Dust, dirt and fingerprints all ruin the look of an otherwise attractive lampshade. Unfortunately, the fabric can't be removed and tossed in a washing machine, and using a damp cloth to remove grime often makes the problem worse. In many cases, however, the entire shade can be cleaned with a vacuum, lint roller or mild detergent and water.
A vacuum with an upholstery attachment is a quick way to remove dust and surface dirt from a fabric shade. Move the wand in the direction of the grain of the fabric, using a slow gentle motion without pressure to avoid creating wrinkles or dents. Clean the attachment with mild detergent and water and let it dry completely prior to use if it is dusty or dirty so it doesn't spread dirt on to light-colored shades. Don't use a vacuum with an attachment on delicate fabrics that could snag.
A lint roller can also remove dust, pet hair, surface dirt, as well as any lint that may have been left behind in attempts to dust the shade with a cloth. Just as with vacuuming, roll the lint remover in the direction of the fabric grain, taking care not to apply too much pressure. It's helpful to follow the roller with your other hand on the inside of the shade to create a solid surface.
Spot cleaning a fabric shade can be dicey. Some fabrics clean up nicely and look like new, while others show water spots or patches of faded color. If the shade has a tag with cleaning instructions, check to see whether cleaning with water and detergent is advisable. Otherwise, test a small inconspicuous area, such as the inside of the bottom hem, before spot cleaning. Use a clean sponge or lint-free rag dipped in a mixture of lukewarm water and detergent made for delicate fabrics. Dust the shade prior to spot cleaning to minimize the chance of water spots.
A fabric lampshade that can be cleaned with water and mild detergent can be washed in a large plastic bin or the bathtub. Fill the tub or bin with water and add a mild detergent. Dunk the shade in the water, rotating it as necessary to clean the entire surface. Gently swish it back and forth or move it up and down to push the soapy water through the material. Remove the shade, fill the tub with clean water and dunk the shade again to rinse away the detergent. Let the shade air dry completely before putting it back on the lamp.
Antique, Valuable and Delicate Shades
Antique shades with aged material that may not hold up to washing, delicate fabrics like silk and shades that have value or would be difficult to replace if ruined, should not be washed in water. If a vacuum or lint roller is not enough to clean the shade, seek help from a professional who can dry clean it. Home carpet and upholstery cleaning services may clean shades as well.