Ask the Lighting Expert: How to Clean and Care for Light Fixtures

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So, you’ve found the perfect light fixture and you’ve installed it in your home.

Showing a sconce with intricate beaded detail. Visual Comfort CHD2551 Oslo Large Sconce in Burnished Silver Leaf with Clear Glass

Now what?

Here’s a roundup of our best care and cleaning tips to keep your fixture looking its best year after year. (Note: if your fixture came with cleaning instructions from the manufacturer, follow those instead. These are general tips in case your fixture didn’t come with any care and maintenance instructions.)

In general, the “secret” to keeping your lights shining bright is regular cleaning. By “regular,” we mean at least a couple times a year, if you can manage it.


Why should you regularly clean your light fixtures?

Regular cleaning keeps dust and debris from building up, ensuring you can clean with a gentle hand (and it can make the chore go a little more quickly as well). Regular cleaning is also especially important in rooms like kitchens (think cooking grease and steam in the air) and bathrooms (think high humidity).

What about safety?

Always practice safety first. Before beginning any maintenance or cleaning, make sure the light fixture is off. If it’s a permanently installed fixture, turn the circuit breaker off (not just the light switch). This is always the safest bet to ensure no electricity is flowing. If it’s a table or floor lamp, make sure it’s unplugged.


How should you clean fabric lampshades?

To remove dust from a lampshade, try a microfiber cloth or lint roller first. If that’s not successful, carefully use a vacuum cleaner with an upholstery attachment to remove stubborn dust or dust caught in the folds of a pleated shade.

To spot-clean fabric shades, dampen a soft cloth with diluted liquid soap and carefully wipe the shade down. Then, follow up with a cloth dampened only in water to help rinse the soap out of the fabric.

  • Pro tip: Make sure your shade is fabric and not paper before cleaning it with a damp cloth. As we all know, water and paper do not mix well. You should clean paper shades using dry methods only.


Showing a lamp with a fabric shade. Visual Comfort Bracelet Table Lamp by Barry Goralnick in Gilded Iron with Linen Shade.


How should you clean glass lampshades?

The best way to clean a glass shade is with a soft, dry cloth (microfiber works well here). Be gentle, especially with shades that are textured or have a painted finish. These can come off if you clean too vigorously.

If a dry cloth isn’t getting the job done, dilute some liquid soap with plenty of water and dampen the cloth with it. Wipe the glass down with a cloth dipped in clean water afterwards to rinse off the cleaning solution.

  • Pro tip: Be wary of glass cleaners! The chemicals can damage glass with painted or textured finishes.


Showing a two sink vanity with a bath sconce over each mirror. Murray Feiss VS23703 Monterro Collecion 3 Light Vanity in Chrome.


How should you clean and care for metal components on light fixtures?

A soft dry cloth or a cloth dampened with a mild solution of liquid soap and water works best for cleaning metal components (notice a theme here?).

Beware that many fixtures have been lacquered to protect the metal finish over time, so you want to be as gentle as possible to avoid removing the lacquer or damaging it. In general, avoid metal cleaners and chemical cleaners as they can damage the finish or strip a fixture of its lacquer.


Close up of a lamp with metal detailing. Hudson Valley Burton L605 floor lamp.


How should you clean crystal light fixtures, like chandeliers?

For regular maintenance, carefully dust a crystal fixture with a feather duster. For a more thorough cleaning that will restore crystal to its original shine, do the following:

  • Carefully remove each crystal from the fixture.
  • Wash the crystals in a solution of water and liquid soap.
  • Rinse and dry the crystals completely to avoid any water spotting.

Important note: Avoid spray cleaners or other cleaners marketed as crystal cleaners. These can damage the metal finish on your chandelier over time.

  • Pro tip #1: Some crystal manufacturers supply trim diagrams that show exactly where each crystal goes on the fixture so you can easily return the crystals to their original location after cleaning. If you don’t have a diagram handy, take plenty of pictures with your phone as you dismantle the fixture to avoid later frustration.
  • Pro tip #2: Before you begin to clean a crystal fixture, place a soft blanket or towel underneath it. This protects any crystals from chipping or cracking if they fall while you’re cleaning.


Showing the sparkle of a crystal chandelier after cleaning. Schonbek's FE7206 Filigrae close to ceiling chandelier in Antique Silver.


Do you have other questions regarding how to clean light fixtures? Leave them in the comments below. Or stop by our lighting showroom in Waltham and ask one of our lighting experts. We’re always happy to help!

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