Introduction: Diy Head Light Cleaner Gift Kit

Picture of Diy Head Light Cleaner Gift Kit

My family were here for the holidays and my sister-in-law mentioned that she paid $30.00 to have her head lights cleaned and later learned a method to do it herself. I decided to give it a try. I was so thrilled it did such a great job; that I was inspired to make a gift kit for friends and family. My friend and I used to make Christmas gifts for her holiday reunion for several years. We never could dream up great gifts for the guys. I am sure she would have enjoyed putting this one together for the men in her family. I wanted to post this early for Valentine's Day so . . . some of you might get a head start with your gift plans. The old fashioned head lights lasted longer and were much easier to keep clean, it is too bad the auto industry changed them. They probably changed them to lighten the weight of the vehicle.

This instructable will show you how to make a gift kit with my modified head light cleaning formula,by re-using stuff you have around the house. It will also show you how to clean the foggy headlights to improve your visibility while driving and protect the head lamps from fogging up so fast. I included a poem that I wrote myself. This is an entry for the instructable contest. Let's get started!

Step 1: Tools and Supplies

Picture of Tools and Supplies

Here is a complete list of tools and supplies that I used to make this gift.

Formula tools and supplies:

Enough tooth paste to fill a small container or refill the tooth paste tube

2 Tablespoons Baking Soda ( if your head lights are very cloudy be sure to add Baking Soda if your toothpaste will not get them as clear as you like. If you are using toothpaste with baking soda try it first before adding the baking soda. I used tooth paste with Baking Soda and still added more.

Fraser fir essential oil (optional) this will mask the smell of toothpaste to give your head light cleaner


Small bowl

Small container with lid (a metal lid would be great.)



Label ( using reflective adhesive material , you could use paper and a marker)

Ruler (optional)

Glue or a glue gun

Duct Tape

Reflective adhesive material comes in a roll and is used to reflect light and has an adhesive on the back of it like contact paper. You can use it on utility trailers, signs, bicycles, farm equipment, mail boxes, or anything to reflect the light especially at night.

Sponge (optional)

Cleaning brush (optional)

Small owl stickers I had on hand (optional)


I used a paint chip I had left over from painting our place for the poem





The top of a cotton sock the length you like


Duct tape

Protective coating after the headlights have been cleaned:

I poured rainX into a small glass bottle and filled a tube with car wax; but if this is not a gift you won't need to do this. Just use them from the original bottle.

Re-use of empty containers:

I included a magnetic sheet, a metal lid, and reflective adhesive material; with the gift, so the recipient could re-use the gift packaging and contents. For instance; A person could attach a magnet to the back of the reflective lid and stick it to a metal fence post; to see a private drive entry in the dark, or a person could open the used tube of head light cleaner and cut out house numbers to stick to a metal mail box by adding a magnet to the back of the numbers.


1 Small pizza box

Crinkled green paper

Reflective label to cover the restaurant name



Bowl to draw circle to cover the pizza label

Step 2: Reflective Material Is Great on Equipment and Dark Roads

Picture of  Reflective Material Is Great on Equipment and Dark Roads

Step 3: The Formula

Picture of The Formula

The truth is you can use a regular tube of toothpaste to clean your headlights but for a gift this method gives it an attractive presentation and it is a great way to use the last bit of toothpaste and re- use the empty containers . You could ask your friends and neighbors to save tooth paste containers for you and over time have enough to make gifts for your friends and relatives who have dim headlights. My husband's pick-up headlights were pretty cloudy so I mixed baking soda with the toothpaste and it made a big difference.

Mixing the formula:

Cut the bottom of the toothpaste container.( Please read bottom note )

Scoop out the toothpaste and place it into a bowl adding enough to fill the container you will be using.

Rinse the toothpaste tube and dry.

Add 2 T baking soda to the tooth paste and mix thoroughly with a spoon.

Just for fun I added Fraser fir essential oil to change the scent to (disguise the toothpaste smell).

