How to Clean All Types of Lampshades (Step-by-Step)

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In this guide, I’m going to show you how to clean lampshades the right way.

You’ll learn the best techniques for cleaning all types of lampshades, including:

  • Fabric (cotton, linen, polyester)
  • Silk
  • Paper
  • Plastic and glass

I also explain how to clean pleated lampshades without ruining the pleats.

So, if you’re ready to spruce up your home and restore your lampshades to their original condition, keep reading.

Cleaning lampshades

Use the links below to navigate the guide:


Before You Get Started

Before you start cleaning, you need to determine the material of your lampshade, and whether it’s glued or sewn to its frame.

Examine the shade and check for labels, or look up the model number and manufacturer online. If you can’t find any information, you’ll have to make a visual determination.

Most lampshades are made out of a fabric like cotton, linen, or polyester. If you’re cleaning one of these fabrics, the instructions are the same. Go to this section to learn how to clean these types of lampshades.

But if your lampshade has a smooth sheen, it might be silk, and silk lampshades require special care. If you’re cleaning silk lampshades, follow these instructions.

Glass and plastic lampshades are easy to identify, and easiest to clean. Learn how in this section.

Paper lampshades can be tricky to clean since they’re susceptible to ripping and moisture damage. I explain the best way to approach cleaning paper lampshades in this section.

Another factor to consider is whether the material is flat or pleated. I cover the nuances of cleaning pleated lampshades in this section.

Lastly, inspect your lampshade to determine if it has been glued or sewn onto the base/framing.

Lampshades that are sewn can handle more rigorous cleaning, but glued lampshades require more gentle care—the adhesive can weaken if it’s soaked in water or exposed to too much moisture.

Additionally, if the shade frame contains exposed metal, avoid submerging it for long periods to prevent rust.

How to Clean Fabric Lampshades

Fabric lampshade

Quality fabric lampshades made from materials, such as cotton, linen, canvas, damask, or polyester, tend to hold up well in terms of looks and style.

But, from time to time, you’ll need to clean them to keep them looking their best.

Tools and Materials

  • Lint roller
  • Static duster
  • Handheld vacuum with fabric attachment
  • Mild liquid laundry soap or baby shampoo
  • White, lint-free microfiber cloth
  • White absorbent cloth
  • Toothbrush
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar

Instructions

  1. Remove the lampshade from the lampstand and place it on a clean, flat surface.
  2. Gently remove excess dust using a static duster.
  3. For crevices or dust that is harder to dislodge, use a lint roller in an up and down motion to cover the surface area methodically. Alternatively, you can use a handheld vacuum cleaner with an attachment to handle fabric.
  4. If the lampshade is still dirty, fill your bathtub or a deep laundry washtub with lukewarm water and add a few drops of a mild laundry soap free of dyes and perfumes such as Dreft, Woolite, Seventh Generation Free & Clear, or Tide Free & Gentle.
  5. Place the fabric shade in the bath, allowing it to soak for a few minutes (do not soak the shade if the fabric is glued on, and use cold water instead). You may need to turn it a few times so that all sides have a chance to soak in the soapy water.
  6. Swish the shade around a bit and begin wiping it with a white, lint-free microfiber cloth (avoid using colored cloths to eliminate the possibility of color transfer).
  7. Wipe the shade from top to bottom along the grain of the fabric. 
  8. For stubborn stains, use a clean toothbrush to scrub the area gently.
  9. Drain the tub and then thoroughly rinse the lampshade in clean, lukewarm water.
  10. Blot the shade with an absorbent cloth or towel and set aside to dry completely before placing it back on the lampstand.

Tips for Cleaning Fabric Lampshades

Here are a few tips and variations to help guide you while cleaning fabric lampshades.

White Lampshades:

In step 4, add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water to help brighten the shade.

Don’t Forget the Interior:

Be sure to wipe down the inside of the shade as well to remove any dirt.

Don’t Overdo the Soap and Skip Bleach:

Just a few drops of detergent will do the trick. If you use too much, it will take longer to rinse out the bubbles from your lampshade. Refrain from using bleach as it may change the color of your shade.

How to Get Rid of Yellow Stains:

The yellowing of lampshades can happen over time from an accumulation of dust, dirt. Other factors like cigarette, candle, or incense smoke and air freshener sprays or mists can also lead to yellow stains and discoloration.

In this case, use a stain removing product such as Tide to Go or add an oxygenated cleaner such as OxiClean to the bath instead of mild detergent.

Use the paste with a clean toothbrush to gently scrub the stain.

Test for Colorfastness:

If you wish to use a stain-removing product, be sure to test a small area for colorfastness before proceeding.

How to Get Rid of Grease Stains:

Add a small amount of white vinegar (about ¼ cup) to the water in the bath to help break down grease.

