How to Clean Light Fixtures, Mirrors & Fans

Published By: Shades Of Light

Date Published:

Last Updated: September 27, 2022

Miracle cleaning eraser for lamp shades

When you consider tidying up your home, cleaning your light fixtures probably isn’t the very first task that comes to mind. In fact, amid all the daily and weekly chores that require your attention, it’s easy to forget that your lights need a little love too!

If it’s been a while since your chandeliers, pendants, ceiling fans, lamps, and mirrors had some TLC, you might find your fixtures are due for a deep clean. But since not all fixtures are made of the same materials, how to clean each fixture may be a little less than obvious. That’s why we’ve compiled all our favorite fixture cleaning tips—organized by material, finish, and fixture type—into one handy cleaning guide. With a little know-how, a few homemade cleaners, and some elbow grease, you’ll have those dingy fixtures looking like new in no time!

Cleaning Tips for Fixtures by Material and Finish

Before we dig into exactly cleaning techniques for specific light fixtures in your home, determining more general techniques for the material and finish of your fixture will help narrow down what methods are safe for your light. Glass, metal, crystal, and wood all require different cleaning considerations, and the type of metal you have can further impact your choices.

Cleaning Tips by Material

1. Wood: If your fixture is made of wood, dusting with a lint-free cloth will usually be all that’s needed to have it looking like new again. Stubborn spots can be scrubbed with a soft, damp cloth and dried immediately.

Nash Layered Chandelier

2. Metal: For metal chandeliers, the type of metal the fixture is made of will determine what cleaning solutions are safe to use on the fixture. Most lights will have plated finishes that may be damaged by the use of chemical cleaners or polishing agents. For stubborn build-up or greasy kitchen light fixtures, a cloth dipped in warm water with a mild dish detergent should do the trick—be sure to dry the fixture immediately. Avoid abrasive cleaners, glass cleaners, and metal polishes.

Bon Air Chandelier

3. Glass and Crystal: Most crystal accents and glass globes or shades can be cleaned with warm soapy water, or with a simple crystal cleaning solution of one part rubbing alcohol to three or four parts distilled water. The exceptions are glass shades that have some sort of finish applied, like mercury glass—these pieces should only ever be gently dusted with a dry cloth to protect the finish. Always clean glass shades by hand—most will be too delicate for the high temperatures and heavy water flow in your dishwasher.

Mercury Glass Geodesic Dome Pendant

4. Fabric: Lint rollers and dusters are typically all it takes to refresh your fabric fixtures. Use cotton gloves to dust and polish any metal pieces—you can use your fingers to carefully clean only the metallic parts without wetting fabric shades and accents.

Axel Chandelier

5. Acrylic: Acrylic diffusers, beads, or shades can become cloudy, scratched, or damaged if you clean them the same way you clean your glass decor items. Use warm soapy water and a soft cloth to keep these items in tiptop shape.

Acrylic Quatrefoil Lantern

6. Porcelain and Ceramic: Fixtures made from porcelain and ceramic, like table lamps, pendants, or decorative items, can also be cleaned with a soft cloth and warm, soapy water. If the ceramic is porous or unglazed, use a lightly damp cloth and then immediately dry the item.

Rustic Terracotta Pendant

Cleaning Tips by Finish

1. Gold/Silver leaf — These finishes can be extremely delicate and just like mercury glass, they should only ever be cleaned with a soft, dry cloth.

2. Wrought iron — Warm soapy water is your best bet with wrought iron. Just be sure to dry your fixture immediately—allowing moisture to evaporate from the item is a surefire way to encourage rust and oxidation.

3. Chrome — Our old friends, warm soapy water and microfiber cloths should be the first tools you reach for when polishing up chrome fixtures. For stubborn spots (or toothpaste or soap scum, if you’re tackling more than just your bathroom vanity light), one part distilled white vinegar to one part distilled water applied with a spray bottle should loosen up any grime so you can easily rinse and wipe it away with your soft cloth. Finally, dry everything right away.

4. Brass - For most brass (or gold) fixtures, sticking with simple soap and water is still the best practice—even solid brass fixtures may be sealed with a lacquered finish that can be damaged by the wrong cleaning solution.

Halia Chandelier

Halia’s hand-applied brass finish should only be gently dusted with a soft cloth or soft bristle brush—cotton gloves work too, and may give you added dexterity while maneuvering around the delicate strings. Use a duster or lint roller to very carefully clean the fabric body of this fixture.

How to Clean Chandeliers and Ornate Light Fixtures

Chandeliers and lanterns are probably the most elaborate light fixtures in your home. That can make the idea of cleaning them more intimidating than most chores, especially if you have a crystal chandelier—all those strings of crystal make perfect hiding places for dust and built-up grime. The best way to keep the task of deep cleaning your chandelier quick and easy is to dust it often—a little attention on a regular basis makes more thorough cleanings a much simpler ordeal.

If it’s been a while since your fixture had some TLC, or if it’s mounted in a kitchen or bathroom where airborne grease or higher humidity can cause dust and debris to accumulate on the fixture, there are two general ways to go about making your chandelier sparkle again.

Step 1: Make a cleaning and re-assembly plan — Set yourself up for success with a little forward thinking—take pictures of the chandelier before you begin the cleaning process. If you are dealing with strings of crystals or beads, you may have to disassemble pieces of your chandelier to properly clean them. In that case, it’s important to have photos (or sketches or diagrams, if you’re artistically inclined) to look back on as you reassemble the fixture.

Step 2: Take safety steps to protect you and your home — Lay down thick towels under your workspace to catch drips and to cushion the fall in case any of those crystals slip through your fingers. Turn off the light (and if possible cut the electricity to the fixture) and carefully cover cool bulbs and sockets with plastic. Use rubber bands or painter’s tape to secure the plastic in place—just make sure not to stick the tape to the actual frame of the fixture which might damage the finish.