I have not used an empty toothpaste container before so I cut it at the bottom and on one side. When I realized the container was kind of nifty, I decided to re-use it for the sealer and cleaner but next time I will cut the bottom and not the sidesand fill it with the special formula and cover it with the custom label.

Step 4: Container Labels

Picture of Container Labels

Cover the containers with the label and fill.

I traced the shape of the container lid onto the reflective adhesive material (saving the plastic on the back of it) and stuck it to the container lid and labeled it with the marker.

I traced the bottom of the container over the clear plastic and cut it out to place over the formula.

I traced the bottom of the container over the blue sponge and cut out the shape.


I filled the tube with the head light formula (or wax) and duct taped the bottom to seal it.

I cut the reflective adhesive material to fit the tube and stuck the adhesive to the tube and labeled it with the marker.

I was told when professionals clean the car head lights; they use a protective sealer on it afterwards. I would think car wax or rainX would accomplish this. I made a small tube with car wax in it for my son-in-law. If you were to use rainX you could put a small amount into a tiny bottle like I did and label it rainX. One of my readers mentioned he used clear coat and it lasted two years.

Step 5: Fill the Container

Picture of Fill the Container

I filled the container with the formula.

I made a pull tab from the reflective material and stuck it to the clear plastic ( for easy removal).

I placed the clear plastic circle over the formula.

I cut a small piece of duct tape and folded it so it would be sticky on both sides.

I stuck the duct tape to the top of the inside of the lid and stuck the sponge to it.

For extra protection; I later added a wax coated cardboard (container cover) and glued it to the top, to prevent spillage (for shipping).

If the black marker gets on the container you can remove it by using hair spray. It works like a champ.

Step 6: Cleaning Mitten

Picture of Cleaning Mitten

How to make the cleaning mitten:

You can use an old cotton t-shirt or cut a sock open, I made mine fancy for the presentation.

I cut off the top of an old sock to make a mitten.

I turned it in-side out and taped the bottom together with the duct-tape.

I turned it right side out and tried it on. Mine was a little short to fit Roger's hand but it looks good for the presentation and I don't have any spares to make another one.

Step 7: Poem

Picture of Poem

Here is a poem I wrote to include in the gift package:

Head lights looking a little foggy and dim?

This kit will make them look new again.

Spray the head lights with a garden hose.

Careful not to spray your nose.

Grab a little paste with the sponge.

Gently rub to remove the grunge.

Rinse the lights again with the hose.

If that didn't work give them a second dose.

Buff and dry with the mitten.

See them sparkle and glisten.

When it's dark take the Beast for a spin.

You're sure to come home sporting a grin!

Step 8: Re-using Contents

Picture of Re-using Contents

I designed this package so there would be little waste.

I used a pizza box because it was very sturdy to store the cleaning kit in and I read an article mentioning pizza boxes can not be re-cycled. I don't know why, the article only listed it as non recyclable.

I used the reflective adhesive material to cover the containers so they could be re-used for fence post, tractors, equipment and reflectors for private driveways. Containers with metal lids might be better for this if you have them. The reflective adhesive material is very sticky and it is difficult to remove once it is applied.

The metal lid, extra magnetic sheet, and the reflective adhesive material is very useful to re-use things that would normally be discarded.

The empty head light tube container can be cut open and used for mail box numbers, dog collars, craft projects and many more.

The crinkled packaging was saved from a Christmas gift and I know my daughter will find a use for it.

Step 9: Washing the Vehicle

Picture of Washing the Vehicle

Here are the pictures where I washed my husband's pickup and my son's car. My husband's pickup is much older and the head lights were very cloudy. The car turned out better but the pickup had a noticeable difference. I washed the head lights on the car just a few minutes before my son was leaving to go to Nebraska so I did not spend very much time on them.

