Using Bug Spray to Clean Headlights: Is It a Good Idea?

Over time, adverse weather and road conditions can begin to take their toll on your car’s headlights, leaving them yellowed or cloudy. Aside from being an eyesore, cloudy car headlights can cause a significant hazard as they reduce illumination and, therefore, visibility on the road. This can put you, your passengers and pedestrians at risk, particularly at night or when weather conditions are bad.

Bringing some sparkle back to your headlights should, therefore, be a top priority for any car owner! But how can you restore your lamps to their original glory?

There are plenty of home remedies for dealing with hazy headlights, one of the most popular being bug spray. Simply spritz a little onto a cloth, use this to polish your headlights and bingo – cloudiness cleared! But does this method actually work? And is it really safe to use it to clean your car’s headlights? Read on to find out!

What causes cloudy headlights?

It’s not uncommon to see cars with yellowed, cloudy, or hazy headlights, especially among older vehicles. The fact is, dozens of environmental factors can diminish the clarity of your headlights, making this an unavoidable aspect of car ownership for many people.

Most car headlights are made of a hard plastic that is covered with a clear, protective coat. It’s this protective coat that starts to erode over time and is gradually nibbled away by sunlight, scratching, pollution, and cleaning agents. Eventually, the plastic will become foggy as a result, allowing less light to pass through. Not only does this present a safety hazard, but it also damages the aesthetics of your car, leaving it looking old and worn out.

How to clean headlights with bug spray

Cleaning your car’s headlights with bug spray is easy and inexpensive. Yet, not the best or safest way to clean the headlights, find out why below!

Simply purchase a spray (making sure to choose one containing DEET), apply a little to a soft cloth and rub your headlights with it. You should notice an improvement after just a few seconds, as the chemical DEET strips away the cloudy layer from your lights. Once you’re satisfied with the results, make sure you clean away any residual spray. This is important, as the chemicals in the spray can begin to erode the plastic of your car’s headlights if left there for longer periods of time.

But, is it a good idea to clean your car’s headlights with bug spray?

Bug spray is a popular home remedy for removing haze from your headlights, but should you use bug spray as a headlight cleaner?

Using a bug spray on your headlights can certainly reduce yellowing and cloudiness, and lots of people view this home remedy as an instant fix. Many bug sprays contain DEET, a potent chemical that can strip away that cloudy layer and leave your headlights sparklingly clean. Off! Bug Spray for headlights works especially well, as evidenced by several Youtubers – simply apply a little to a cloth and give your headlights a quick rub to restore them to their original glory.


Although using bug spray on headlights may seem like a quick, easy and inexpensive fix for cloudiness. This, however, doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea, and will do more harm to your car than good!

Why you shouldn’t use bug spray to clean your car’s headlights

Before you put bug spray on your headlights, it’s important to consider what long-term effects this treatment may have on your vehicle. While it’s true that using bug spray as a headlight cleaner can have an instant cleaning effect, this is only a temporary fix. What’s more, using bug spray for headlights can even cause more damage if done incorrectly.

This is because DEET (the chemical in bug spray that kills insects) is a solvent, and is capable of melting several types of plastic, paints and synthetic fabrics.

Therefore, DEET actually dissolves the clear, protective layer on your car’s headlights. This instantly removes any dirt and scratches that may have accumulated there, but the effects won’t last.

Immediately after using bug spray as a headlight cleaner, you may notice that your lights now have a ‘tacky’ feel and are slightly sticky to the touch. This is because their protective coating has been removed – but it won’t stop your headlights from becoming damaged again. After as little as a few weeks, you will start to notice that cloudy layer building up again, so using bug spray on your headlights is by no means a long-term solution.

Another reason to avoid using bug spray on your headlights is that DEET can also damage the paint job on your car. If sprayed directly onto the headlights, stray droplets can land on the surrounding rubber border and paint. Even if you use a cloth to apply the spray, any residual product may run down from the headlights onto the paint and bumper below when it rains.

DEET is a solvent that can cause damage to paint, plastic and rubber on your car, all of which can be expensive and time-consuming to fix. Therefore, bug spray is far from being an ideal choice for cleaning your car’s headlights.

Is there any situation when bug spray is a good choice for cleaning your headlights?

Due to the potential damage bug spray can do to your car, this method is not recommended as a long-term solution for removing haze from headlights. However, it can be effective as a last resort. If your headlights need replacing anyway, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try to spruce them up using this home remedy. Just be sure to apply the spray with a cloth to avoid getting any on your car’s paint and wash the area thoroughly and repeatedly afterward to remove any residue.


When it comes to de-fogging your car’s headlights, there are several home remedies that are reported to do the job well. Many people swear by the effectiveness of DEET-containing bug sprays, as these can bring an instant shine to your headlights. It may seem like the easiest and most cost-effective way of restoring your headlights to their original clarity but be warned – the effects won’t last long! What’s more, using bug spray on your car’s headlights has the potential to cause unsightly damage to the paint underneath and around your lights.

To remove cloudiness from your headlights on a more permanent basis, consider trying toothpaste or baking soda as alternative home remedies, as these are less likely to damage your car.


DeDe Todd

Identify at the start of your article that there are pros AND cons to your solution. Consider starting with the potential downside of the effect of using bug spray on headlamps. Had I not read the entire article, I’d have done damage to my vehicle. Often readers get the first concept and move on. Clearly that wouldn’t be ideal in this case.


    Thanks for the tip, DeDe. We updated the article so it clearly states that it’s not really a good idea to clean your car’s headlights with bug spray.


Anybody know how to remove the tacky feel/damage of having used 40% deet bug spray? Only used once and after feeling the tacky/sticky feeling/seeing an area of marks not there before has me wondering what can be done to correct or save the plastic. Already used windex and then a soapy slightly wet cloth as well. Any other advice or tips?


    We suggest looking at the label to figure out what other ingredients the product has to determine which you might be dealing with, then looking up how to clean it specifically. Though, sticky things can often be cleaned with something oily.

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