How To Clean Headlight Lens With Vinegar

This is our guide on how to clean a headlight lens with vinegar. 

You might think that cleaning your headlight requires buying expensive cleaning products. But the truth is that you can just use regular household products to clean your car’s headlights. 

In this guide, we’ll be showing you how to use vinegar and baking soda to clean your headlights. And since it doesn’t require you to sand the headlight, this is a less invasive, and less expensive method for cleaning headlights. 

We’ve been working on and testing headlights for over a decade. So if you needed help figuring out how to clean headlights with vinegar, you came to the right place. 

Keep reading for more information on how to clean headlights with vinegar. 

Is It Safe To Clean Headlight Lenses With Vinegar?

Put simply, it is perfectly safe to use vinegar to clean headlights. Headlights on modern vehicles are made of very durable polycarbonate material that resists abrasion and damage from chemicals. 

Moreover, the vinegar we’ll be using to clean headlights is not very strong or abrasive, so you shouldn’t have any problems. Still, it might be a good idea to tape off the headlight with masking tape to avoid any cleaning product from getting on the car’s bodywork. 

The car we used for this guide had paint protection film installed, so we didn’t need to tape off the headlights, but if your car doesn’t have protection, we highly recommend using masking tape. 

What You’ll Need To Clean A Headlight Lens With Vinegar

Here’s all the stuff you’ll need to clean a headlight with vinegar. Odds are you have all of this stuff lying around the house already. 

Distilled White Vinegar

We recommend using distilled white vinegar to clean your headlights. This can be found at any grocery store or chemist’s store and is pretty cheap. 

Glass Cleaner

This cleaning method does not require any fancy cleaning products. However, we do recommend getting some glass cleaner to help clear away any surface gunk before cleaning with the vinegar. 

Baking Soda

Baking soda is also necessary for this cleaning method. Baking soda and vinegar have a unique chemical reaction that makes the cleaning solution we will be using for this method. 

Microfiber Towels

We recommend using microfiber towels as they prevent small particles of fabric from being left behind on the surface of the headlight. Using microfiber towels also helps you avoid microscrathes on the surface of the headlight, which can make it look even dirtier. 

How To Clean A Headlight Lens With Vinegar

Now, let’s see how you can clean a headlight lens with vinegar. 

Step 1: Clean The Headlight With Glass Cleaner

The first step is to make sure there are no large contaminants on the headlight surface that could cause problems with the cleaning process. These could be in the form of dirt and dust, bird droppings, dead insects, or anything else. 

Spray a healthy amount of glass cleaner on the headlight, making sure to cover the entire surface. Then, wipe it all off with a microfiber, or a squeegee if you have one. 

Step 2: Prepare The Cleaning Solution

Next, prepare the cleaning solution that you’ll be using to clean the headlight. This will be made by mixing the vinegar and the baking soda. 

There is no hard and fast rule for how much of each you should use, and you kind of just have to play it by ear. But be warned that when mixed together, baking soda and vinegar have a strong reaction that causes fizzing. 

We recommend adding just a little bit of vinegar to the baking soda at a time, and letting the solution settle a bit before adding more. When you’ve added enough vinegar, you should be left with a thick, almost paste-like solution.

Step 3: Clean The Headlight With The Microfiber

Now, dip one end of your microfiber in the cleaning solution and use that to clean the surface of the headlight. We find that it is best to work your way over the entire headlight surface with consistent horizontal strokes. 

This ensures optimal coverage of the surface, and you don’t end up missing any spots. Depending on how dirty your headlights are, you will have to do multiple passes, adding more cleaning solution as you go.

Step 4: Wipe Away Any Excess Cleaning Solution

Once you start to see the haze on the surface clearing up, use a microfiber cloth to wipe away any excess cleaning solution. It is also a good idea to spray some more of the glass cleaner on the headlight and wipe it off with a microfiber towel. 

You should now see a distinct difference in how clean the headlight is. If not, go over the whole thing with cleaning solution again, for as many passes as required. 

Step 5: Polish The Headlight

This step is optional, but we highly recommend doing it. 

Get some automotive wax or headlight polish and apply it liberally over the headlight surface. Then, using a clean microfiber cloth or a drill pad, buff it out. 

Polishing the headlight will make it gleam with that factory shine, while also adding a protective layer that prevents it from getting dirty again. 

How To Prevent Headlight Lenses From Becoming Dirty Over Time

Dirty headlights are a sign of a car that actually gets driven. Still, there are a couple different ways you can prevent your headlights from getting dirty over time. 

Get A Clear Headlight Protector Compound

These can be found at any automotive store or online. They are usually offered in spray form, and add a protective coating over the headlight. This coating prevents dust and road grime from making your headlight dirty over time. 

You will have to reapply the coating at least once a year or even more often if your car gets used more. 

Fit A Polycarbonate Protector To The Headlight Lens

These are headlight-shaped pieces of polycarbonate that go over the headlight and prevent it fro getting damaged by small rocks and stones, and even provide protection against dirt and grime. 

However, because there is a slight gap between the protector and the headlight, some dirt or grime is bound to slip past. 

Apply A Protective Sheet To The Headlight Lens

Protective plastic sheets, like the one you might have on your phone screen, stick onto the headlight and prevent it from getting dirty. The thick plastic sheet also provides a bit of protection against rock chips. 

The best part is that these sheets can stay effective for up to 5 years at a time, before needing to be reapplied. 


So, we learned that not only is vinegar perfectly safe to use as a cleaning agent for headlights, but that it is also quite an effective, inexpensive method. 

There are still a few considerations you need to make before using vinegar to clean headlights, and you will need a couple other things to do it as well. However, the process is still pretty easy. 

And once you’ve cleaned the headlights with vinegar, it is important to protect them so that they don’t get dirty again.

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Richard Nickleson is the author and owner behind Headlight Reviews. He first started the site as a hobby to share his insights on car parts and specifically headlight bulbs, but it soon ballooned and now he writes on all topics surrounding headlights bulbs. If you've got a bulb question, contact Richard here.