How To Clean Outdoor Light Fixtures?

outdoor lights

Outdoor lighting makes up to half of all lights installed in a home. In fact, studies even show homeowners reporting over one-third of their total energy costs on outdoor illumination. 

And this is for obvious reasons since not only do outdoor lights ensure nighttime safety, but they also enhance your property’s aesthetic appeal. 

However, despite all the utility and decor that they offer, exterior lighting also calls for frequent cleaning and maintenance. After all, you need to keep them in top shape to get the maximum illumination and curb appeal. 

So how to clean outdoor light fixtures? 

Well, read on as I’ve explained the entire exterior light cleaning procedure in detail, along with tips and tricks for safe maintenance. 

How to clean outdoor light fixtures from scratch? 

Simple as it looks, cleaning your outdoor light fixtures is a lot more complicated. And to add to the intricacy, every outdoor lighting module has its own prescribed cleaning procedure. 

Generally speaking, outdoor light cleaning involves a 7 step process. This includes turning the power off, removing the lamps, cleaning the fixtures with wet/damp sponge, polishing the fixtures, etc., to name a few. 

While it might seem a lengthy process to clean your fixtures, it is essential for a thorough cleaning. That’s because, from dust and dirt to bugs and debris to stains and more, a typical outdoor lamp has just about everything. 

But before we get into the general outdoor light cleaning procedure, let’s first have a look at the essential cleaning tools that you should have handy. 

What tools do you need for exterior light cleaning? 

Having the right tools at your disposal is key to a complete cleansing of outdoor lights. Thankfully, you don’t need any specialized tools for light cleaning. 

In fact, a lot of cleaning essentials might already be there in your garage or basement. Also, you can source them very easily from your local general store or professional services like Calibre Cleaning

For instance, at the very basic, you’ll need liquid soap and a piece of soft cloth to clean light fixtures. And these cleaning materials are commonplace in almost every household. 

Now, I am sure you’re curious about what you need to clean the fixtures. So, here’s a full list of required items or tools: 

  1. A ladder (preferably a step ladder) for fixtures that can’t be reached from the floor 
  2. A pair of gloves (for safety)
  3. Liquid soap (dish soap is fine, but I don’t suggest using detergent)
  4. Warm water 
  5. A brush (preferably paint brush) for dusting the fixtures
  6. A piece of soft cloth (preferably microfiber material) 
  7. A sponge 
  8. A screwdriver (to unhook the fixtures) 
  9. A metal polish or non-abrasive wax (depending on the type of fixture material) 
  10. Glass cleaner (for glass pendant light fixtures) 
  11. A pair of utility buckets

With all these tools, you’re all set to start the cleaning process and keep your outdoor lights shiny and elegant. 

Pro tip: while warm water and liquid soap mix ensures better cleaning, I suggest you don’t use hot water. 

You see, there’s a good chance hot water might cause discoloration in the fixtures. And this can’t be reversed, even with the best polishing and waxing materials.


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Here’s how to clean outdoor light fixtures safely and hassle-free

Now that you know what tools you’ll need for outdoor light cleaning, let’s start with the cleaning process. 

As we discussed earlier, the cleaning procedure can differ for different light fixtures. However, there’s one general process that applies to all fixtures and lighting materials. 

So, here are the steps that you can follow for cleaning any outdoor light fixture out here: 

Step 1. Turn off the power 

Turning the power off is the first and the most important step for personal safety in exterior lighting maintenance. 

You may think, what’s the big deal in this? 

In fact, you might even wonder why I’ve mentioned turning the power off as a cleaning step. 

But let me remind you that about 1000 people die from electrocution across the country every year. Also, electrocution is a leading cause of over 30,000 major and minor electrical injuries.  

So, you can’t be more careful when cleaning electrical appliances like fixtures. 

Now, one safe way you can proceed is by turning the circuit breakers off for the light fixtures that you’re about to clean. 

However, when it comes to the rare yet possible chances of electrical accidents, this might not be sufficient. As such, I suggest you turn off the main power supply to your home till you’ve completed cleaning. 

