothpaste cleans up scratches an tough dirt!

Great Instructable!

I have a 2000 Ford that I bought a few years back. I replaced one of the (plastic) headlamp assemblies for around UK£40 ($60) from a breaker in order to get it through the "annual inspection" but got a "caution" on the other one.

The following year the second headlamp was not showing a clear pattern and would also have failed, but I'd bought some windscreen scratch remover to avoid an inspections costing me a new windscreen and tried that (gently!) on the headlamp.

This year I just polished the old headlamp with T-Cut (the stuff for perking up sun-bleached red paint) and it sis a great job and passed again. Any light abrasive will do the job as long as it's not based on something that will partially dissolve the plastic, and toothpaste should be fairly okay in that respect as it's (originally!) designed for human consumption!!

I used the Arm & hammer toothpaste with a little baking soda and wala!! Instantly clear headlights on our 1992 Buick Century!!! I also used it on the whitewalls tires and works just as good if not better than tire bleach!

Hammerthumb073 months ago

Worked great. tried a few toothpastes. Tom's didn't work so great. What worked the best was Crest, I think it was called Total Health or something like that. The key was that it was very pasty so it was difficult to move around so it forced more abrasion I think. The Tom's worked to a degree, but the Crest was best. I'm sure a rubbing compound used on oxidized vehicle paint would work too, but I'm all for toothpaste.

As a follow up, I flossed the tires. A little difficult and not quite as gratifying, but I hate all that road plaque buildup between the treads.


eddie.bryan1 month ago

My right headlight is a little dimmer than my left so I have tried this. Won't get to see how well it works until I get a new alternator. It's not charging my battery.

TimA51 month ago

Worked great! I just did it on two different cars. Just took a few minutes for each. Used Spreedent toothpaste. Thanks for the instruction steps. :)

dev0703 months ago

Headlights don't get foggy just because they're dirty. They also get foggy because of small scratches and abrasions. I've found the best results washing the light first with soap and water (to remove dirt) then using an ABRASIVE toothpaste, like the arm and hammer pictured here. You might actually be able to get away with using straight baking soda or borax.

WilliamLai94 months ago

Tried Toothpaste (Arm & Hammer), WD40, Mr. Clean, extra fine sandpaper, and rubbing compound with no luck. My oxidation was seriously bad. Then I tried "Tar-n-Bug Remover" for windshields suggested below. Worked like a charm!!! And I was about to spend $49.99 on the Diamondite system. Thanks for all the great suggestions!

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

jessyratfink (author)  scott.w.turner.14 months ago

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.

I may have to try that this week, about to make a long journey and most of the driving will be at night. Thanks for the tip!
Dakota Joel987 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"....

HarveyA1 dadfish4 months ago


You two are having WAY too much fun! ;)

Come on HarveyA1, you have to admit that toothpaste on headlights seems kinda ridiculous, whether it works or not. LOL

Too funny guys. I'll be trying the toothpaste thing for sure today.

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

I know right! lol

ImranK75 months ago

Toothpaste works and so does rubbing compound ,you do not have to remove the headlights , just clean them and works on all rear lights too

antennasram5 months ago

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!

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.

mellofly6 months 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?
Geedox kretzlord6 months ago

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
Badgolfer6 months ago

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

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