How to Polish Plastic Headlights?

We don’t need to elaborate on the importance of a working headlight. Since you are here, that means you want to keep your vehicle headlight in tip-top shape. Any expert will agree that it is a wise thing to do for the sake of your safety.

Plastic headlights are a recent addition in the automobile industry that happened only back in the 1990s. They helped the manufacturers produce a mass number of housings without spending as much as glass ones. It also helped lower the price of headlights on the market.

However, plastic headlights can be as much, if not more, prone to damage as glass. They can also get cloudy, hazy, and scratched. The best way to avoid that is by applying polishes. That is our topic of today.

Polishing Plastic Headlights- What Are the Benefits?

Given how we go through all types of hazardous and harsh environments with our vehicle, the headlights have it rough. They are really susceptible to debris, UV rays, moisture, other messes from the surrounding. Polishing the headlight guards them against these messes. Following are some of the advantages you get from the process-

  • Defends the headlight from getting foggy or cloudy.
  • It prevents UV-rays from damaging the lenses.
  • It saves you from the cost of repairing or replacing the headlights occasionally.
  • The headlights last longer and stay brighter on the road by not having any build-ups on them.

How to Clean Plastic Headlight Lens

Before polishing the headlights, you need to clean the lenses thoroughly and make them shine. Without restoring them, there is no point in applying polish as the lenses are already dirty. You can follow the guide below to clean the headlight lenses.

Necessary Items

  • Dish soap or headlight cleaning agents
  • Toothpaste (not gel type, but the white ones) and a toothbrush
  • Warm Water
  • Lint-free clean cloth and rag
  • Small bucket or mug


  • Make a mixer between dish soap and water into a bucket. You can also use any powerful cleaning agent.
  • Dip a clean rag and rub it on the headlight lenses in a circular motion. Rinse with warm water.
  • Apply a bit of toothpaste to every section.
  • Use the brush to rub the headlight in a circular motion so that the toothpaste spreads throughout the lens.
  • Rinse with warm water. Heavy build-ups may require another rubbing of toothpaste.
  • Dry the headlight with a clean cloth.

Alternatively, you can also try other lens cleaning processes that require vinegar, baking soda, or Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restorer.

How to Clean Plastic Headlight Lens Covers?

Just cleaning the lens won’t suffice as there can be excess build-up and messes on the lens cover too. But do it only after you have finished the section above.

What Do We Need

  • White Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Soft towel


  • Create a solution of water and vinegar. The mixture will contain water three times the amount of vinegar (3:1 ratio).
  • Dip a part of a soft towel into the solution and rub it on the headlight lens cover in a circular motion. Do it on the entire surface. Alternatively, you can also spray the mixture on the lens cover using a sprayer.
  • After 7 minutes, wipe the surface with a soft dry towel.
  • In case there are still yellowish tints on the lens cover, make another solution with a 2:1 ratio of white vinegar and baking soda. Repeat the previous steps with this new mixture.
  • Finally, rinse with pure water and wipe with paper towels.

How to Clean Plastic Headlight Lens from the Inside?

There is a chance that dirt and grimes have gone inside the headlight and built upon the interior surface of the lens. It needs cleaning before polishing the outer part.

Part 1: Getting the Headlight Lens Out

  • Open the hood of your vehicle.
  • Find where the screws for the headlights are. It can stay at different positions based on vehicle models.
  • Unscrew them. Tell a friend to hold the headlight during the unscrewing or use any other method. The headlights will come out from the crevice as you remove the screws.
  • Disconnect the headlight plugs and take the headlight on a dry cloth.
  • Get the lens out of the headlight. You can read your vehicle instruction manual or research the process online, as it can be different based on the vehicle model.

Part 2: Cleaning the Lens

  • Fill a bucket with warm water.
  • Add any strong detergent powder to it. Make a solution. We are using detergent because of its acidic element. It can break through the build-ups easily.
  • Take a mildly abrasive pad. Dip it into the solution and rub it onto the interior part of the headlight lens gently. Continue until it looks clear and shiny.
  • Dry the lens and apply a thin layer of polishing compound. Not only the outer part but the inside needs a polish too.

Part 3: Installing the Headlight

  • After polishing is complete, reinstall the lens into the headlight.
  • Place the headlight at the right position in the crevice and tighten the screws.
  • Plug the electrical contacts.

Do You Need to Sand Your Headlight Before Polishing?

You do need to sand the headlights of your vehicle with different grits before you apply polish. Simply cleaning the lenses with a soapy dish, water, and cleaning agent doesn’t totally clean them.

It may look transparent with your eyes, but many small stubborn particles are still there that can slowly damage the plastic.

You will even be getting a lower lumen output than what you would get even without realizing it. So, make sure to use sandpapers on your headlights first before moving on to the next project.

How to Polish Plastic Headlight Lens

Now that we have completed the cleaning process, it is time to polish the headlight lens. Skipping the polishing part after cleaning leaves them vulnerable. Dirt, grimes, or oxidation can easily form on the newly cleaned headlight lenses. So, it is a mandatory step to perform. Here are what you must do-

The Required Items

  • Any polishing compound
  • Wax Paste
  • UV Sealant
  • Microfiber towel
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paper grocery bags

Step 1

Put some polishing compound on your microfiber cloth. Then rub the polish onto the headlight surface. Use rotary motion and continue until the who surface is covered.

You must use enough polishing compound so that the whole surface has an even and thin layer of it. We suggest repeating this step on spots that doesn’t feel smooth enough.

Step 2

Once the headlights look clear and smooth enough, bring any wax paste. Apply a ¼ dollop of it on the microfiber towel. Now rub it gently on the headlight as you did with the polishing compound. Make sure to go over the entire surface.

Step 3

Our next task is to apply UV sealant on the headlight. This step will help them survive against UV-rays from the sun. However, UV-sealants can harm the surrounding paint. So, you must not spray any on it and only on the headlight.

So, cut some grocery bags and use painter’s tape to stick them around the headlight. Make sure all the paint areas are covered. But there should be a 1-foot gap between the headlight and the grocery bag.

Step 4

Use a sprayer bottle of UV-sealant and spray it on the headlight surface. Don’t overspray it. Make sure that the sprayer is around 4-5 inches away from the headlight when you are spraying. Spray evenly until you make a light coat. This step will prevent your headlight from fading and hazing issues.

We also suggest going through the use process of the UV sealant on the instruction manual of it. The same goes for polishing compound and wax paste. Different products may have dissimilar instructions, so you must check them.

Step 5

Now you need to dry the surface of the headlight. You cannot obviously wipe it as neither the polish nor the UV sealant has bonded with the headlight yet. The best way to dry is to leave it under the open sunlight for around ten minutes.

It will not only make the sealant dry but also let them perfectly fuse with the surface. If you are working during nighttime, a UV light can also work as an alternative for sunlight. But don’t use the UV light for more than 90 seconds.

Finishing Note

Applying a coat of polish on your headlights may seem like a lengthy and time-consuming process. But the effort and time are worth it. Once you have completed it, your headlight will be shining as new, and you will be totally safe on the road.

There are a number of products that you may need for this project. Some of them are easily acquirable from your roadside markets.

But we advise getting it all online. Do your headlights have a tint that you want to get rid of? Check out our guide on removing headlight tint spray. Hopefully, you won’t have to drive with a messy and faded headlight in a long time.

Leave a Comment