A few years ago, we posted an article on How To Polish Tarnished Headlights Using A Mother’s Powerball Mini. While this process is effective on headlights with minor blemishes, there are cases where a more intensive course of action is required. When headlight lenses are moderately to severely hazed, really only one method is truly effective and that is using automotive-grade sandpaper. This easy, inexpensive repair can restore the headlight lens and dramatically improve night driving safety. Below are the steps to perform this task along with an image slideshow.

While you may be hesitant to take to your headlights with sandpaper, don’t be concerned. The sandpaper used is of a very fine grit which will polish off the tarnished plastic, as well as smooth out minor dents and imperfections. The key throughout the sanding process is to constantly keep the headlight wet as you sand. This is a wet sanding process, so if you never let the work area dry out while you polish, all will be well.

While we are confident on the safety of this process, go through the following steps on a corner of your headlight first before performing this on the whole lens. All of the items needed are inexpensive and available at any auto parts store.

Items Needed

  • Automotive sandpaper sheets in 1000, 2000 and 3000 grit (this is the finest grit).
  • Masking tape for painting
  • A water spray bottle
  • Metal polish or headlight polish.
  • Meguiar’s PlastX Plastic Polish
  • Rags, polishing cloth or paper towels.


Step One
Soak the sandpaper sheets in a pail of water for 20 minutes as you prepare to start. They soak up the water and improve the wet sanding performance.

Step Two
Clean off headlight lens of any dirt, dead bugs or grit of any sort.

Step Three
Using painting masking tape, mask off surrounding painted and grill areas to prevent accidental damage.

Step Four
Spray the headlight with water and using the 1000 grit sandpaper, sand in a horizontal direction using a short, fast polishing motion with light to moderate pressure. After you have completed the headlight in a horizontal direction, start again in a vertical direction until you have covered the damaged area. Do not sand in a swirling motion. Again, keep the area wet at all times. Perform the sanding process with the 1000 grit paper until you are confident that you have removed most of the tarnished material.

Step Five
Wipe down the headlight lens and inspect your work. The lens will have a definite haze, so do not be alarmed by this. Start sanding with the 2000 grit sandpaper, again covering the lens in a complete horizontal direction and then crossing it in a vertical direction. Remember to spray the lens with water to prevent dry sanding while you work. Sand with the 2000 grit paper several times.

Step Six
Wipe down the lens and then start the wet sanding process with the 3000 grit paper. This fine sandpaper grit performs the final polishing. Do keep in mind the lens with still be hazed when you complete the sanding, but the headlight polish and final polishing with Meguiar’s PlastX will remove this.

Step Seven
Polish the lens with metal polish or headlight polish, we used Fix-It Headlight Polish from Walmart. Go through this step several times.

Step Eight
Complete the final polishing with several applications of Meguiar’s PlastX.

Bonus Tip
Meguiar’s PlastX is a very handy item to have around your shop and home. We have used it to reduce scratches on car radio displays and cordless phone displays. PlastX also revitalizes taillight lenses. It will even safely remove rust on shower surrounds. This is a high quality product that we have appreciated for many years.

Note: We do not sell any of the items listed in this article.