How to clean a vintage lamp shade

Keep your vintage shades looking their best with our guide on how to clean them

How to clean a vintage lamp shade

Whatever the material of your old light, safety is paramount. Never try out a newly acquired old lamp without having it tested by an electrician first. Old examples may not be earthed and original cloth-covered wires may have deteriorated. There are a wealth of flexes, sockets, shades and other fittings available through specialist outlets that replicate vintage models, and re-wiring may well be necessary.


Cleaning regularly is essential, and even old wrecks can be brought back to life with a little attention. Ceramic, glass and lacquer-coated brass can be cleaned with a soft cloth dipped in mild soap and water using cotton buds to clean incised, raised or moulded decoration. Cast-iron and steel rust and so should not be exposed to prolonged contact with water, while painted finishes can easily rub off, so always test a small area first.

How to clean a vintage lamp shade
Andreas von Einsiedel / Alamy Stock Photo

You will need:

  • Low-suction vacuum cleaner
  • Microfibre cloths
  • Clean, dry paintbrush
  • Warm water
  • Handwash laundry detergent
  • Soft towel
  • Hair dryer
  • Cotton buds

How to clean a vintage lamp shade:

  1. Begin by carefully removing the shade from the lamp.
  2. To remove dust from the shade, either vacuum with a low-suction cleaner, or brush firmly inside and out, working from the top of the shade down with a clean microfibre cloth or a dry paintbrush.
  3. If the shade still looks dirty, those made from cotton or synthetic fabric and that are stitched (not glued) to the wire frame, and glass shades that are not painted, can be gently washed in a bowl of warm soapy water, patted dry with a towel and then dried outside in the fresh air or with a hair dryer.
  4. Painted glass shades should be gently cleaned using a cotton bud to test the resilience of the decoration.
  5. Silk shades and embroidered and beaded shades are best left to a professional cleaner.
  6. Paper, parchment and plastic shades can be wiped gently inside and out using a soft cloth dipped into detergent foam, then wiped and dried with a clean, dry cloth.