How to safely clean car headlights without using bugspray

Wednesday, August 2, 2023
In an age where DIY solutions and viral trends abound, one peculiar method has managed to capture the attention of many car enthusiasts - the use of bug spray, particularly Off Bug Spray, to clean and restore headlights. The internet is rife with videos showcasing impressive before-and-after shots, but what lies beneath this illusion of clarity is a harsh reality: using bug spray on car headlights is not only a temporary fix but also a damaging one.

The online realm has propagated a seemingly miraculous technique - using bug spray, specifically Off Bug Spray, to rejuvenate foggy, yellowed car headlights. While initial results might appear promising, the underlying science and chemistry behind this method tell a different story.

Bugs Spray often contain DEET (diethyltoluamide), a potent chemical capable of repelling insects. However, DEET also exhibits destructive properties when it comes to certain materials, including the polycarbonates and plastics commonly used to manufacture headlights. The apparent success of the bug spray method stems from its ability to temporarily improve headlight clarity through a two-fold process.

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When DEET comes into contact with the headlight lens, it initiates a process of surface melting. This melting action removes some of the surface oxidation, providing a temporary boost in clarity. Additionally, the oily consistency of the spray fills small surface gaps that typically hinder light transmission, leading to a brief period of enhanced illumination.

While the initial cosmetic improvements might seem impressive, the bug spray method carries several fundamental flaws that render it ineffective and detrimental in the long run.

Headlight plastics are coated with a protective layer to guard against UV degradation and oxidation. Over time, this UV coating degrades, causing the lens to turn yellow or become foggy. The longevity of this coating varies based on the manufacturer's quality and the local UV index.

When DEET melts the headlight surface during the cleaning process, it erodes the remaining UV protective coating. Moreover, it mixes deteriorated plastic with potentially restorable plastic, giving the appearance of improvement but at a significant cost. The short-lived results are only as enduring as the oil remains on the lens, and exposure to factors such as rain can hasten its disappearance.

How to safely clean car headlights without using bugspray

There are several proven methods to clean car headlights effectively without causing long-term damage. Here are some methods that are commonly recommended by experts:


1.  Toothpaste Method:  

  •    Apply a small amount of toothpaste (non-gel) to a soft cloth or sponge.
  •    Gently rub the toothpaste onto the headlight lens using circular motions.
  •    Rinse off the toothpaste with water and wipe the lens dry.


2.  Baking Soda Paste:

  •    Make a paste by mixing baking soda with water until it forms a thick consistency.
  •    Apply the paste to the headlight lens and gently rub it in using a soft cloth.
  •    Rinse off the paste with water and dry the lens.


3.  Commercial Headlight Restoration Kits:


4.  Vinegar Solution:

  •    Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water to create a cleaning solution.
  •    Apply the solution to the headlight lens and scrub gently with a soft cloth.
  •    Rinse off the solution with water and dry the lens.


5.  Microfiber Cloth and Soap:

  • Use a microfiber cloth dampened with water and a mild soap to gently clean the headlight lens.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that could damage the lens.


6.  Plastic Polish:

  •    Use a plastic polish specifically designed for automotive plastics.
  •    Apply the polish to the headlight lens and buff it using a clean, soft cloth.


Remember, regardless of the method you choose, it's important to be gentle while cleaning to avoid scratching the lens. Additionally, regular maintenance, such as keeping your car parked in a shaded area and using a car cover, can help prevent future headlight oxidation and prolong their clarity.

Always test any method on a small, inconspicuous area of the headlight first to ensure that it doesn't cause any adverse reactions. If your headlights are severely damaged or scratched, it's best to consult a professional for restoration or replacement.

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