How to Clean Headlights with Bug Spray?

Toothpaste, baking soda, and many home remedies have been viral for cleaning headlights. One of them is bug spray or insect repellant!

If you were wondering how to clean headlights with bug spray, we would first recommend you not to do that! Does bug spray work to remove the cloudiness from your headlights? Yes, it initially does. However, there are more things to consider which we mention in this article.

Here are all the details you need to know about this viral cleaning hack:

What Causes Cloudy Headlights?

Cloudy headlights are no good as they can badly affect the headlights’ performance at night. Your visibility may reduce by 200 ft. at night with foggy and cloudy headlights. So, why do headlights get cloudy? There are multiple reasons:

UV Damage/Oxidation

Oxidation is one of the primary and biggest reasons for headlights getting dim. Since headlight covers are usually made of polycarbonate plastic, UV rays affect them. Ultraviolet sunlight radiation causes microscopic cracks, thereby, making the headlight cover cloudy.

UV damage is unpreventable and the longer you are using your headlights the foggier the covers will get. Headlights nowadays contain a UV protective cover or layer that can slow down the oxidation by ultraviolet rays. Too much cleaning can slowly remove this layer.


Water can get inside your headlight and create water vapor. Moisture makes your headlight lenses foggy and the light emitted by the bulb gets scattered.

To remove moisture from your headlights, there are valves available on modern headlights. Cleaning from outside will not get rid of the water inside. Check out this article on how to remove water from your headlights!

Dirt and Debris

Dents and scratches of small and big sizes happen every day to your headlight covers. While driving, small debris and dirt can cause such dents and scratches, causing headlights to be cloudy.


Chemicals in acid rain, car wash components, and components of the air can damage the cover or create a cloudy layer.

Is It a Good Idea to Clean Your Car’s Headlights with Bug Spray?

It is not the best idea to clean your car’s headlight with bug spray. Sure, using bug spray can provide good results as it can remove the layers of the plastic, providing a clean headlight. However, bug spray’s component contains harmful chemicals that can permanently damage your headlight lenses.

Using bug spray to clean your headlight should be the last resort. If you are planning on replacing your headlights soon, then you may use insect repellants to clean them.

Why You Shouldn’t Use Bug Spray to Clean Your Car’s Headlights

Using a bug spray on your headlight provides an instant solution. However, no matter how viral this cleaning trend is, we advise using other cleaning products.

Why does bug spray clean headlights? The reason is bug sprays contain DEET (diethyltoluamide). DEET is a solvent chemical that kills insects. One more fact about this solvent is that it can disintegrate polycarbonate plastic.

Therefore, when you use bug sprays for cleaning headlights, it disintegrates the foggy layer of plastic. Moreover, the oil of the spray fills small cracks allowing light to pass properly.

Sounds not so bad, right? Well, when you remove the initial layers of the headlight with bug spray, you also get rid of UV protective coating. Therefore, your headlights get damaged by sunlight more and get even dimmer over time. Moreover, the oil of the bug spray does not stay on for long. As a result, the clearing effect you get after using bug spray is temporary!

How to Clean Headlights with Bug Spray?

If you are planning to replace your headlights soon, using bug sprays to clean them is not the worst. Otherwise, we do not recommend it. Here is how you can clean your headlight with an insect repellant or bug spray:

  • Make sure the bug spray you are using contains DEET or diethyltoluamide. The chemical component can disintegrate the plastic foggy layer, removing the fogginess.
  • Use a soft cloth and apply the spray on the piece of cloth.
  • Rub the headlights with the cloth until you get your expected results.
  • Make sure there is no residue of the spray left on the headlights. Wipe the cover of your headlights dry.

Better Ways to Clean Your Headlights

We do not recommend using a bug spray to clean headlights. However, other home remedies work as well and do not damage your headlights. For example:


Toothpaste is a great alternative to the expensive cleaning solution for headlights. Being environment-friendly, toothpaste contains fewer chemicals, and therefore is better than bug spray! Check out how to clean headlights with toothpaste on MachineTackle!

Baking Soda

Baking soda can be excellent to remove the oxidation of your headlights. On top of that, using baking soda is a really easy and cheap process. All you have to do is make a thick paste with baking soda and water, apply it and clean!


Being acidic, vinegar can be a great cleaning solution. Moreover, vinegar and baking soda mixture are also great for cleaning headlights as the mixture creates carbon-di-oxide which can help remove dirt and debris. Check out our step-by-step instructions on how to clean headlights with vinegar!

Final Note

Toothpaste, vinegar, baking soda – all these are much better cleaning items than bug spray. However, if you do not have anything else and really need your headlights clean, then bug spray is your last resort!

A high amount of DEET will result in better cleaning for your headlight. So, check how much DEET a bug spray has before using it. In New York, products having over 30% DEET are banned. So, sticking to toothpaste would be better there.

Leave a Comment