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How to Clean Headlights with Vinegar

A car headlight should be on the list of top safety features for your vehicle, so much so that daytime running lights became mandatory on all newly manufactured vehicles in 1997. However, with all that Mother Nature throws at us, plus the gunk from the roads, it’s hard to maintain a clean headlight.

That’s partly because it’s difficult to clean a foggy headlight or hazy headlights; even if you bring your vehicle through a car wash, you’ll often notice there’s a layer of fog and grime left behind on your headlight lens that normal cleaners can’t seem to remove.

Sure, you can purchase those expensive brand-name products that might clean foggy headlights. But there’s one simple ingredient that’ll help you save money and have your car’s headlights sparkling clear in no time. It’s also environmentally friendly unlike some of those other cleaning products.

Vinegar is a staple in just about every North American household in North America, whether you use it for cooking or cleaning. You can also use it to remove the fog and grim on your car’s headlights.

How to Clean Headlights with Vinegar

What is Vinegar and How Can It Help?

Vinegar–which means sour wine – is an aqueous solution of trace chemicals and acetic acid that was first documented in 3,000 BC by the Ancient Babylonians. They used various ingredients such as figs, dates, and beer to create vinegar for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

There are several kinds of vinegar, but the methods to create them are basically the same. Your fermenting ingredient – grapes, apples, figs, etc. – will produce acetobacters, which are naturally occurring bacteria. These acetobacters create acetic acid – vinegar – when combined with oxygen in the fermented liquid.

It’s also the magic that will help clean the dirt, grime, and discoloration off your foggy headlight.

Supplies Needed

You only need a few things to achieve a clean car headlight.

  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Measuring device (optional)
  • Spray bottle
  • Microfiber cloth

Steps to Cleaning Your Headlights with Vinegar

Steps To Cleaning Your Headlights With Vinegar

Step 1 – Mixing the Solution

You’ll damage your car’s headlights if you just use straight vinegar. You need to be very specific when creating your vinegar mixture so that you don’t have too much acid in the solution.

Use three parts water and one part vinegar. Most people will mix three cups of water and one cup of vinegar into a spray bottle. Don’t fret if that seems more than necessary – the solution will be ready for when you need it again.

Step 2 – Applying the Solution

Spray your vinegar mixture liberally and cover the entire surface of the headlight. You can wipe it off immediately, but it’s best to let it sit for a few minutes and allow the acetic acid to eat through all the layers of grime.

Because the vinegar solution is so diluted, you don’t need to be concerned about your car’s paint around the headlight. Many car enthusiasts use vinegar to rub off the wax coating on their vehicles before adding a new coat, so your car will be safe.

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Step 3 – Wiping Clean

After allowing the vinegar solution to set for a few minutes, wipe off with a clean microfiber cloth. Depending on how discolored and grimy your headlights are, you may need to scrub a bit to get them shining to perfection. You may find that you need to repeat the process to get the best results. Just remember to rinse off your microfiber cloth with water in between.

Many Benefits of Vinegar

Not only is vinegar a quick and inexpensive way to clean a cloudy headlight, but it also comes in handy in other areas around the home and garden. You can use vinegar to cook, kill weeds, and clean just about anything.

There are hundreds of different types and flavors of vinegar, most of them used in the kitchen for cooking. White vinegar is generally used as the standard in the household.

One Vinegar Is Not Like the Other

Balsamic vinegar is different from all of the other kinds of vinegar, as it doesn’t come from a fermented liquid. Instead, Trebbiano grapes are boiled down until they become a dark, thick syrup.

At this point, a strong, aged balsamic vinegar, called the mother of vinegar, is added. The mixture is then kept in wooden barrels for 12 years, allowing microorganisms to slowly turn the syrup into acetic acid. True balsamic vinegar only comes from Reggio Emilia and Modena, Italy, and is very pricey.


Don’t waste your money on car washes and expensive cleaning products the next time you notice your headlights aren’t as bright as they used to be. Grab some vinegar off of your shelf, or out of your fridge, and mix it with water to create your own solution that will have your headlights shining bright in no time.

You’ll find that this trick is so quick and easy, with such great results, that you’ll want to go around cleaning the headlights of your friends and family members.

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