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How To Clean Solar Lights With Toothpaste Or Vinegar [Step-By-Step Guide]

Are your outdoor solar lights starting to accumulate a film of dirt, dust, and grime, but you're not sure how to clean them? Well, you've come to the right place. We've put together this step-by-step guide to teach you two ways to clean your solar lights.

Toothpaste method:

  1. Apply
  2. Buff

Vinegar method:

  1. Prepare the solution
  2. Wash the panels

You're probably wondering why you need to clean your solar lights. And are there other household cleaners you can use to clean the solar panels on your lights? Keep reading to learn all about cleaning solar lights and the best ways to do so.

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Cleaning Your Solar Lights

When dust and grime build up on the solar panels of outdoor lights, it can prevent them from absorbing as much energy from sunlight.

The debris on the panel blocks the light from reaching it and limits the amount of sunlight the device receives to convert to energy. When a solar light is dirty, it may seem dimmer than usual, or it may run out of power earlier than it normally would.  

Toothpaste Method

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Did you know that toothpaste can be used to clean more than just teeth? It's perfect for cleaning solar panels too. It has very fine grit in it that works to gently remove debris, buff, and polish. Just make sure you are using a paste and not a gel.

1. Apply

Start by applying a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to the solar panel, spreading it to cover the entire surface. Gently move your finger over the area in a circular motion to help scrub up any stubborn grime. 

2. Buff

Take a clean, dry microfiber washcloth and begin wiping the solar panel in a gentle circular motion to buff out the toothpaste. Continue to wipe and buff the panel until all the toothpaste is gone and the panel is clean and shiny. Make sure to pay special attention to the edges to make sure you get all the toothpaste off.

Colgate Baking Soda And Peroxide Toothpaste 

This two-pack of toothpaste is perfect to keep around the house for cleaning things like solar panels. The baking soda in this formula adds some extra grit to help clean surfaces gently. 

Click here to see this toothpaste on Amazon.

The Vinegar Method

Vinegar can work as a natural cleaning solution and does well at lifting off grease and grime because of its acidity. It even works to dissolve hard water buildup and mineral scale. To use it on solar panels, you'll want to mix it with water and a little bit of dish soap for a better clean.

1. Prepare The Solution

Combine a 1/4 cup of vinegar with 2 cups of water and a 1/2 teaspoon of dish detergent. Mix the solution well and then pour it into a spray bottle for easy use. If you don't have a spray bottle, you can mix it in a bucket or a large bowl and toss a washcloth in the solution to clean with.

2. Wash The Panel

Spray the solution onto the panel and use a washcloth to gently scrub up any debris. If you're using the bucket and washcloth method, make sure to wring it out so it isn't overly wet when you wash the panel.

The solution should help lift up any stuck-on debris and get the panels on your solar lights operating at top efficiency again.

Amazon Brand - Happy Belly White Vinegar

This vinegar is perfect for household cleaning and for solar panels. Each bottle contains 16 ounces, enough for multiple batches of cleaning solutions.

Click here to take a look at this vinegar on Amazon.

Are there Other Cleaning Solutions You Can Use On Solar Panels?

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Using a gentle dish detergent mixed with water on solar is another way to clean them up in a pinch, but it won't work as well as the other methods. The dish soap will lift a lot of the dirt and grime on the panel, but it won't do much for mineral buildup. The acidity in the vinegar helps lift mineral stains left by the rain.

How Do You Clean Cloudy Solar Panels?

If you've tried the methods detailed above and the solar panels on your lights still look cloudy, you can try applying a clear lacquer. Make sure you choose an option that doesn't contain UV blockers, which can prevent the sunlight from reaching the panel. Spray or paint-on options will both work well. 

Rust-Oleum Clear Gloss Spray

This clear spray lacquer is a great choice for refinishing the solar panels on your lights. It dries to the touch in 20 minutes to make quick work of your projects.

Click here to take a look at this spray on Amazon.

What Should You Not Do When Cleaning Solar Panels?

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Avoid using any rough detergents or tools when cleaning your solar panels. Things like scrub brushes, scrub pads, and coarse soaps like Soft Scrub should be avoided. Harsh chemicals like bleach and rubbing alcohol can also cause damage to your panels, so avoid chemical cleaners.

Do Solar Panels Work When They're Dirty?

While solar panels will still function if they're dirty, their efficiency drops significantly. One study found that cleaning your solar light panels can improve their efficiency by 50% after just a few weeks of outdoor exposure and dirt accumulation.

This can have a significant impact on the amount of time our solar lights stay on and how bright they are. 

How Do You Know If Your Solar Lights Are Going Bad?

If you've already cleaned your solar lights and given them a few days to soak up some sun but they still aren't performing to your expectations, then it may be time to replace them.

Most outdoor solar lights are expected to last three to four years on average, so if they're nearing the end of their life, it may be a good idea to consider new ones.

Can You Use Windex On Solar Panels?

Yes, Windex can be used to clean the solar panels on your outdoor lights. It's a great, quick solution when you're in a rush to get your panels cleaned up. It won't penetrate grime as well as the solutions we've previously mentioned, but it will help. 

Windex Original Formula Glass Cleaner

This two-pack of Windex is perfect for a weekend cleaning your outdoor solar lights. You can use it on the solar panels and the shades for an all-encompassing clean.

Click here to see this Windex on Amazon.

Why Are My Solar Lights So Dull?

If your solar lights are dull, try cleaning them using the methods we detailed above. After a good cleaning, if they're still not working properly check the weather. On cloudy and rainy days, they won't charge up very well. If they're three years old or older, they may be reaching the end of their usefulness completely.

How Do You Make Outdoor Solar Lights Brighter?

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If you want to make your solar lights brighter, make sure you also clean the shade that protects the bulb. If the shade is dirty, it will block the light from escaping, causing the light to appear dim. Clean the shade with the same solutions as the solar panels, or just wipe them down with a soapy washcloth.

How Do You Clean Corroded Batteries On Solar Lights?

If your solar light's battery compartment has some corrosion that is affecting performance, you may still be able to save it.

Start by putting on gloves to protect your skin from any possible battery acid then remove the battery from the compartment.

Use a cotton swab dipped in vinegar to gently clean the battery compartment and remove any corrosion from the area. Replace the battery with a fresh new one that matches the same specs as the old one. 

In Closing

Now that you know all about the best methods to clean the solar panels on your outdoor lights, you're ready to choose the method that's best for you and start your project.

Don't forget to be very gentle while cleaning your solar panels. Since they are fragile devices, avoid applying too much pressure. Good luck with your project, and enjoy your improved outdoor lighting!

For help with solar lights that aren't working properly, read our article My Solar Lights Are Not Working After Rain – Why? What To Do?

To learn more about maintaining your solar lights to extend their longevity, read our article Do You Leave Solar Lights On All The Time? Should You?