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:
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.
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:
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:
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.