Step 2. Take out the lamps and brush them off 

Having turned the power off, you can now take the lamps out, but not before you’ve let the bulbs cool down. 

You see, despite the fact that you’d be wearing rubber gloves, high-powered outdoor incandescent lamps can be too hot, especially right after being turned off. And if not given time to cool, they can cause a minor skin burn. 

Nevertheless, if your outdoor lights consist of LED lamps, taking them out right away shouldn’t be a problem. That’s because LED lamps are much cooler than incandescent lights. 

Next up, you can take the lamps and dust them off using a brush. 

But how to clean outdoor lights with a brush? 

Well, for this purpose, I suggest you either use a paintbrush or a similar brush with a soft brush head. 

A harder brush can cause scratches on the lamp surface, leading to dull lighting with uneven diffusion. 

Bonus: Here’s how to remove outdoor light cover 

Although removing lamps from the fixture is simple, the outer light covering, which is common across a lot of fixtures, can complicate it. 

So, how do you remove the light cover? 

Well, removing the outdoor light cover is not as difficult either. And there are two ways you can do so: 

  1. For light covers that are screwed into the fixture, you can take a screwdriver, remove all the screws, and take the cover off. 
  2. For light covers that are not screwed, you can simply turn them anti-clockwise, and they’ll come off. 

Note: You can follow the same procedure even for outdoor light bulb replacement

Step 3. Prepare water and soap mix 

Once you’ve removed the lamps and cleaned them, it’s time to prepare for fixture cleaning. And this is where you’ll need tools such as utility buckets, liquid soap, and warm water. 

To start with, you can take about a gallon of warm water (or more, depending on the number of outdoor fixtures) and mix a tablespoon of liquid soap into it. 

But it isn’t as straightforward either because you can’t use just about any type of water or soap.

Here’s what you should use instead and why: 

First, in order to prevent any water-induced damage to the fixture, it is essential that you use only soft water. To that end, I suggest you buy a gallon of distilled water if you’ve got a hard water problem in your neighborhood. 

You see, hard water is usually very high in mineral content, which can leave streaks and even stains. 

Second, white, a soft dishwashing liquid, is considered safe; you should never use regular or liquid detergent to create a cleaning mix. That’s because detergent can have abrasive chemicals and substances which can cause discoloration of the fixtures. 

Step 4. Clean the fixtures using soap mix and sponge 

With a gallon of warm to lukewarm soap mix ready, you can now take a sponge, dip it in the mix, and start cleaning the fixtures. 

But, like always, electrical safety and well-being are of utmost essence during this step. 

For instance, there are chances that the soap water might spill or run into fixture housing. And although you’ve turned the power off, this can pose safety hazards such as short circuits and electrocution when you turn the power back on. 

Not to mention the corrosion that the soap mix can cause within the metal components. 

As such, it’s important that you’re careful not to let water enter even the outer housing of the light fixture unit. 

Step 5. Rinse the fixtures and wipe them clean 

Now that you’ve applied the soap mix, it’s time to finalize the wet cleaning part. And there are two ways you can do it. 

  1. Light rinse the fixtures with soft/distilled water to remove the soap mix. Thereafter, wipe the fixtures clean with a piece of soft cloth. 
  2. You can skip the light rinse part and directly wipe the fixtures using a cloth, letting them dry instantly. 

Note: Rinsing the fixtures is optional and should be done with the same precautions that I suggested in Step 4 to avoid potential electrical accidents. 

Step 6. Polish the fixtures and clean the glass pendant 

To give a finishing touch and make your light fixtures shiny like brand new, you can polish them using an appropriate polishing material. 

For instance, if your fixtures are made of metal, you can use a non-abrasive metal polish once they’re dry. 

Furthermore, if your fixtures have a glass pendant as an outer light covering, you can apply glass cleaner and clean them off using a microfiber material. 

Step 7. Reassemble the fixtures and get them running again

This is the final step to clean outdoor light fixtures and involves reassembly of all the lighting components. 

Once the fixtures are completely dry, you can start off by reinstalling the light bulbs. And this is the perfect opportunity to replace your older incandescent lights with energy-efficient LEDs. 

