Lampshades are a matter of taste and can be made in virtually any material – fabric, paper, parchment, plastic. The heat from light bulbs attracts dust, which could have a bearing on which shade to choose: fabric, for example, can get grimy very quickly and is very difficult to clean.
When choosing a new lampshade for a table lamp, a rule of thumb is that the width of the shade should be roughly the same as the length of the base. Fit a round base with a round shade and a square base with a square shade. A plain base can take an ornate shade and vice versa.
Once a month give light fitting, shade and bulb a good dust. Shades made from fabric or paper are almost impossible to wash or dry-clean. Vacuuming is preferable to dusting with a cloth. If you prefer dusting with a cloth, for the best results with bulbs use a microfiber cloth. Do it frequently, using the upholstery brush and a low suction. If there are fringes or tassels, cover the attachment with an old stocking to protect them. Hold the light steady but be careful not to get dirty finger marks on the shade.
Plastic shades are normally washable. Wipe with a damp cloth. Fabric shades present more of a problem. If a little more than vacuuming is needed, try a chemically treated dry sponge. These have names like ‘magic sponge’ and are made of a specially treated rubber that feels slightly sticky and picks up dirt on non-washable materials.
Cleaning a really filthy fabric shades. Fill a sink with enough lukewarm water and a small amount of washing-up liquid to take the whole shade (if the sink is not big enough, use the bath). Immerse the entire shade in water.
Using a soft brush, gently scrub the shade, starting at a side seam. Clean the outside, then the lining, then rinse in clean lukewarm water, again immersing the shade. Dry immediately with a towel, then put the shade on another towel and dry completely using a hairdryer.
Kitchen and bathroom light fittings get very dirty and greasy. Recessed halogen fittings do not present too much of a problem, but other types will need regular cleaning. Turn off the electricity, dismantle the fitting and wash the shade in hot, soapy water.
Fashionable and beautiful, chandeliers give instant glamour to a room. The drops are normally of glass or crystal and sparkle beguilingly in the light. New chandeliers can cost a fortune, as can valuable antique ones, but it is possible to pick them up at auctions for very reasonable prices. If doing this, it is imperative to get the chandelier checked by an electrician before installing it. It is generally safer to get it rewired.
Huge antique chandeliers need specialist cleaning. Find a cleaner in your area or ask in a local antiques shop. If you do have to take one down, lay thick material under the lamp and get someone to help you – it can be a tricky, difficult job.
Smaller chandeliers can be cleaned in situ. Turn off the electricity. Spread newspaper underneath the chandelier to protect the floor below it. Spray the chandeliers with a specialist cleaner (available from lighting shops and hardware stores), following instructions. Allow it to dry naturally or help it along a bit with the hairdryer.