How to Clean Tiffany-Style Lamp Shades

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When the soft glow of color spills through the stained glass of a genuine or reproduction Tiffany lamp, your home is infused with a rainbow of light. Dust, dirt and grime can dim that light, so the intricate mosaic of your Tiffany-style lampshade will need regular cleaning. Use the right products for each type of lampshade, and each location, to banish grease, gritty pollution and the fine powder of settled dust that covers the colored glass pieces.

Rose-Colored Glasses

Tiffany lamps and Tiffany clones are made with several different types of glass, and not all of it gets cleaned the same way. Opaque, art glass or jadestone are best cleaned with a lemon-oil-based furniture polish. Art glass is an ornamental treatment, developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries, with distinctive surface textures and pigment-shaded colors. Jadestone is a silicate mineral, metamorphic rock that has a cloudy, typically green appearance. Opaque glass -- or slag glass -- is a lusterless, slightly translucent pressed glass that is colored and often swirled, and it may emit a milky glow when lit from within. To clean these three types of glass in a mosaic Tiffany-style lamp, dampen a clean soft cloth with the polish and gently rub it over the glass. Wipe again with a clean dry cloth. The furniture polish restores the shine to the glass but won't damage the paint in a finish or the cames and solder, the metal pieces and fused metal alloy that hold the glass in place.

Window Washing

Clear glass, even brilliantly colored, gets cleaned just like your windows. The color is mixed right into the molten glass, so a regular glass cleaner won't fade or harm the pieces set in the lampshade. But the cleaner is for the glass only, so spray it on a cloth and wipe the shade, giving yourself maximum control. Use a cleanser that contains vinegar, ammonia or any acid-based cleaner, and you risk destroying the cames and solder. Clean Tiffany glass can't show off its colors in your lamp when it's fallen out and is lying on the floor.

Sparkle the Kitchen

In the kitchen, your Tiffany-style lamp adds character and attracts greasy film. This is a job for the tough guys. Work carefully to wipe off all the surfaces of the shade, inside and out, with an all-purpose de-greasing cleaner. Use the "dampen cloth, wipe glass" method to avoid soaking the soldered metal parts, preserve the integrity of the framing metal, and keep the lampshade in one piece. You'll need to clean the metal parts, too, so hunt for a cleaner with some heft but no vinegar, ammonia or acid ingredients. Blue Dawn is a powerful degreaser without harsh ingredients, but your favorite household cleaner may be just fine -- read the label to see what's in the solution. Once the grease is gone, go over the cleaned areas with a cloth dipped in plain water and wrung out. Then dry the piece with a soft, lint-free towel.

Non-Glass Lampshades

Fabric lampshades, or mica, a clear, green, amber, or red iron-oxide mineral separated into flakes and combined with a binding agent to form moldable sheets, get "dry-cleaned." Mica's binding agent is often shellac, a resinous secretion of the lac beetle that dries hard and clear but is vulnerable to some chemicals that may break it down. Frequently dust fabric or mica shades with a feather duster. Vacuum the shades on low speed to pull out more dust. Wipe a fabric shade with a clean dry cloth for stubborn surface soiling. Don't use regular cleaners on mica; a clean damp cloth should safely remove dust and dirt.

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