Cleaning Your Headlights with Bug Repellent?

We have a wildly inexpensive 2002 Kia Sedona minivan. It served us well, but it has clearly seen better days and, since we’ve upgraded to a newer Honda Odyssey, I decided that the Kia would be the perfect guinea pig to test the internet rumor that bug repellent can clean your yellowed headlights. If it didn’t work, no big deal. But, if it did work, all the better!

Be cautious! This is a low-cost and imperfect solution to yellow headlights. Deet can and will damage the clearcoat on your paint if it comes into somewhat prolonged contact. This is more of a short-term solution for situations like passing an automotive inspection! We don’t suggest trying this method.

The key to this is using a bug repellent with deet. The best we’ve found is Off! Deep Woods. To begin, spray the repellent onto a disposable cloth or paper towels. Do not spray the repellent directly onto the headlight as the over-spray will come into contact with your paint and accelerate the weathering process! Carefully wipe the headlight taking care not to touch the surrounding paint on the vehicle body panels.

As you can see below, I did not follow my own advice, because I do not care.

Cleaning Headlights with Bug Repellent

Surprisingly, it did work, although it probably will not last! The difference was actually noticeable. The reason this works is because the surface of your plastic actually melts slightly from a chemical reaction with the deet. Yes, the repellent is technically damaging your headlight. Additionally, the deet will eventually wash away from your headlight and come into contact with your painted surfaces.

For your edification, below is a close-up of the headlight before and after being “cleaned” with Off! Deep Woods.

Cleaning Headlights with Bug Repellent

Again, while this method does work, we would never recommend it. Purchasing a headlight restoration kit from your local auto parts store is a vastly superior and longer-lasting solution!

-Orin

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