Minor scratches in windshields and vehicle windows can sometimes be fixed at home with basic supplies. (Here’s our opinion on DIY methods for glass repair). If your vehicle’s glass has shallow scratches, one of three products might help you remove or reduce the scratches. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to apply these products.
Step 1: Check the Depth
First, check the depth of the scratches with your fingernail. These do-it-yourself applications only work with minor scratches, which usually are too shallow to catch your nail. If you can feel the scratch as you run your fingernail over it, you’ll likely need to have a professional auto glass repair facility look at it. They have more advanced tools and compounds that can take care of deeper scratches and cracks.
Step 2: Gather Your Supplies
Assuming your vehicle’s scratches are shallow, you can get the supplies needed. You’ll want:
- glass cleaner
- soft cloths
- a spatula
- small bowls
- dry-erase marker or tape
- drill with rubber polishing wheel
(Some of these items, especially the later ones, are optional but make the repair work much easier.)
You’ll also need the scratch-repair product itself, of which there are three options:
- clear acrylic nail polish – which many people have but only works on the shallowest scratches
- cerium oxide – which is the best product for most minor scratches but few people have on hand
- baking soda and white toothpaste – which can work but often requires multiple applications
Acrylic scratch remover can be used instead of clear nail polish, but it does about as good a job and most people don’t already have scratch remover. Cerium oxide is a sealant and polish that’s used on glass, metal, and ceramic. It’s often called “jeweler’s rouge” and is relatively inexpensive for the amount that’s needed.
Step 3: Clean the Scratch
Before actually repairing the scratch, make sure no debris will interfere with the bond between the repair product and glass. Thoroughly clean the scratched area with the glass cleaner and a soft cloth. (There’s no reason to clean the entire glass at this point, as you’ll likely get fingerprints and some product on the glass while repairing the scratch.
Step 4: Mark the Scratched Area
As the repair progresses, it can become difficult to see where the glass was scratched. So you always know where you should be working, mark the scratched area. The easiest way to do this is by outlining the scratch with a dry-erase marker on the opposite (undamaged) side of the glass. Alternatively, you can place a piece of tape on the opposite side.
Step 5: Prepare the Repair Product
Now is the time to prepare the repair product you’re using. This will vary slightly depending on the product you’re using, and you can skip this step if you’re using an acrylic product.
For cerium oxide, use a spatula to mix the powder with water in a small bowl. Combine the two ingredients until they form a slurry that’s the consistency of Elmer’s Glue. Keep additional water on hand in case the slurry begins to dry out during the repair.
For baking soda and white toothpaste, use about 1 teaspoon of baking soda and a quarter of a standard toothpaste tube. Mix with water until a slurry is formed and the baking soda is no longer detectable. Keep all items on hand, as you’ll probably need to mix up more for additional applications.
Step 6: Apply the Repair Product
With the product ready, you can start repairing the scratch. The precise steps you should follow depend on what product you’re using. (Be sure to follow any included instructions that are available when using a repair-specific product.)
If using acrylic scratch remover or nail polish, fill the scratch in and wipe away any excess. The product should dry hard and clear, and there should be minimal buffing needed.
If using cerium oxide, fill the scratch in begin gently buffing it. The drill and rubber polishing wheel make buffing much easier. Continue filling in the scratch with more cerium oxide and buffing until the result is a clear and smooth repair. For best results, apply the cerium oxide to a cloth and then to the scratch. If the solution gets elsewhere on the glass, it can cause small scratches.
If using the homemade mixture, follow the instructions for cerium oxide. Be even gentler when buffing, though, and plan on going through many more applications.
Step 7: Clean the Window
Once the repair is fully made, wipe away any repair product that remains and clean the window. You can clean the entire window at this time. The result should be a clear glass without scratches in it.
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