Dust and debris stand no chance with these easy lampshade cleaning tricks.
Dust and debris stand no chance with these easy lampshade cleaning tricks.Illustration: Julia Abbonizio/Getty Images
AD It Yourself

How to Clean Lampshades in Less Than 10 Minutes

Plus, why you should use a hair dryer—not a lint roller—to banish dust

A coating of dust and pet hair can dull even the most stunning lamp. So how to clean lampshades without damaging them? If you’re splurging on a living room lighting, a bedside lamp, or a statement shade, you want it to last. “Cleaning lampshades is a delicate job that most homeowners do not think about until [lampshades] are covered with dust,” says Shoshanna Shapiro, owner and principal designer at Sho and Co. in Frederick, Maryland. Whether you’ve got a fabric lampshade, a paper lampshade, a parchment lampshade, or any other type of lampshade, AD has the tips to keep them looking good as new.

Cleaning lampshades is easier than you think, especially if you approach the process as you would maintaining delicate upholstery. The thing to remember before you deep clean is that not all lampshades are created equal, and it is vital to understand the lampshade material you’re working with before reaching for a spray bottle full of bleach or white vinegar.

Luckily, we’ve got experts chiming in with their best DIY tips on how to clean lampshades (like using a soft brush to wipe away dust in less than a minute!). Read on for more bright ideas.

What is the best way to clean lampshades?

Handmade fabric lampshades by Blanche Field.

Photo: Stuart Tyson

“To maintain quality and prevent damage, all lampshades—whether they be glass, fabric, rattan, or wicker—should be dusted with a microfiber cloth or feather duster at least once a week,” advises Ben Marshall, creative director at Hudson Valley Lighting Group. For the best result, unplug the lamp fixture, and then remove the shade and the light bulb during each cleaning.

Should your lampshade have stains, a toothbrush or a soft brush can come to the rescue. Simply wet it with warm soapy water and gently tackle the trouble spot on the fabric lampshade. For a glass lampshade (like those cute mushroom lamps), use a dry microfiber cloth to buff away fingerprints and other smudges.

How do you clean dusty fabric lampshades?

Get into the pleats!

Photo: Wirestock

Shapiro is a fan of electric dusters. An alternative to canned air, a plug-in duster provides a steady stream of powerful air that can easily blast dust out of nooks and crannies. This makes it an ideal choice for pleated lampshades and for those with embellishments like tassels or a beaded design. If you’re not ready to invest in an electric duster just yet, a microfiber cloth, a vacuum cleaner (with a soft brush attachment), and a feather duster will all work well according to experts. Be sure that you’re cleaning lampshades gently, so you don’t risk denting or otherwise compromising the shade. 

For stubborn dust, Shapiro likes a rubber shade sponge, made specifically for cleaning lampshades. Likewise, a lampshade cleaning brush (or a new paint brush, if you have one in your DIY caddy) will also work in a pinch.

If cleaning lampshades is something that you need to do quickly, say before company arrives, skip the lint roller—tempting as it may be to run it on the surface. Using one can easily dent the shade. Shapiro suggest using a microfiber duster, a can of air, or even a hair dryer instead.

Can you wash fabric lamp shades?

Yes, many fabric shades can be given a deep clean, but keep in mind you need to have a gentle hand. For fabric lampshades (including linen or silk lampshades), Lisa Simkin of Blanche Field—which has handcrafted shades for the likes of Chanel, Bergdorf Goodman, and Peter Marino—suggests the following:

Step 1:

Use a feather duster, microfiber cloth, or vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt.

Step 2:

Mix a teaspoon of very gentle laundry detergent, dish soap, or Ivory soap with clean water in a tub or sink. Holding the shade by its metal frame, submerge it in the soapy water (“like washing a baby!” Simkin says).

Step 3:

Rinse the shade gently with warm water and place it on a flat surface to air dry.

How do you clean a dirty white lampshade?

For any noticeable stains that remain, Simkin suggests a dry cleaning stick (like Janie) to spot-clean. Steer clear of bleach, glass cleaner, and other harsh cleaning products because they can leave streaks. They may dry out the lamp shade or leave residue behind. 

A dirty white shade stained with spots or yellow discoloration may benefit from a cleaning solution of one tablespoon of baking soda and a dash of warm water. Leave the paste-like formula to soak for up to 15 minutes. Rinse with clean water and air dry. (Be careful, do not use this method if the shade has any glue or paper.) For a paper shade, Simkin and Shapiro both recommend reaching for an old-fashioned gum eraser to gently rub out any spots.

How do you clean lamp shades made from other materials?

A duster with a microfiber cloth is perfect for a perforated lampshade.

Photo: GrapeImages

When cleaning any lampshade, you’ll always want to start by dusting with a microfiber cloth. And for many shades that may be enough, especially if you’re using a shade sponge. Dusting is all you should do if you have a shade made from a material that shouldn’t get wet like leather, wicker, grasscloth, or the like. Sometimes all you need is a hair dryer. Set it on a low cool setting and blow in the direction of the shade, holding it at least eight inches apart. Just be careful if you have ornate embellishments, like dangly gems or tassel trim

If dirt persists, think about the material of the shade and the type of dirt you’re removing. Sturdier shades made from brass and metal may benefit from cleaning with a damp cloth with soapy water. Non-fabric shades that have accumulated grease in the kitchen can often be cleaned with a damp cloth with a bit of white vinegar. Never use glass cleaner on glass lampshades as it is sure to streak.

How often do you need to clean lampshades?

Location matters, when it comes to caring for lampshades. “Bathroom shades that are exposed to humidity are prone to dust accumulation that will set in on the shades overtime, and should be cleaned about once a year,” Shapiro says. “While kitchen fixtures are exposed to grease and may also need to be taken down and cleaned more frequently.”

“Maintenance is your best line of defense,” Shapiro urges. She also notes that a weekly dusting can go a long way in keeping dust and buildup from accumulating so you may never really have to deep clean them at all.

How do you know when it’s time to replace or restore a lampshade?

A wicker lampshade can last for decades, if you take care of it.

Photo: Wirestock

When properly cared for, lampshades can last for years. And Shapiro notes that in her experience, most people usually want to replace the lamp before the shade. But if you love a fixture, here are three signs that it’s time to retire the lampshade:

  • The shade has signs of discoloration, and cleaning is not fixing the issue.
  • The glue used to hold the shade together has yellowed and is showing through.
  • The lining gives out. “You can have a shade relined without changing the exterior,” Simkin says.