I poured water over the headlights to remove any sand or gritty particles so the paste would not scratch the head lights. Then I applied the paste and gently scrubbed with a brush, rinsed them thoroughly and buffed them dry. Then applied the rainX and buffed again.

Step 10: Sunshiines Final Thoughts

Picture of Sunshiines Final Thoughts

Being a member here at instructables has taught me how to be resourceful. I think very differently about throwing things away now; than I did several years ago. I am very pleased with the results and presentation of this gift to my son-in-law; who is a mechanic and who keeps his pickup sparkling. He also lives in the country and could use some reflectors. The clear head lights will help a lot with night driving and keep him and the family much safer.

If you think this instructable is worthy of your vote; please vote for it when the orange vote button is at the top right corner. I really appreciate it and thanks for stopping by to view this tutorial.

I wish to thank instructables and contributors for making this site a delightful place to share. Thanks so much and do have a safe and happy winter.



LynxSys (author)2015-01-27

What a useful and creative gift! I like your ethos of self-reliance and your thoughtfulness about the future uses of the packaging.

How long do you find that the effects of restoring a headlight with toothpaste / baking soda and Rain-X / car wax last? I ask because I restored mine a few years ago with a "headlight restoration kit" from an auto parts store (the kit was about $20) and the process was more involved, but I haven't had to do it again since. I'm wondering if the Rain-X and wax would wash off after a while with this method.

If anyone is curious how the commercially available kits work, I did a little research to remind myself. The Sylvania kit that I used had basically four steps:

1. Apply an "activator" to your clean, dry headlight lenses, let it sit for 30 seconds, and rise it off. (I'm guessing it's some type of solvent. They say that it softens the original clear coat.)

2. Wet-sand the headlight lenses with a series of grits from 400 to 2000 and then finish up with a buffing compound. (This is pretty similar to using toothpaste in a way -- toothpaste is a mild abrasive.)

3. Do step 1 with the "activator" again. Rise and dry the lenses.

4. Wipe on a UV-protecting clear coat and allow it to dry for at least an hour.

It seems that some professional headlight restorers don't bother with a solvent (i.e. "activator") but just wet-sand with power tools. I would guess that as long as enough of the surface is removed (which is pretty easy with a rotary buffer) the need to chemically soften the surface is reduced.

I don't know what the clear coat in the kit is, but I'm guessing that any UV-resistant automotive clear coat would work well. I've even seen some people online write about using plain old spar urethane (gloss) thinned with mineral spirits so that it wipes on easily.

I hope that this information is interesting to you and useful to someone out there who is trying to decide on a method of restoring their headlights. Sorry to leave such a novella of a comment!

thormj (author)LynxSys2015-01-28

The "activator" is probably a de-brominizer -

And the clear coat is the key -- as long as you've made it shiny/new, use any UV-resistant clear-coat to make it last (mask off your car!). If you don't, it will fog/fade again within a couple of months (and that's why the "cheap restoration kits" seem to work really well, but quickly lose their lustre).

sunshiine (author)thormj2015-02-06

Thanks for sharing this and do have a great day!


LynxSys (author)thormj2015-01-28

Retr0bright was a brilliant chemical discovery, and it's really neat stuff from everything I've read. Thanks for linking to the Instructable about it.

Your hypothesis that the "activator" is chemically similar to Retr0bright is an interesting one, but I'm not sure that it's correct. Plastic headlight lenses are polycarbonate, not ABS, and I don't think that they're made with the same bromine-containing fire retardant that is added to ABS. I could certainly be wrong, but if they were, I would think we'd see more 20-year-old headlights that are close to brown, like very old computer cases.

If we really wanted to know, we could probably figure it out from the MSDS for the Sylvania kit, but I couldn't find it easily online, and calling Sylvania to ask for it seemed a little overboard.

