How To Clean an Old Dingy White Lampshade

Tips for Cleaning Old White Lampshades

Sometimes the best DIY projects are the ones that aren’t started from scratch. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fresh new project. However, there’s something extra fun and special about taking something old and undesirable and giving it new life!

If you just look around your house, you can probably see lots of things you can do this with. My most recent project was an old white lampshade. It was dirty and dingy and I was sick of looking at it. Before I could give it a new design, it desperately needed to be cleaned!

How to clean an old dingy white lampshade? This is a simple process, but it can so easily be overlooked. If you have an old lampshade that needs cleaning then read on to learn how I cleaned mine!

  1. Make sure your lampshade is cleanable! Test the fabric of the lampshade before you attempt to clean it.
  2. Pre-treat your lampshade. If you have a particularly dirty or especially stained lampshade, I would recommend pre-treating it first.
  3. Clean your lampshade. The best way to clean fabric is using warm water (and you can add in some dish soap if you like) in the bathtub!
  4. If necessary, use stronger cleaning solutions for particularly tough stains and marks.
  5. Let the lampshade dry completely before placing it back on the lamp.

Before throwing out your old white lampshade, try this first! You would be surprised at what a difference it makes! After it’s cleaned, you can go a step further and paint it or other fun DIY things. Let’s discuss in more detail how to clean it first then I will share more fun tips!

Testing The Material

Everyone knows that before we try to deep clean anything, it’s best to test the material first. If you are cleaning a lampshade, check the tag to make sure it can be cleaned in the water! If your lampshade is very old or if it doesn’t have a label at all, there’s no harm in testing it!

Simply spray some water on the surface of the shade. Preferably in a spot that is usually hidden from view. If anything changes color or starts bubbling, then the material is not able to be cleaned.

Most modern lampshades are made of plastic, paper, metal, or fabric. These materials are usually fine to clean. Some vintage lampshades, however, are made of silk or other delicate fabrics. If your lampshade is made of silk, it will be labeled as such. If you are unsure, test the material first!

Something else to consider before cleaning an old white lampshade is how badly stained it is. Sometimes a little dirt and grime can just be wiped away with a soft cloth. However, if your lampshade needs a deeper clean, you may need to also pre-treat it.

Pre-Treating Stains & Marks

After you have tested the fabric and find that it can be washed, then decide if you need to pre-treat it. If you know your lampshade has stains or marks that are not able to be removed with regular water and soap, then pre-treat it! There are various solutions you can create to use for this purpose.

A combination of dish soap and water is a great way to pre-treat stains! You can simply dilute dish soap in a spray bottle with warm water, shake it up, and then spray the solution on the spots.

Another option for a homemade stain remover is to use hydrogen peroxide. Dilute the hydrogen peroxide with water, place it in a spray bottle, and then spray down the spots. If the lampshade is very dirty, you may need to repeat this step.

Time To Clean Your Lampshade

Now that your lampshade has been tested as being able to be cleaned in water and you have pre-treated the stains, it’s time to get down to cleaning it!

  • In a bathtub, tub, or large container of some sort (I used the kitchen sink), add warm water. If you want to add dish soap then go ahead, but it’s not necessary.
  • You don’t need to add a ton of water either. Just enough to fully submerge the lampshade in is perfect!
  • Let it soak for around an hour or two (depending on the level of dirtiness).
  • After soaking, take your lampshade out and use a sponge to gently scrub away the dirt and stains. If you need, use a brush or even an old toothbrush.
  • Once your lampshade is clean and there are no visible marks or stains on it, rinse out the soap with warm water.
  • Let the lampshade dry completely before hanging it back on your lamp or putting it in place

For Tough Stains On Your Lampshade

If you have done all the steps above and still see some stains or discoloration-don’t worry! There is still hope. Another option is to let the lampshade soak in a mixture of 1/4 cup lemon juice and 3 cups warm water overnight.

You can also use vinegar, diluted dish soap, club soda, hydrogen peroxide (yes it can be used on fabric too), or hydrogen peroxide and dish soap mixture overnight. I wouldn’t recommend using chlorine bleach as it can cause discoloration and be too harsh on the material!

If you want an easier method, you can get buy a commercial cleaner from a hardware store. Just follow the directions on the bottle. Again, with any of these methods- test a small area first!

If you have done these steps and your shade is still dirty, unfortunately, there’s nothing more you can do. However, just because cleaning isn’t an option- there are some other things you can do to save the lampshade!

A New Lampshade

Sometimes a lampshade is just past the point of cleaning. And this can be a disappointment especially if you loved the classic white look. However, you can try and bring it to life by giving it a new look! Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Paint it white– keep the classic look you love with a fresh and bright base!
  • Re-wrap it with new fabric– go with white again or change it up!
  • Glitter– if you want to make a statement, cover the lampshade with fabric glue and then cover it with glitter!
  • Glue on paper– for a vintage feel, glue scraps of newspaper onto the shade. You can also do this with colorful paper or even washi tape.

Of course, these ideas are just a starting point. It comes down to what you have time for. Make it your own and fall in love with that lampshade again!

How Long Does It Take To Clean A Lampshade?

It depends on the condition of your lampshade and what you need to do to get it clean. Some spots may come off immediately, while other stains could take longer.

If you have tried cleaning a lampshade with warm water and dish soap and still aren’t having any luck – try another method. Also, for tough stains – soaking the lampshade overnight in a mixture of dish soap and water can help.

For me, it has taken anywhere from 10 minutes to 12 hours to clean an old dingy white lampshade. As far as drying time, it depends on the size of the lampshade. I have had small ones dry in just a few hours, but larger ones can take up to a day before they are completely dry.

Does Washing A Lampshade Make It Shrink?

Of course, a big concern to most of us when washing old things is the fear of them shrinking. However, the good news is that if you are using a safe and smart method, your lampshade will be just fine after it dries.

I have never had a lampshade shrink on me after washing. If you’re worried, you can always google the type of material and see if it is easily shrunk.

What Makes A White Lampshade Turn Dingy?

What is it about white things that discolor over time? Well, the truth is that it’s the same reason white clothes tend to be yellow over time. The sun! Even artificial light can discolor a lampshade over time if it isn’t protected.

And this is what turns them from their original color into a more off-white shade. There’s not a lot that can be done to prevent this. However, you can cover your lampshade with a sheet to help protect it, especially if it is in storage or not being used at the moment.

Can You Clean Colored Lampshades Too?

Of course, nothing is stopping you from cleaning a colored lampshade! However, it is a bit trickier since some fabrics will not tolerate strong cleaners. A great way to get around this is to use one of the methods above on your white lampshade and then add fabric paint or spray paint over top. This will give even, professional-looking results.

As with white lampshades, you will want to test a small area first. You don’t want the colored fabric to bleed or fade. However, you should know that sometimes soaking a colored lampshade in warm water, may cause some of the color to fade. So it may be best to gently use a damp cloth to clean it first.

In Conclusion

In summary, there are many reasons you may want to clean an old white lampshade! And it is not the scary task that some people make it out to be. Just be smart about how you do it and get ready for your lampshade to look brand new again. If you have further questions about cleaning your lampshade, contact a local professional for advice.

If cleaning doesn’t help, try repainting or re-wrapping it. You’ll get a whole new look out of your lampshade and can feel proud about the fact that you have saved something from going in the trash! Thanks for reading, good luck!