Caring for soft fabric shades
People are often put off having soft fabric lamp shades and opt for an easy to clean hard backed shade. This is such a shame as this greatly limits the choice of colours and lighting effects available for your table lamp or floor standard lamp. Caring for your fabric lamp shade is a relatively easy process.
Here I will outline the best way to keep your fabric shades looking as good as they possibly can for a long time to come.
- Once a week, using a small upholstery nozzle on your vacuum cleaner, lightly vacuum the lampshade. Even a light feather duster each week will stop any dust from permanently settling onto your shade. A regular dusting will prevent the shade from becoming stained.
- If your lampshade has pleats in it, a soft, dry, artists’ paintbrush can be used to get into those hard to reach places.
- A hairdryer switched to a gentle setting can blow away any dust that has stubbornly remained on the surface.
- Be careful when cleaning the lampshade not to be too rough or stretch the fabric, this will ensure it keeps its shape and does not sag.
- A regular dusting using the above methods will keep your fabric shade, as it was the day you bought it, for many years.
Often a lamp shade will get overlooked or forgotten when the duster comes out. Sometimes the dust can mount and at this stage a vacuum could in fact streak the dust into the shade. When a fabric shade is at this point soap and water is the only answer, quite a daunting thought if the shade is expensive and has sentimental value. Will you ruin the shade? Will it loose its shape? Do I have to buy a new one?
Following the guidelines below your lampshade will be restored to its original glory.
- Fill a bathtub with enough cool water to fully cover the shade when it is on its side. Never use hot water; this can cause shrinkage and colour to run. Add a very small solution of diluted mild detergent.
- If your shade has a print or patter it is advisable to test a small area, which will not be noticeable, should any colour begin to run. It should also be noted at this time that deep and dark colours have a strong tendency to run and that a bathtub method should not be used. For this type of shade please refer to the instructions in the next paragraph.
- Once you are happy that your shade is suitable for a bath, gently submerse the shade on its side and let the water saturate into the material. Do not rub or attempt to scrub the shade, let the water seep in and gently rotate the shade so that the water will lift any residue.
- Keep rotating the shade until all sides of the lampshade have been saturated. If the water gets very dirty, give the shade a second wash using the exact methods above in fresh water.
- Rinse the shade again in cold water to remove the soap using the same sequence.
- Drain the bath and leave the shade in an upright position to drain for half an hour.
- Lift the shade and position it on a clean surface. Re position any braiding will may have sagged or become misshaped.
- The aid of a hairdryer can speed the drying process, especially if the shade has braiding or tassels. The hairdryer should be kept to a low setting and should be held at a sensible distance from the shade.
Lamp shades with dark colours and patterns
Sometimes a water bath will not be suitable for some shades and careful thought should be given before taking the plunge. Certain shades may be glued to the frame and because the fabric becomes heavy when water logged it could cause fraying from the frame. The same goes for fabrics that have deep colour that may run. A spot wash is the only answer for this.
With a bowl of cool water and a diluted solution of mild detergent spot clean your fabric shade with a well wrung out damp cloth, that will not shed any fluff. Please note the cloth has to only be damp and not dripping. Dab the shade concentrating one colour at a time and be sure not to saturate the shade so that it holds any water, as this will cause the dye to run into another colour. It is almost like painting and waiting for the last colour to dry before you start on the rest. A hair dryer will speed up the waiting process.
With careful thought your lampshade will be as clean and as spectacular as it was on the day you bought it lasting for many, many years. Please be aware that the above methods of cleaning your lampshade will not work on every shade and careful thought should go into cleaning them.