I definitely agree that the clear coat is key. With good clear coat, a carefully performed restoration should last until the clear coat becomes mechanically damaged again by road debris.

sunshiine (author)thormj2015-01-28

I have appreciated the comments about the clear coat suggestions. Thanks so much for sharing and do have a nice day!


sunshiine (author)LynxSys2015-01-27

Wow, thanks so much for sharing this information and for the compliment! I am sure it will help a lot of people, I am featuring this comment. Sorry to say I only recently tried this method and it has not been long enough to give an accurate estimation. My son had his headlights cleaned by a professional and said it only lasted for about a year. It took me 10 minutes to clean my son's headlights. It took 10 minutes longer to clean the pick up because they were pretty bad. Even if it lasted only 6 months to me cleaning them again using this method is not a problem. Again thanks so much for sharing and do have a splendorous day!


sunshiine (author)2015-03-05

Hey antoniraj, sorry I did not reply to this. I love poetry! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting; do have a great day! sunshiine~

falconrk (author)2015-01-27

Nice Instructable sunshine. I use mosquito repellent. Simply spray it on, let it sit for 10 - 15 seconds and then buff it off with a dry cotton cloth.

sunshiine (author)falconrk2015-02-06

thanks so much for stopping by and do have a great weekend.


spark master (author)falconrk2015-01-28

Which bug spray and is that for the clear coat remover or the final coat/ sealer?

falconrk (author)spark master2015-01-28

I've used several varieties of OFF. I use it about once a year and don't apply any kind of sealer afterwards. I live in S.E. Texas and have been using this method for several years on my 99 Ford pickup without any issues.

spark master (author)falconrk2015-01-29

I guess what I am missing here is do you use head lamp lens compound first, or you do not bother with any of this, you just rub on OFF, leaving you with nice head lamp lens.

You do a virtually identical thing with CD's/DVD's and the first time I saw it it on line they made you use a mixture of peanut butter and tooth paste. I kid you not.


falconrk (author)spark master2015-02-01

Sorry Spark, been offline for a few days. Nothing else, just spray on and buff off with a clean cotton cloth. I usually use a dish rag.

sunshiine (author)falconrk2015-01-27

Cool! I appreciate your comment. It will give readers a different option to try. I like to try different ones to decide which one works best for my problem. Have a beautiful day!


hometownbetty (author)2015-02-06

What a great and economical project!

sunshiine (author)hometownbetty2015-02-06

Thanks so much for commenting! I hope your day shines.


SparkySolar made it! (author)2015-01-31

Well Ok I am at this second working on it. i was so excited to e able to combine 2 instructables I had to share

I had tooth paste from "travel transfer with SUGRU"

Amd I emptied them all out for 3 glorious containers of toothpaste!!!!

More to come overnight Sunshiine

sunshiine (author)SparkySolar2015-01-31

Awesome! Thanks for sharing the pictures.

SparkySolar (author)sunshiine2015-01-31

its 1.45 am in NH
Good Night

SparkySolar (author)sunshiine2015-01-31

Now I am worn out

SparkySolar (author)2015-01-31

I did tre travel transfer with sugru, so I have 6 full tooth pastes.

i put them in containers.

Later this evening, I will add the baking Soda and maybe a scent.

Someone threw out my car wax, which I use to shine my sink( I am a FLYBABY)

sunshiine (author)SparkySolar2015-01-31

You go girl!

nicole.lamotheblades (author)2015-01-31

When finished and shiny purchase a protective lens covering. I purchased a set before they went foggy from WeatherTech. Easy to apply and I can't even tell they are there.

Thanks so much for sharing and have a safe weekend!


SparkySolar (author)2015-01-30

I love live love love it

I have a friend who owns a pizza shop.

I need a kit for me, my daughter, my boy friend, and a spare

I voted if course.