Lint Roller Alternative:

Glide clear masking or packing tape along the lampshade from top to bottom, or repeatedly press it to the fabric. Replace with a new piece of tape once the sticky side is filled with dust or lint.

Static Duster Alternative:

If you don’t have a static duster, use a new makeup brush or a clean paintbrush. Give the brushes a static charge by rubbing the bristles back and forth quickly.

For Glued on Fabric:

Don’t soak a glued lampshade in the bath. Instead, wash and rinse it gently with cold water.

Protect the Fabric:

Once your lampshade is clean, use a fabric protector spray like Scotchgard, especially if it’s in an area that puts it at risk of being sprayed with liquids or grease.

You can use dryer sheets to build a dust-repelling barrier by gently rubbing the sheet along the lampshade from top to bottom. It’s important to use white dryer sheets for this task to avoid any risk of color transfer to fabric, and as always, test a small area first.

Go Easy on the Vacuum:

Avoid using regular-sized vacuums. The suction power could ruin the fabric or separate it from the shade’s frame. Use a handheld vacuum sparingly.

How to Clean Silk Lampshades

Silk lampshade

Silk lampshades require delicate care, but that doesn’t mean you can’t clean them thoroughly.

The key to cleaning silk lampshades without damaging the material is to handle them gently like you would with any other delicate material.

Tools and Materials

  • Static duster
  • White, lint-free microfiber cloth
  • Mild, dye-free dish soap such as Ivory
  • Dry cleaning stick such as Janie Dry Cleaner in a Stick

Instructions

  1. Dust the lampshade thoroughly with a static duster or white microfiber cloth to remove excess dust and debris.
  2. Fill a tub or large bucket with lukewarm water with a few drops of mild dish detergent.
  3. Dip only the fabric sides of the lampshade in the soapy solution, swishing it around a bit in the water. Do not immerse it in water.
  4. Dip a clean white, microfiber cloth in the soapy water and begin wiping the sides from top to bottom to cover the entire surface.
  5. Drain the tub.
  6. Rinse gently with lukewarm water (don’t rinse the lampshade directly under the faucet). Instead, drizzle the water lightly over the shade with a small cup.
  7. Use a clean, dry white microfiber cloth to blot the lampshade and remove excess water.
  8. Set the lampshade in a well-ventilated area or near a fan to help it air dry before placing it back on the lamp.
  9. If stubborn stains remain, wait until the lampshade is completely dry, then treat it with a dry-cleaning stick. Alternatively, you can spot clean stains after dusting in step 2 (before applying water).

Tips for Cleaning Silk Lampshades

Here are a few tips and variations to keep in mind when cleaning silk lampshades.

When to Dry Clean

If your silk shade becomes yellow or stained, you may want to use the professional services of a dry-cleaner for the best results.

Dry Cleaning Sticks:

Dry cleaning sticks (like these on Amazon) may help remove tough stains. But before using one, make sure it’s safe for use on silk.

You may need to treat an area several times for the best result. These sticks are often designed to help get rid of grease as they use an absorbent material (usually clay) to soak up the stain.

Products to Avoid:

Refrain from using stain-fighting products unless they are proven safe for use with silk, and, even then, test a small area first to see how it behaves.

Never use bleach to clean silk lampshades.

Skip the Lint Roller and Vacuum:

Avoid dusting with lint rollers and vacuums because they pull too hard on the delicate silk fabric.

For Glued on Fabric:

Do not submerge glued silk lampshades in water. Wash and rinse the shade gently and use cold water instead of lukewarm.

Protect the Silk:

Use a product safe for silk (like Scotchgard) to protect your lampshade once it’s clean. Follow the directions for the best results.

How to Clean Paper Lampshades

Paper lampshades

Cleaning paper or parchment lampshades only takes a few steps, but the key is to avoid using water completely.

Water will damage the paper and break down the adhesive used to keep the shade together.

You need to be extra gentle when cleaning paper lampshades. Otherwise, you’ll tear the paper and ruin your shade.

Tools and Materials

  • Static duster
  • White, lint-free microfiber cloth
  • Gum eraser

Instructions

  1. Turn off the lamp. Once the lampshade has cooled, take it off of the base.
  2. Put on plastic, rubber, or fabric gloves to avoid any transfer of oils on your hands to the paper’s surface.
  3. Gently dust the shade with a static duster or wipe it down with a microfiber cloth.
  4. For stains or stuck-on insects, gently rub a white or art gum eraser on the affected area (don’t use a colored eraser).
  5. Replace lampshade on its base.

Tips for Cleaning Paper Lampshades

Here are a few tips and variations to help guide you on cleaning paper lampshades.

Handling Tough Stains or Stuck on Insects:

If a gum eraser doesn’t do the trick, try using a powder, such as baking soda or cornstarch, to absorb the grease. Let it sit directly on the stain overnight and then brush off in the morning.

For really stubborn stains, try using a dry cleaning sponge.

