Spring Cleaning for your Bulbs

It’s May, and all things should be bright and beautiful, but are your lights letting you down?  Now that we are officially into spring, it is a great time to clean your bulbs, as you don't need them as much as in the dark winter, and you can incorporate it into other spring cleaning!

Cleaning your lights is not just purely aesthetic but can also help you regain the full output of your lights.  Only a few months of neglect can cause light output to fall by 20%, and so cleaning can save you electricity, as you might not need to put on multiple lights if the illumination is better, and you might want to dim the bulbs after seeing how bright the full illumination actually is.  Also, with bulbs having longer life spans, there's a lot of time they are collecting dust and grime.

How to clean a light bulb

  1. Decide whether or not it is easier to clean the bulb while it is still in the socket, or whether you're going to have to remove it.  This is dependant on the location of the bulb and how easy the bulb is to access.
  2. SWITCH OFF ALL THE LIGHTS- Yes, we know you already know this, but we cannot stress this enough.  Electricity can be really dangerous and the most important thing is safety.  To be extra safe, turn the lights off at the circuit breaker, or put tape over the switch so no one can switch on the lights while you're working.
  3. Wait until the bulbs are cool enough to touch before removing- this is especially important for old incandescent and halogen bulbs as these put 90% of their energy into generating heat.  Also if you are working with halogen bulbs, don't touch them with your bare fingers as the oils can cause the bulb to bust prematurely.  If you have to remove them, use a lint-free cloth to clasp the bulb.*
  4. Use a lint-free cloth to dust both the glass and metal parts of the bulb.  Avoid using water as this can get into the electric work and can short-circuit the bulb, and don't use cleaning sprays or liquids as these can damage the bulb
  5. You can now re-fit the bulb!

*Extra note on halogen bulbs= clean the glass with a lint-free cloth dipped in a small amount of rubbing alcohol, and dry before re-installing.

How to clean the fixtures 

Recessed Lighting=

  • You are probably going to need a ladder for this, so be very careful and ideally have someone there to help you while you clean these
  • Use tape to remove the bulb portion of the fixture.  Stick the middle of a 12inch piece of tape over a completely cool light bulb.  Fold the ends of the tape to make non-sticky handles and carefully unscrew the bulb.
  • Dust the inside of the casing and the bulb.  Use a duster to catch all the other dust and cobwebs.
  • Replace the light bulb using the tape and make sure it is fully secure

Lenses and Covers=

  • These can collect lots of dust and grime over the years, as well as a few bugs too, so cleaning them is a real priority
  • Remove the lens or cover from the holding
  • Sink it into clean soapy water and gently wash it clean
  • Dry with a lint-free cloth and make sure it is completely dry before replacing
  • Do not put these in a dishwasher.  It may seem like an easy solution, but the casings are actually very fragile and breakages can ruin both the cover and your dishwasher

Pendant Lights=

  • These often hang low enough to clean without a ladder
  • You can often use cleaning spray on the outside of pendant shades and clean them this way
  • Use a dry cloth to clean over the extension cord

Glass Chandeliers=

  • You should dust these on a regular basis anyway, especially in pollen season.  However once or twice a year, you should give them a thorough clean to make them shine
  • If you are going to take off any crystals to clean, take pictures of the chandelier beforehand so you know where they go afterwards!
  • Lay a towel on the floor for protection and easy cleaning afterwards
  • Dust over the fixture
  • Use a 50/50 mixture of water and vinegar in a spray bottle, and spritz over the crystals until they drip
  • Polish with a cloth until they are dry and shiny

How to clean a Lampshade

For Paper, Fabric and Silk= People recommend using lamb's wool cloths, as these are more likely to attract dirt and not leave the residue some other cloths do.  Alternatively using the brush attachment of a vacuum cleaner should work.

For Glass= dip carefully in a sink of soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and then leave to dry.  Only when it is fully dry should you reattach it to the fitting.

As with everything, please use common sense when dealing with any form of electricity or glass objects, and especially with fluorescents as these do contain a small amount of mercury which can be dangerous if not handled properly.  All light fixtures and fittings are different, and are fitted differently in different homes so the exact way you clean your bulbs may vary.

Further Resources:

Learn what to do if you break a fluorescent tube here:  

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