Even better, you can switch over to solar-powered outdoor LED lights and have zero-cost illumination. 

Thereafter, you can assemble fixture parts, such as the light cover or glass pendant, and screw them back in. 

Finally, you can turn the power back on, check if all the lights are functioning, and see whether or not there’s optimum illumination.  

You might also want to read – Light Pole Installation: A Step-by-step Guide


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Frequently asked questions about how to clean outdoor light fixtures:

How to clean metal light fixtures?  

The process of cleaning metal fixtures will involve the same seven steps that I discussed above. However, the only difference will be in the way you polish the fixtures, depending on the type of metal.

For instance, fixtures made with hard metals can stand a chemical-based polish. But that’s not the case with soft metal fixtures, where you’ll need a non-abrasive wax-based polish to avoid fixture damage.

Similarly, if you have bronze fixtures, you’ll need entirely natural cleaning materials to avoid discoloration.

How to clean bronze fixtures? 

The process of cleaning bronze fixtures is pretty much similar to any other outdoor light cleaning. Nevertheless, there are certainly some differences in the cleaning materials and the overall procedure.

For instance, instead of soap mix, you’ll need a mix of half vinegar and half water for cleaning.

Wondering how do you clean bronze fixtures?

Here’s how you can clean these fixtures:

  1. Take a soft microfiber cloth dampened with water and wipe the fixtures, removing dust and dirt.
  2. Soak a sponge into the water and vinegar mix and scrub the fixture gently.
  3. Take a dry microfiber cloth and wipe the fixtures clean.

Note: Follow all the steps that we discussed above, except for the fixture cleaning liquid mix, for safe cleaning.

How to clean brass fixtures? 

Like bronze fixtures, the process of cleaning brass fixtures also includes the same steps except for the cleaning mix.

You see, the fact that brass is a soft metal means that you can’t use chemical-based soap. So, here are two natural cleaning mixes you can use instead:

  1. Make a paste using lemon juice, cornstarch, and salt and apply it to the fixtures as a cleaning mix.
  2. Make a paste using lemon juice and baking soda, apply it to the fixtures, and then rinse it clean.

How to remove rust from light fixture? 

It is commonplace for metal light fixtures to get rusty, especially those installed outdoors. But it is possible to get rid of it, and you can do so along with cleaning.

So, how to get rust off light fixtures?

Well, even though scrubbing the fixtures with sandpaper might sound like a simple fix, I suggest you don’t use it. That’s because sandpaper is an abrasive material and can do more harm than good.

Instead, here’s what you can do:

  1. Put lemon juice or vinegar on the rusted parts and leave it for 2-3 hours.
  2. Sprinkle baking soda on the rusted area and clean it with a paintbrush or sponge.

Note: In case the rust is stubborn, you can use fine-grit sandpaper and gently sand the rusted part.

How to clean yellowed glass light fixtures? 

Yellowed glass is common for fixtures that aren’t cleaned regularly. The worst part: Your regular glass cleaner doesn’t work as effectively.

Thankfully, there’s a natural remedy to this; all you need is a water and vinegar mix.

Here’s how you can clean yellowed glass light fixtures using this mix:

  1. Soak the glass in the cleaning mix and scrub it with a sponge or microfiber cloth.
  2. Rinse the glass and wipe it clean.

How often should you clean outdoor light fixtures? 

I suggest you undertake thorough cleaning at least twice every year to keep your outdoor light fixtures shiny and ensure optimum lighting.

Similarly, you should also go for exterior lighting maintenance at least once every year. Herein, you should check the overall working condition of the lights and other electrical components.

You might also want to read – How Much Do Solar Street Lights Cost?

In the end

As you can see, cleaning outdoor lights can be smooth sailing if you follow the right steps and ensure safety all along.

Here are some more pro tips on how to clean outdoor light fixtures and make them shine like brand new:

  1. Avoid using chemical-based cleaners and use natural cleaners such as lemon, vinegar, etc.
  2. Avoid using abrasive materials such as detergent or sandpaper for cleaning.
  3. Use warm yellow lights to keep bugs and spiders at bay.

Looking to replace your lamps or light fixtures as you go about cleaning?

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