When spring-cleaning rolls around, I work furiously. From the ceiling fan to the floor, everything is dusted, washed or gets sent out for cleaning. One bad habit I developed over the years was to simply buy all new lampshades, rather than clean the paper or fabric ones I had. A few years ago, that became economically impractical.
In the old days of my childhood, almost everyone had removable plastic covers on their lampshades. Every spring these were replaced as the elastic at the top and bottom tended to wear out.
How a lampshade is cleaned depends on what it’s made of. Paper, fabric, plastic, metal or glass are all cleaned differently.
Let’s look at the different types:
Any glass beads or removable trims should be taken off the lampshade first. If not removable, clean with caution. Antique lampshades should be professionally cleaned.
Always test a small area of the lampshade first for colorfastness, staining or to see if paint comes off. If it does, consider using a professional cleaner or replace the lampshade.
Ceiling fan lampshades, scone shades and some table lampshades are traditionally made of glass. Remove them and clean with soap and water. When dry, replace them in their appropriate fixtures.
Glass that is covered in delicate paints, faux metal foil or small raised glass figures should be taken to a professional.
Paper or parchment
To ¼-cup cold water, add at least two tablespoons of mild laundry soap. Beat the mixture with a whisk until foamy. Use the foam on a clean, soft cloth gently on the paper or parchment. The point is not to get the paper or parchment too wet.
Avoid the glued areas of the lampshade. Getting these wet will often cause the glue to fail.
First, determine the type of wood in the lampshade. If a leaflet or pamphlet came with the lamp, there will be recommendations for specific cleaners. If not, use a soft, damp cloth and mild soap made for cleaning wood. Don’t forget your test area first. If the finish is affected, consult a wood cleaning professional before going any further.
Various types of plastics make up lampshades. Instead of being painted, colored plastics are used in the manufacturing process. Clean these with mild soap and water with a soft, clean cloth.
Once the specific metal and finish are known, use the appropriate cleaner. Brass cleaners will not work on aluminum the same way. There are various “cleans-all-metals” products on the market; however, it is best to stay with specific cleaners.
If nothing else is available, plain soap and water followed by drying with a cloth will get the job done. Never allow metal to air dry; this can lead to staining, tarnish or rust.
Some fabric lampshades are affixed to the wire frames while others should be removed first. Wash by hand in the sink or bathtub with mild soap and water. Allow to air dry.
Once these simple rules were employed, my lampshades now last for years. With weekly dusting and a bath once or twice a year, they look almost new.