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" What is the best way to clean headlight reflectors that will take out any light dirt and finger prints? " First you might do O.K. with simply cleaning with varying amounts of alcohol in water , with a small amount of dish detergent . You may rub gently with clean fingers. This way you can control the pressure and protect the delicate reflective surface. If you must burnish to deal with a tarnished reflector , I have been told by a very credible Old Timer that nothing beats lampblack and kerosene. I have not tried it myself , but I have cleaned lots of precision optics ( both reflective and transmissive ) , over almost 60 years , and it makes sense to me . I would think your fingers will serve you well here also. You want to be as gentle as you can be sufficient to get the job done. Some silvered first surface mirrors in astronomical telescopes could be burnished with the finest flour of jewelers rouge on damp chamois. Perhaps a gentle touch with a chamois would help with the lampblack/kerosene. Easy does it . Carl
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If they are silvered reflectors, wouldn't silver polish work well? The important thing is to use something non-abrasive. One of the polishes that I really like is Never-Dull, it's cotton wadding soaked in some type of polish, works very nicely...

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" wouldn't silver polish work well? The important thing is to use something non-abrasive "

Hi , David and 35cz8 : IMH ( but not totally inexperienced ) O , it is precisely an abrasive which would would serve to "best" clean light dirt and fingerprints. Hard abrasives such as carbon in lampblack , or a wide variety of metallic oxides (e.g. jewelers rouge), can either grind or polish , even at the same grit size . The polishing function will depend on the lap of choice. In this case a rag , chamois , moistened newspaper , or your fingers may be the ideal lap . Almost 60 years ago when I first dabbled in optical fabrication ( grinding and polishing ) , I came across the phenomenon of the "BEILBY LAYER" . You will certainly enjoy Googling it up if you have never heard of this . Now I have been warned against chemical polishes for certain electroplated surfaces . For example I have been warned not to use chrome polish on my nickel plate. Some chrome Polish is acidic , and will accelerate deterioration of the nickel , which is softer and more porous than chrome. Porosity .................................................... STAND BY. ...................................... THE PHANTOM CYBER MUNCHER HAS STRUCK AGAIN !!!! The above is all that was auto-saved from a very well edited and proofed soliloquy about 3 or 4 times the size . Pushed submit , and the finished product is gone. Very little upsets me as much as losing one of my long creations. It eloquently went on and referenced precipitated and vacuum deposited reflective surfaces. It mentioned the uses of such abrasives such as cerium oxide , lead trioxide and titanium dioxide. But , anyway my mind is reeling. I have a policy of not re-writing stolen compositions. So the bottom line is : Try the lampblack/kerosene trick. It was recommended by one of the greatest "Old Bulls" that our hobby has the pleasure of cherishing. Though not a master of anything , I have enough experience to recognize the potential merits of this technique . Give it a try , and let us know how you make out. If my friend says this is the " best " way to polish headlight reflectors , I would discourage anyone from second guessing him. We young 'uns in our 60s and 70s ( and still younger yet as the case hopefully may be ) , are lucky to have him still sharp and active among us. I better get this off before I risk putting yet more time into potential cyber munch fodder ! Also this prolonged thumb tapping is causing painful tendinitis. You wonderful fellow old car guys and gals are well worth a bit of pain. Thanks to all of you out there. -Carl

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Just go here....

If you don't mind shipping your reflectors, I'd recommend Uvira in Oregon:

Uvira, Inc.

310 Pleasant Valley Rd.

Merlin, OR 97532

Telephone: +1.541.956.6880

Fax: +1.541.476.9096

email: uvira@terragon.com

They put a glass coated aluminum surface on that is almost as good as silver and will not tarnish with age.

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Uh , I should have mentioned the obvious. The polishing compound suggested here , along with the finest Jewelers rouge has a very tiny grit size . Even far coarser grit such as 1200 on the right lap in certain circumstances upon some substrates can produce a level of polish . Again , reference "BEILBY LAYER" . I am specifically NOT suggesting anything anywhere near that coarse for the soft silvered surface of headlight reflectors. -Carl

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Very interesting , keiser31 ! That sounds like evaporative vaccum aluminization with fused silica overcoating.This is very common in production of some reflective optics. Astronomical research telescopes generally do not overcoat , as the process induces circular polarization . They just have to periodically re-aluminize. Good to know this precision process is available to our hobby. You are quite right in that for all practical purposes the reflectivity is indistinguishable . Silver simply reflects over a slightly wider spectral range. It would take a spectrophotometer to measure the small difference. No one could possibly notice a difference in headlight usage. However , if it does get dirty , remember these coatings are extremely thin . Any burnishing here will damage and ultimately degrade performance. If necessary , the alcohol in water with a drop of dish detergent is the way to go. Very , very gentle cleaning , as I say , with clean fingers is what many telescope tinkerers do periodically. Thank you very much for the Uvira source . -Carl

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If you ever consider having the reflectors replated, give some thought to plating with Rhodium. It's refective properties are close to silver and it doesn't tarnish.

Great ! So I assume this is done by standard electroplating , right ? -Carl

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Correct, by electroplating. Back in the 60s and 70s when a lot more folks toured in cars of the teens and 20s, rhodium plating received a lot of comment, but I haven't heard much talk of it lately - perhaps it's just been forgotten. Rhodium is a member of the platinum family of metals and somewhat common in high end jewelry.

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Great info from all, thank you. Keiser31, that sounds like about the best approach - depending on the cost. What I have are two NOS reflectors that have a slight dullness to them and a few small smudge marks (look like fingerprint marks). I might be better off to just clean them up a bit with a damp, soft cloth and dry them before installing them.

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