Since I have been here,I also do recycle reuse 1000% more.

sunshiine (author)SparkySolar2015-01-30

Hi Sparky! So glad you stopped by to see this instructable. I am happy to hear you recycle. thanks so much for your support and do have a splendid weekend.


dsantil71 (author)2015-01-29

I'm going to show this to my husband! All 3 of our vehicles need it. Hopefully this weekend!

sunshiine (author)dsantil712015-01-29

Thanks for commenting! I hope it works to your satisfaction. Have a great weekend!


buskrat (author)2015-01-25

Try clear coat spray paint just a light mist over the head light and bam looks like new no scrubbing involved so far its lasted 2 years on my truck

dsantil71 (author)buskrat2015-01-29

Does that block UV rays like auto clear coat is made to do?

sunshiine (author)buskrat2015-01-26

Thank you for stopping by and for sharing about your experience with clear coat. I hope your day shines!


tbreuer (author)2015-01-27

Or you could just grab the closest can of bug spray, deep woods worked for me but hats the only one I tired... Spray it on, wipe it off... Easier than making this kit...

ooohlaa (author)tbreuer2015-01-28

huh? bugspray eh? any idea what they contain that eliminates the fog? how long does it last? thanx

sunshiine (author)tbreuer2015-01-27

Thanks for sharing your solution to foggy head lights. It helps to have more than one option to try. I hope your day shines.


jmcdonald23 (author)2015-01-27

This is a really good looking kit. I'm a professional automotive technician and also do headlight restorations at work. After trying out different kits I ended up combining a few different ones. I use the 3M kit for the sanding discs and drill attachment plus the micro polish pad and use those to get all the old clear coat off. I use a Mothers Powerball for headlights and for the polishing compound I use Meguiars Plast-X. I have yet to come up with a good clear coat but all my headlight jobs last about a year as well. Your kit looks like it will work great and has all the components needed. If I remember correctly Rain-X will not block UV rays but I do know it is great for repelling water. When I did them by hand I used 400grit wet/dry, 600grit wet/dry, 1000grit wet/dry, and 1500grit wet/dry sandpaper and then polished it by hand with the Plast-X. I would also include a little spray bottle of some kind to put water in. It is great for when the polish starts to dry up you can just spray the headlight with water and then keep going, helps save on polish. I need to do some testing with rattle can automotive clear coats to see if there is a good one out there.

sunshiine (author)jmcdonald232015-01-28

Thank you so much for sharing this information with my readers. I am sure they will benefit from it. I will be on the look out for some UV clear coat or something that will help with that. Have a great day!


rpillai (author)2015-01-27

Nice instructable...I was looking for a way to clean my headlights...will try it over the weekend.

sunshiine (author)rpillai2015-01-28

Thank you for commenting. Please let us know how it worked out for you. I have received a comment from a automotive technician that might help you make the job last longer. Have a splendorous weekend!


daveryder (author)2015-01-27

I like it. My old truck has really dingy headlights, and this will be a fun project for me and my boy. Thanks for the great idea!

sunshiine (author)daveryder2015-01-27

Thanks so much for taking a look. Working with kids is a great way to have some bonding time together and it also teaches them how things work. I hope you both have fun even if you will be cleaning the lights. Have a splendorous day!


antoniraj (author)2015-01-27

with making the headlight cleaner, you also became a poet... Nice

sunshiine (author)antoniraj2015-01-27

Thanks antoniraj,

That was fun indeed. It added to the gift presentation. Thanks for stopping by!


mnmama (author)2015-01-23

Clever packaging ideas to make a useful gift extra special. Your family and friends will know you care very much with gifts like this. Thanks for sharing.

sunshiine (author)mnmama2015-01-23

Hello, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I enjoyed wrapping this. I hope your day shines!


shazni (author)2015-01-23

Thank you so much! this is great as my husband is mad about his car. I don't think the lights are cloudy in his car as I actually don't notice much about cars(I must check our car ) but still this would be a good gift for him.

sunshiine (author)shazni2015-01-23

It is quick and easy to do, that is the part I like. Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope he comes home with a big grin! Have a great weekend.


About This Instructable




Bio: I am married with two children. Spring, summer, and fall are my very favorite times of the year. I love the sunshine thus the reason ... More »
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