How to clean a fabric lampshade

Some practical tips for keeping your fabric lampshades looking as good as new...

When teamed with the right base, wall light or pendant, fabric lampshades add colour, texture and style to a room – making a design statement and a lovely ambience. At Pooky, we do lampshades in a large range of different fabrics, from linen and cotton to denim, ikat and velvet. However, dust, dirt and animal hair can all build up over time. Here’s a complete guide on how to clean and maintain your fabric lampshade, and keep it looking gorgeous.

Cleaning a fabric lampshade: things to consider

Fabric lampshades look fabulous, but they can also accumulate dust, cobwebs, fingerprints and general debris. Some lampshades can also become yellowed over time. The good news is, there are some simple steps you can take to help get your fabric lampshade back to its former glory. However, it's important to take care when cleaning your fabric lampshade, to avoid introducing any staining or water marks, or otherwise damaging it. You should always handle the lampshade by its fitting, to avoid denting, marking, creasing or tearing it, and use the right methods and materials to clean it. Some fabric lampshades are stitched onto the base, while others are glued and so require extra care, and it's also important to be aware of any trims, beading or other ornaments. NB: For particularly delicate or valuable lampshades, such as embroidered, silk, heavily beaded shades, or antique or painted shades, we recommend that you consult a professional cleaner.

Wall light with eau-de-nil linen ikat shade


Removing excess dust and dirt from a fabric lampshade

Begin by unplugging the lamp and removing the lampshade from the lamp base (this usually involves unscrewing the bulb and then the cap). Remove as much surface dust and dirt as possible from the inside and outside of the shade. There are several methods you can use to do this:
  • A brush or microfibre cloth – using a gentle sweeping motion, wipe the lampshade with a microfibre cloth in sections, or alternatively brush it vertically from top to bottom with a soft clothes brush. For pleated lampshades, a make-up brush or paintbrush can help to get into those hard-to-reach areas.
  • A hairdryer – excess dust and hair can be removed from lampshade trims and fringes using a hair dryer set to full speed. Remember to use a cool setting, and hold the dryer 8-10 inches away from the shade to avoid damaging it.
  • A vacuum cleaner – if the fabric is robust, you can use a vacuum cleaner with the upholstery brush attachment, gently cleaning the shade with a light brushing movement from top to bottom. However, care should be taken – putting a stocking over the end of the attachment can help to protect delicate fringes. If your lampshade is pleated, vacuum gently along and down the pleats.
  • A sticky lint roller or masking tape – roll the lint roller lightly across the lampshade, or place the masking tape onto the fabric, making sure not to press too hard, and remove it gently, bringing the dirt and dust with it.

Removing light stains from a fabric lampshade

If your lampshade has light dirt marks or staining but is not robust enough to immerse in water, first remove any non-washable trim. Mix a bowl of cool water with some delicate fabric detergent and apply just the soap suds to the shade in sections using a microfibre cloth, turning the shade each time to ensure full coverage. Then gently rinse off the suds and wipe the lampshade dry. Note that spot-cleaning a fabric lampshade can sometimes cause a water mark or dye stains (or a particularly noticeable clean spot!) So cleaning the whole shade will help to ensure an even finish.

Removing stubborn dirt from a fabric lampshade

For more stubborn dirt, or if your fabric lampshade is heavily stained, for example with grubby hand prints or water marks, you made need to take tougher action. Put on some rubber gloves and fill a large, clean container (or a bathtub) with lukewarm water (cool water for glued fabric lampshades). The water should be deep enough to fully submerge your lampshade. Add in some delicate fabric cleaner and stir, to create suds. Now gently immerse the lampshade, holding it securely by the frame. Using a sponge or cloth, gently wipe the lampshade using an up and down movement. If required, use a soft brush to gently dab any problem areas (don't rub them, as this may cause the colour to run). For very difficult stains, you may need to soak the lampshade for a few minutes. Change the water as often as needed, until it eventually runs clear. Once the shade is clean, empty your tub a final time, refill it with clean water, and dip the lampshade in and out of the water to remove any excess soap.

Drying a fabric lampshade

Fabric lampshades can sometimes appear to stretch when they are washed. However, they will return to their original shape when fully dry. The key is to make sure that they dry out evenly. Gently shake the lampshade and pat it with a soft, clean towel to remove any excess moisture, then either hang it over the bath or stand it in a well-ventilated spot to air dry. If the weather is warm enough, you could dry your lampshade outside. However, make sure it's in a clean, secure area away from direct sunlight – or any unwanted intervention from pets or children! You can also use a hairdryer or a fan to help dry out your shade, but again care is needed. Use a cool setting and set the device 8-10 inches aware from the lampshade.

Reassembling your fabric lampshade

Once your lampshade is fully dry, you can reassemble everything. Don't forget to dust the lightbulb and lamp base (always making sure they are cool first!) If your lampshade has pleats or ruffles, check that they are in good shape and put any removable trims or ornaments back on the lampshade. Then put the shade back on the base and pop the bulb in, screw it all back together, plug in and... let there be light!
Trafalgar floor lamp with drum lampshade in peacock dupion silk


How to maintain your fabric lampshade

If you want your lampshade to stay shiny and beautiful, and avoid the build-up of heavy, unsightly stains (and the seasonal cleaning fiasco), it's best to keep on top of things. It's easy to do this as part of your regular cleaning routine. Simply switch off the lamp, make sure the bulb is cool, and wipe the lampshade with a microfibre cloth, a gentle brush or a sticky lint roller. Doing this regularly will help to keep your lampshade looking great, and ensure it makes the kind of statement you want it to! To read full details on how to keep your lovely Pooky products clean you can go here: Care Guide At Pooky make affordable designer lighting for beautiful rooms. You can view our range of lampshades here.