Be Careful with Water:

Water can easily ruin a paper lampshade. But, if it’s extremely soiled or stained, wipe it with a dampened cloth or sponge that you’ve wrung out well.

Avoid Colored Erasers:

Certain erasers can transfer color to your paper shade, so you need to use the right type. The best options are white gum or art erasers, which you can find at fabric or craft stores (and on Amazon).

Use a Slice of White Bread to Absorb Grease:

A fresh slice of white bread can draw out grease from a paper shade. Hold the bread against the grease stain and gently rotate it.

How to Clean Glass and Plastic Lampshades

Glass lampshade

Glass and plastic lampshades are the easiest types of shades to clean for several reasons:

  • They’re not as delicate as fabric or paper.
  • Water won’t cause any damage.
  • You don’t need any special tools or materials.

Lamps with glass and plastic lampshades are often one piece (you can’t remove the shade). If that’s the case with yours, unplug the lamp and make sure it’s completely cool before you start cleaning.  

Tools and Materials

  • Static duster
  • White, lint-free microfiber cloth
  • Mild laundry detergent or dishwashing liquid (such as Dreft or Ivory)

Instructions

  1. Turn off the lamp and allow it to cool before removing the shade (if the shade will not detach, unplug the lamp and make sure it’s cool before attempting to clean).
  2. Use a static duster or microfiber cloth to remove any dust or dirt gently.
  3. For detachable shades, prepare a bath of lukewarm water, using a few drops of a mild detergent.
  4. If the shade is heavily soiled, you can soak it for a few minutes before washing. If the shade frame is made from exposed metal or has metal parts, avoid submerging for extended periods to prevent rust.
  5. Use a microfiber cloth to wash the shade from top to bottom.
  6. Drain the tub and refill with clean, lukewarm water.
  7. Use a small cup to dip into the clean water and rinse the shade. Repeat the process until you rinse all the soap residue.
  8. Blot dry with a microfiber cloth and set on a clean, flat surface to dry.
  9. Buff out streaks with a microfiber cloth once it is dry.

Tips for Cleaning Glass and Plastic Lampshades

Here are a few tips and variations to help guide you on how to clean lampshades made from plastic or glass.

Use Glass Cleaner on Glass Shades:

Skip the bath and try using glass cleaner (such as Windex or dye-free Seventh Generation) after a gentle dusting. Handling glass too much can increase the risk of cracking, so only soak it in water if necessary.

Try Using a Damp Towel or Sponge:

No time for a bath? Simply dampen a clean towel and wipe down the lampshade.

Cleaning a Stained-Glass Lampshape:

The best way to clean a stained-glass lampshade is to dust it with a microfiber cloth, then wipe it with a cloth dampened with a few drops of lemon oil.

Lemon oil is designed for polishing wood, but it works great on stained glass because it cleans while preventing the solder (the metal holding the glass pieces together) from oxidizing. It’s widely available and very inexpensive on Amazon.

How to Clean Pleated Lampshades

Pleated lampshade

In this section, I address the best ways to clean pleated lampshades without damaging the pleats.

Tools and Materials

  • Static duster
  • White, lint-free microfiber cloth
  • Clean makeup brush or paintbrush
  • Mild laundry detergent or dish soap

Instructions

  1. Remove the lampshade from the base and place it on a clean, flat surface.
  2. Use a static duster or microfiber cloth to dust the shade, maneuvering carefully between the pleats.
  3. Use a clean makeup or paintbrush to dust between the pleats.
  4. If the lampshade requires additional cleaning, and the material is suitable for a bath, such as fabric, silk, or plastic, please refer to my instructions in the previous sections (Go back: Fabric, Silk, Glass and Plastic).
  5. If the material is not suitable for a bath, such as paper, but still has stains, please refer to the section on cleaning paper lampshades for helpful tips.
  6. Blot any excess water from the shade and thoroughly dry it before placing it back on the lampstand.

Tips for Cleaning Pleated Lampshades

Below are a couple of tips to keep in mind when cleaning pleated lampshades.

A Gentle Hand is Best:

Go slowly and carefully when cleaning between pleats. Rushing increases the chances of ripping or flattening the pleats. Avoid using a vacuum cleaner as the suction power could damage and deform the pleats.

Don’t Skip the Interior:

Be sure to wipe down or dust the inner part of the shade to remove any accumulated dirt.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to clean all types of lampshades, it’s time to get to work.

As you go about your cleaning, keep these tips in mind:

  • Determine the lampshade material and whether it’s glued or sewn to the frame.
  • Remove the lampshade and make sure it’s cool before cleaning.
  • Don’t soak lampshades that are glued to the frame.
  • Skip bleach and harsh chemicals.
  • Don’t soak delicate materials like silk and paper.
  • Be careful when using a vacuum. Make sure the shade can handle the suction power.
  • After cleaning a fabric lampshade, spray it with Scotchgard to prevent future stains.

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