Toothpaste Headlight Restoration


On Tuesday, I re-posted a bunch of “life hacks”. One of these life hacks recommended using toothpaste for vehicle headlight restoration.

This headlight restoration hack really piqued my interest. Headlight restoration kits can get pretty expensive considering they’re glorified cleaning products. My 2003 Malibu wasn’t in desperate need of headlight restoration, so I wouldn’t pay $20 for the kit at Canadian Tire. But my headlights were somewhat cloudy (apparently this means they’re “oxidized”); if I could fix them with toothpaste, why not?

Here’s my left headlight before I brushed its teeth:

Headlight Restoration with Toothpaste - Before

I searched for “headlight toothpaste” on YouTube to see if there were any additional pro-tips:

At the risk of writing another Literal Idiot’s Guide, I’ll describe the process of toothpaste headlight restoration briefly.


  • a tube of toothpaste; I used Colgate Cavity Protection, purchased for $0.88 a tube
  • some water for cleaning off the toothpaste
  • two rags or clothes; one to apply/scrub the toothpaste, another to rinse/wipe the headlight using the water

First I put a large line of toothpaste on the headlight. I gently rubbed the toothpaste with the first cloth so that it covered the entire headlight.

Headlight Restoration with Toothpaste - Apply the Toothpaste

Then I scrubbed the headlight, in a circular motion, for a solid minute. I rinsed the headlight using the water and the other cloth. Here’s the final result:

Headlight Restoration with Toothpaste - After

Perhaps the camera (or my lack of photography skills) fails to demonstrate a significant difference but, I assure you, I noticed a large improvement. I think it’s a bit more apparent when the before and after are side-by-side:

Headlight Restoration with Toothpaste - BeforeHeadlight Restoration with Toothpaste - After

Besides the fact that it’s not a good idea to draw definitive conclusions from a single test, my 2003 Malibu probably isn’t the best car to use for a headlight restoration experiment. Why? I don’t wash my car regularly. Simply wiping the headlights with Windex may have improved their appearance. I probably should have cleaned the headlights first and then done the toothpaste headlight restoration. But I didn’t think of that beforehand, so whatever. My test lacked academic rigor. Kind of like Cultural Studies.

In any case, this form of headlight restoration costs almost nothing, takes a few minutes, and is very low risk. Headlight restoration kits take a lot more time to use (yeah, I’ve read the instructions on one for some reason). Hence I’d recommend using the toothpaste method of headlight restoration before blowing $15 to $25 on a kit. It could add some “showroom” appeal to your car, which is valuable if you’re trying to sell it. If toothpaste headlight restoration doesn’t work, then go to the store with my apologies. Warning: nobody accepts my apologies as legal tender.

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9 Comments… Share your views

  1. Do your headlights smell nice and minty now?

  2. I read a blog (it will remain nameless) which suggested making your own toothpaste. Looks like you threw some of that $.88 away!

  3. I can’t say that I’ve ever paid attention to whether my headlights need restoring or not. Thank goodness I read blogs or I’d have never known I needed to think about this.

    • lol well I wouldn’t get too worried. Just look at them. If they’re worse than my headlights were, you should probably do it. If they’re not as bad, then they probably don’t need restoration yet. Obviously it’s much more important if you do a lot of driving at night.

  4. davidinneworleans May 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Awesome tip!! Was looking for headlights and decided to try it after reading this. Worked perfectly! Toothpaste is also great for wasp, caterpillar or bee stings. I got stung by a caterpillar when I was a kid and couldn’t move my arm. Doctor told my mother to do that next time and the few times I was stung by a bee or wasp, I put toothpaste on it and it stopped hurting in about a minute. And jack was right, everything smells minty and fresh now!

  5. It looks like the after picture when its wet. When it dries it looks like the fog comes back.

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