How to clean a lampshade

Some things look fine — better even — with a little patina on them. Lampshades aren’t one of them. Dusty or stained lampshades look dingy and sad. Yet they’re not something we spend much time thinking about. (Once you do start noticing your lampshades, though, you’ll want to know how to keep them clean!) Read on to find out how to clean a lampshade, no matter what it’s made of.

Routine cleaning

To keep lampshades from getting too dirty, it’s a good idea to regularly dust them. (If you’ve been skipping this on your routine room cleanings, it’ll only take a minute more to add this task!) For regular maintenance of your lampshades, you’ll need one of these:

  • soft clean cloth
  • soft brush
  • vacuum cleaner attachment (If you like, you can put a sock over the attachment to protect any delicate trim, such as fringe.)
  • lint roller
  • feather duster 

Whatever tool you’ve chosen, simply work from the top of the shade to the bottom to remove the dust. 

For a pleated lampshade, gently work up and down the pleats, until they’re dust-free. 

BTW, this is a good time to give the (cool) lightbulb a swipe, too! It quickly collects dust  — and then won’t  shine as brightly!

A round, white lampshade on top of a wooden lamp

Can I wash a dirty lampshade?

It depends on what your lampshade is made of. Of course, if your shade is glass or ceramic, you can just carefully remove it, wash it (in the sink or tub) with mild soap and warm water, rinse, dry and replace. In fact, you can even put most glass or ceramic shades in the dishwasher, if you like, though I don’t find that necessary. A good washing in the sink always does the job for me.

It’s those fabric shades that get tricky. But you can wash most fabric lampshades, too, as long as they don’t have especially delicate fabric or trimmings or glued seams. 

Seams are either glued or sewn together. If yours is sewn, you’ll see the stitches. If your shade has a glued seam, it’s not a good idea to get it very wet or it may come undone. For fabric shades with glued seams, use the directions for paper or parchment lampshades below.

To wash a cloth lampshade that does not have a glued seam:

  • Place the shade in a clean sink or tub with warm, sudsy water. (A mild dishwashing soap is perfect for the job. Don’t use too much soap, or it’ll be hard to rinse out!) 
  • Turn the shade until all sections are wet.
  • Use a clean, wet, soapy cloth to wipe all areas of the shade, working from top to bottom. 
  • Remove the shade and place it on a clean towel.
  • Drain and refill sink or tub with clean, warm rinse water. 
  • Place the shade back in the water and turn and swish it until the soap is removed. Repeat if necessary with another round of clean water. (You can also use a sprayer nozzle to rinse the shade, as long as the water flow is gentle. Don’t power wash your shade!)
  • Shake the shade to remove excess water, and place it on the clean towel to dry completely before replacing on the lamp. You can dry the shade outdoors, out of sunlight (so it doesn’t fade), or you can set it near a fan or run a cool hairdryer over it to speed things up, if you like. 
lampshades hanging on a line


  • If your shade is badly stained, you may want to soak it in the soapy water for about 10 minutes. Don’t soak for long periods, though, or you can deteriorate the shade.
  • If your shade is yellowed, include a little baking soda in the soapy water to lighten it.
  • If your shade is made of silk, do not use water on it; it may stain. In fact, don’t vacuum it either, or you might pull the fibers. Simply brush the shade with a feather duster. 

How do I clean paper or parchment lampshades?

Of course, you can’t get these shades wet. But they can certainly get dirty! Here’s how to clean a paper or parchment lampshade:

Make sure your hands are spotless, or wear gloves (paper or parchment can easily pick up the oils from your hands and become stained). Remove the shade from the lamp. Then try one of these methods:

  • Brush with a soft brush, from top to bottom. Wipe your brush on a clean cloth between brushes. (Make sure the brush is soft or it may scratch your shade.)
  • Wipe the shade gently with a clean cloth.
  • Vacuum the shade with a vacuum cleaner attachment. 
  • Use an eraser to gently remove spots.

Note: When cleaning paper or parchment, be very careful not to use anything sharp. It’s very easy to tear the shade! 

Various antique lampshades

How do I clean my delicate lampshade?

If you have a vintage shade or a shade that has a lot of fine trim or delicate stitching on it, stick to gentle dustings with a feather duster. If it needs more than that, it’s a good idea to take it to an experienced dry cleaner. 

Ready to tackle your lampshades? Let us know how it goes! 

Oh, and take a look at Hannah Nun’s beautiful lampshades! 

You might also enjoy:

How to take care of a wood cutting board

How to take good care of scissors

Keeping a laundry hamper fresh

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