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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Bleaching Lamp Shades

By Dr. Laundry December 4, 2008

Q. I have noticed some mildew on an off-white lamp shade. How do I remove it?

A. Mildew loves to grow in damp and warm places, and needs to be removed from your immediate environment.

This one is a little difficult to answer without some more information. The approach will depend on the severity of the problem and the composition and condition of the lamp shade. A bleach solution is the best method for removing the mildew, but if the lampshade is made of fabric or old, it may not be able to handle the bleach solution application. I have had older lampshades disintegrate when I tried to dust them so applying any solution to a portion of the shade may discolor it or cause it to fall apart.

At a minimum, you can:

  • Test a “hidden” area to see how it may react to a detergent or bleach solution. Mix a diluted detergent solution (use a clear liquid dishwasher detergent) and dab a drop in an interior area. Wait 2–3 minutes, then rinse with clear water and let it dry. Observe the impact of the detergent solution to determine if it is safe to use on the mildew area. You can then do the quick Bleachability Test (2 tsp. Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in 1/4 cup water; apply a drop on a hidden area like inside seam; wait 1 minute and then blot with towel); no color change, etc., means it is safe to use bleach on the item.
  • If the lampshade is able to handle either solution, carefully remove any surface mildew using a detergent solution with a sponge or cloth. Rinse with water, then use the bleach solution (3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 per gallon of warm water), if it passed the Bleachability Test, with the same technique mentioned above. You may need another application if the problem is severe. Also open, ventilate the area where you are working as this will promote drying and evacuate any bothersome fumes.