Filthy Headlights? Sunscreen or Bug Spray will Clear Them Up

Visibility is a big concern when driving at night. If your headlights aren’t working well, you won’t be able to see far into the distance, in addition to that, other drivers might not be able to see your vehicle from far away. 

According to Glass Doctor, severely foggy headlights can reduce visibility by up to 50%. Not to mention, they’re supremely unattractive. Luckily, there’s a cheap and easy fix. Sunscreen or bug spray will work wonders on your headlights. 

How it Works

This cleaning method is extremely simple. Spray your headlights with sunscreen or bug spray. Wipe them down with a rag or paper towels. Then you’re done.

Want to see this technique in action? @partyshirt tested it out after seeing a video of another TikToker giving it a try. The results speak for themselves, but you can try it out for yourself to see it in action if you’re skeptical.

Ryan, a social media expert at Tree Frog Social, said that “Lifehack type hoaxes are incredibly common especially on TikTok so it’s important to be very careful about what you believe. Make sure a trend is backed up by multiple users and is obviously proven before trying it!” 

What Causes Headlights to Fog Up

Ultraviolet light from the sun penetrates plastic headlights and leaves little pockmarks that contribute to the foggy appearance. This exposure from UV light is often referred to as oxidation. Headlight lenses come with a clear topcoat to protect against harmful UV light, but this eventually wears off and turns the plastic headlights from white to yellow.

Another way that headlights can fog up is if moisture gets into the headlight. Even though headlights are manufactured with a watertight seal, moisture can get in overtime as the seal is worn down. Once moisture gets in, there will be condensation inside of your headlights that can’t be wiped away from the outside.

A third and more obvious culprit of foggy headlights is a buildup of dirt, creating a grimy film on the outside of the lens which obstructs light.

When Sunscreen or Bug Spray Won’t Cut it

The determining factor as to whether the headlights can be cleaned up with the simple sunscreen hack is whether the damage is on the inside or outside of the lens. 

If the lens is only damaged on the outside, it’s likely that scrubbing some sunscreen onto the headlights will do the trick. If the fogginess is caused by moisture intrusion into the headlight, the entire lamp assembly will have to be replaced.

Criticism of this Method

In the comment section of the linked video, many viewers expressed concerns about this technique.

Among the responses was this common critique: the deet in bug spray melts the top layer of plastic in your headlight, damaging the headlight and providing only a temporary (one week or so) fix before the fogging comes back. Deet is the most common ingredient in insect repellants. Although it is feared to be a hazardous substance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved DEET for use in people of all ages. DEET breaks down quickly in the environment, so it’s also not harmful to wildlife.

Other Uses for Bug Spray and Sunscreen

As a lifeguard, I find myself repurposing the same three caution signs on a regular basis, scrubbing them clean before writing a new message: “out of order,” “beware of wasps,” etc. To clean off the marker on a sign before writing something new, the guards at my pool have made the incredibly helpful discovery that sunscreen works wonders in removing marker residue. 

This should come as no surprise considering how well the sunscreen works on plastic headlights. 

The takeaway: sunscreen and bug spray are terrific for cleaning plastic. However, it’s possible that using sunscreen and bug spray for cleaning could do damage to a plastic surface over time.