How to Clean Headlights: A DIY Guide | Washos Blog

VI. Wet Sanding Method

The wet sanding method produces the best results of any other process and is, for all intents and purposes, a permanent remedy. Note, however, that this method is time and labor intensive and includes some steps that you may not feel comfortable attempting yourself.

The first thing to consider with this method is the fact that you vehicle will need to remain non-operational for at least 24 hours. Next, you will need to perform the final step without the intrusion of any wind so that no dust or dirt will come in contact with your headlight lens.


What you’ll need to restore your headlights:

How to Clean Headlights: A DIY Guide | Washos Blog

  1. A roll of paper towels (no lint/low lint)
  2. A pair of scissors
  3. A trash bag or plastic sheeting
  4. A roll of blue painter’s tape
  5. A bottle of common isopropyl rubbing alcohol
  6. 3 pieces of sand paper to include 600 grit and 400 grit
  7. A piece of +61404532026 grit sand paper
  8. A tin of carnauba paste wax
  9. A spray bottle filled with warm water
  10. A spray can of gloss clear coat made for plastic that is formulated to be UV resistant and non-yellowing (these descriptive elements will be on the front of the spray can label).

Step 1

How to Clean Headlights: A DIY Guide | Washos Blog

Begin by taping around the headlight, ensuring that you get a tight seal between the headlight and the vehicle’s paint.

Step 2

Using the 400 grit sand paper, drench the headlight lens with water and wet the sand paper. Be sure to keep the lens and sand paper wet at all times.

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With a light touch (very little pressure), move the sand paper around the lens in a large circular pattern while simultaneously and continuously spraying the lens with water.

After a short period, end the circular pattern and move to horizontal moves with the sand paper, back and forth, while still spraying water. Stop. One last spritz with water and wipe the lens.

Note: With each step, you’ll probably notice a white, milky residue on the lens, or dripping from the lens. This is remnants of the film and oxidation coming off of the lens and is perfectly fine. You will also notice some fine scratches appearing on the plastic; these too are expected and will be treated with the finishing process. However, don’t press hard while sanding, we’re not working on a piece of wood here.

Step 3

Repeat the above process with the 600 grit sand paper, applying a little more pressure this time. Repeat as above, simultaneously and continuously spraying water while sanding.

Step 4

How to Clean Headlights: A DIY Guide | Washos Blog

Repeat the process as described above with the 2000 or 3000 grit sand paper. The pressure applied this time should revert back to a very light touch. Again, continuous water and a circular pattern followed by horizontal motions. During this step, get into the groves all around the edge of the headlight. Rinse and wipe dry.

Note: At this point, the lens will still exhibit a hazy appearance. This is expected.

Step 5

Using a paper towel, wipe the lens with the rubbing alcohol to remove any natural oils.

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Step 6

Cover the hood, bumper, and any exposed paint in the vicinity of the headlight with sheeting plastic or a trash bag (the trash bag can be cut to open for better coverage).Tape to the car. Use scissors to cut out the headlight from the plastic sheeting and then add tape on top of the plastic around the headlight.

Step 7

Complete one more wipe with the rubbing alcohol to ensure that the lens is perfectly clean.

Step 8

Spray the clear coat. Ok, this is easier said than done, but here are a few good tips:

  1. If you’re new to spray coating, practice a few times on something to get a feel for the pressure you need to apply when spraying and get the knack of perfecting light, even strokes.
  2. Always start your spray on the protective sheeting before the lens and end the spray on the other side on the sheeting. Never begin or end spraying on the lens itself.
  3. Spray strokes go in one direction only at a time.
  4. A light application is want you want. No heavy spraying.
  5. Do not spray too close to your target or the spray will pool on the lens.
  6. Let dry for 5-10 minutes before spraying another coat.

Step 9

Apply two additional coats of the clear coat as above. Dry for 24 hours after the third coat is applied.

Step 10

Apply a coat of carnauba paste wax to the lens and let it near-dry before buffing it.