Step 3: Create your cleaning solution — For crystal or glass chandeliers, mix up a spray bottle with one part rubbing alcohol and three or four parts distilled water (make sure it’s distilled! Tap or spring water contains trace amounts of minerals that can leave spots on crystal and glass). If your chandelier is not too heavily soiled, you may be able to clean it without disassembling anything at all. In that case, spray your crystal heavily with the water/alcohol solution, and keep on spraying until the water running off your crystal is clear—that’s why you laid down towels! Alternatively, you can spray the solution on a lint-free cloth or white cotton gloves and gently clean each crystal individually. Be sure to wear gloves so you don’t leave any fingerprints behind.

Crystal Ball Wedding Cake Lantern

The dangling crystals and metal finish of this chandelier make the ‘Drip Method’ a safe technique for cleaning—just be sure not to let any moisture near the sockets, and dry the metal parts immediately with a soft cloth.

If your fixture is particularly soiled, if an intricate design makes certain areas of the fixture hard to reach, or if the frame of the fixture has a delicate finish, carefully disassemble those crystal or bead strings and glass globes—we suggest working in sections to keep everything tidy and organized. Once disassembled, you can clean the crystal with the water/alcohol solution, dust each piece with a soft cloth, or wash them carefully in a bowl of warm, soapy water. Then, clean the frame using the best technique for your finish.

Sophisticated Sophie Chandelier

The gorgeous, hand-applied gold-leaf finish on our Sophisticated Sophie chandelier can be damaged by moisture. It’s safer to carefully remove each string of beads and clean them separately—then dust the frame with a soft, dry cloth.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to move your ladder around the fixture as you work, rather than twisting the fixture toward you, which can risk loosening the light from the ceiling.

Cleaning Ceiling Lights and Hanging Pendant Lights

After tackling your chandeliers, cleaning your hanging pendant lights and ceiling lights will be a breeze! If the pendant has a removable shade, carefully remove it, and clean it with warm soapy water, the above water/alcohol solution, or a dry, lint-free cloth depending on how heavily soiled the shade is and what material it is made of. You should be able to dust the canopy and downrod without disassembling the fixture—remember to only use a dry, non-abrasive cloth on crackle, painted, wood, or gold- or silver-leaf finishes.

Ceiling lights are much the same. Carefully remove the shade and empty any debris into a trash can; then, you can clean the shade and the body of the fixture using the best method for your material and finish.

Sea Swell Pendant

The shade of this pendant can be removed and cleaned with soapy water, vinegar and water, or alcohol and water since the glass doesn’t have a special finish.

How to Clean Lamp Shades

Cleaning your lamp will hopefully be a fairly simple endeavor, compared to your chandelier or ceiling lights—after all, you probably don’t need a ladder to dust your lamp! Light, regular dustings will typically be all it takes to keep your lamps sparkling, but if your fixture needs some more concentrated attention, clean it using the finish and material recommendations above.

Lampshade cleaning can be performed with microfiber cloths, lint rollers, or the upholstery attachment on your vacuum. Be gentle, and if needed, support the opposite side of the shade with your free hand to prevent dents and creases. Compressed air, or a makeup brush or paintbrush, can be used to remove dust from between pleats.

Methods for Cleaning Mirrors & Other Dusty Items

Many of the same supplies used in cleaning light fixtures—lint-free cloths, water mixed with gentle dish soap, and white vinegar diluted in distilled water—can be used to keep other areas of your home neat and tidy too. Learn some of the best cleaning and dusting methods for mirrors, ceiling fans, and framed wall decor.

How to Clean Mirrors

Cleaning your mirrors may seem like a simple chore on the surface, but if you’ve ever struggled with streaky or dusty mirrors, you know there is a right and a wrong way to complete this task. Luckily, the same tips, tricks, and supplies we use for lights can be applied to your mirrors too! The best glass cleaners for mirrors can luckily be mixed up right in your own home. Microfiber cloths (or newspaper), vinegar, and rubbing alcohol are the heroes of this story, so once you’ve tidied your fixtures, take that spray bottle of vinegar and water (one part distilled white vinegar to three or four parts distilled water!) and head to the bathroom.

To clean mirrors without streaks, take a moment to wipe up any fingerprints or toothpaste splatters with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol before you start spritzing. Pre-treating these spots will keep you from fighting streaks later. Next, apply a light mist to the whole mirror. Avoid drenching the surface, however; drips are messy, and water collecting in the corners of the mirror frame can potentially damage the mirror itself.

Finally, use a thin, dry, flat-weave microfiber cloth to wipe in zigzags from the top of the mirror to the bottom. The mirror cleaning cloth you choose is important— thicker cloths will usually leave lint or dust behind, as will paper towels.

How to Clean a Ceiling Fan

Like your crystal chandelier, your ceiling fan will benefit from regular dusting. Unlike your chandelier, those large flat blades are perfect gathering places for a lot of accumulated dust, dust that can occasionally go flying if you turn your fan on after a long period of inactivity, or change the motor to the reverse setting between seasons.

Luckily, cleaning your fan isn’t nearly as involved as cleaning your chandelier. Simply dust each blade individually. You can use a moist rag to cut through stuck-on debris. Compressed air can help blast dust out of all the little nooks and crannies around the body of the fixture. Carefully remove any glass shades, and clean according to the above suggestions—warm, soapy water or a solution of three or four parts distilled water to one part distilled white vinegar or rubbing alcohol for clear glass, or glass without any type of surface finish, and a soft, dry cloth for glass with a finish.

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