The Best Way to Clean Light Fixtures

It’s spring cleaning time again!

While cleaning light fixtures may not be at the top of your to-do list, it’s one of those simple tasks that can really brighten up your home. Accumulated dust, dead bugs, and other grime cloud light bulbs, coverings and fixtures, diminishing light flow. Knowing the best way to clean light fixtures without breaking or damaging them is essential to a brightly lit home.

You may want to clean all of the lights in your house in one fell swoop, or maybe you’ll want to tackle one room or one type of fixture at a time. Once you’ve chosen a battle plan, you just need some basic supplies and a little elbow grease to get your shine back.

Supplies for Cleaning Light Fixtures

Before starting, determine your needs and gather all the necessary supplies. Suggested supplies include:

  • Extendable, electrostatic duster
  • Step ladder
  • Microfiber cloths (these are best because they don’t leave lint behind)
  • Spray cleaning solution (a mixture of 3 parts water to 1 part white vinegar; or mild window cleaner)
  • Dish pan
  • Mild dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Lint roller or vacuum with upholstery attachment for fabric lamp shades

Steps to Clean Basic Light Fixtures

  1. Turn off all lights that you plan to clean, and allow at least 30 minutes for bulbs to completely cool. Before touching light bulbs, place your hand near the bulb to see if it’s still emitting heat.
  2. Using an electrostatic duster or microfiber cloth, gently sweep or wipe bulbs, covers, and fixtures to remove surface dust.
  3. Fill a dish pan or a sink with warm water and a small amount of mild dish soap.
  4. Remove globes or light covers (most are held in by clips or thumb screws) by using one hand to securely grasp the globe while using your other hand to unclamp or unscrew. Be sure to maintain a firm grip as you remove the last screw or clip! Dump any loose debris in the trash.
  5. Soak globes/covers in soapy water for 5-10 minutes. While they are soaking, unscrew light bulbs and gently wipe with cleaning solution and cloth. Allow to dry before replacing into fixtures.

Note: Avoid applying too much pressure when unscrewing light bulbs. If bulbs are screwed in tightly, wear a textured work glove to provide more friction and protect your hand if it breaks.

  1. Dampen a microfiber cloth with cleaner and wipe fixtures, including toggles or switches. Avoid spraying solution directly on the fixtures.
  2. Use a cloth to gently scrub any remaining grime from globes/covers, then rinse with fresh water and carefully towel dry with microfiber cloth before replacing.

How to Clean Recessed Lights or Flush-Mounted Ceiling Lights

The rims that hold the light covers of flush-mounted lights attach directly to the ceiling. Remove covers, soak briefly, wash, rinse, and dry. Gently wipe bulbs and fixtures with a damp cloth. Allow everything to dry thoroughly before replacing. Learning how to remove stuck dome light fixtures may be a challenge. It’s important to exert counter-clockwise rotational pressure without pushing upward at the same time. To get a better grip, you may want to wear latex or textured work gloves.

To clean recessed/can lights, remove and wipe bulbs with a damp cloth and let them dry before replacing. While bulbs are out, wipe interior and exterior of canisters with dampened cloth and allow to dry.

Cleaning Brass Fixtures

Cleaning antique light fixtures can be tricky. They are often made of brass or finished with brass plating, so they may become tarnished over time. Use a soft cloth and hot, soapy water to remove dirt, then gently wipe it dry with a towel. For stubborn tarnish, follow up with a metal cleaner or polish. Or, try these home remedies to remove tarnish without damaging the finish. They both use the power of natural acids to remove tarnish from brass.

Home Remedy 1: Cleaning Antique Light Fixtures

  • Apply a thin layer of tomato sauce or ketchup to the brass, and let it sit for an hour.
  • Rub the sauce off with a soft cloth.
  • Wash again with warm, soapy water.
  • Wipe it dry with a clean cloth.

Home Remedy 2: Cleaning Antique Light Fixtures

  • Cut a lemon in half and remove the seeds.
  • Sprinkle table salt on the cut surface of the lemon and gently rub all over the brass.
  • Let the fixture sit for a few moments, then buff with dry cloth.
  • Apply linseed or mineral oil for extra protection and shine.

Cleaning Chandeliers and Ornate Light Fixtures

Don’t let the elegance and aesthetic appeal of your chandelier fade over time. To clean an intricate light fixture, pay close attention (a take a few photos from different angles) before removing any parts for cleaning.

  • For frosted or etched glass light covers, use an extra gentle touch. (If possible, review manufacturer instructions before cleaning.) It is generally safe to wash frosted or etched glass in warm, soapy water. Follow the same steps as you would for plain glass. Use a mild glass cleaner or a 3:1 water and vinegar solution to gently wipe the glass clean with a microfiber cloth.
  • Polychrome glass, or glass that has painted-on designs or attached decals, should not be soaked. Use cotton swabs soaked in diluted cleaner to gently scour around decals or painted designs, and gently wipe remaining surfaces with a damp cloth.

Finishing Touches

Now that you know the best way to clean light fixtures, focus on a few final touches. Dust ceiling fan blades and housings before replacing cleaned globes and light bulbs. Wipe down lamp bases and lamp shade rims with a damp cloth. Remove lamp shades and gently dust them with a damp microfiber cloth. Beaded shades can be vacuumed or wiped down with a damp cloth. Use a lint roller or vacuum to clean fabric shades.

 

 

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