Decorative crystal chandeliers make spectacular feature lights and creative home owners and designers are using them nowadays in many rooms around the home. A few years ago it would have been unheard of to have a chandelier in your bathroom or kitchen! The beauty of crystal lighting relies on the prismatic refraction of light passing through the crystals creating the sparkle we all associate with lead crystal chandeliers. When the gradual build-up of dust and grime reduces this effect and your chandelier will begin to lose its sparkle.
When dusting your chandelier every week with a feather duster (yes, you should be doing this!) no longer does the trick you will need to consider something else to restore the sparkle and keep it looking beautiful for years to come.
A Few Basic Do’s and Don’ts Before You Start
- Be Safe – Turn off the Power! Basic common sense precaution really, but turn off at the wall switch and temporarily tape over the switch to avoid it being accidentally turned on whilst you are working on the fitting. As an extra precaution we would suggest turning off the power to the circuit on your distributor board.
- Allow the light to cool down before you start and, depending on which cleaning method you use. you may need to remove the bulbs.
- Never twirl or rotate your fitting around as you run the risk of loosening the ceiling support which could cause the chandelier to fall. Avoid that ‘Only Fools and Horses’ moment by walking or moving your ladder around the chandelier and cleaning in sections.
- Treat your chandelier gently. Crystal can be damaged and easily scratched if it is not handled properly. Always use soft cotton cloths – paper towels and some dusting cloths can scratch crystal. Even the oils on our hands can leave a residue which will impede the sparkle. Good quality chandeliers are often supplied with a pair of white cotton gloves to dress the chandelier.
- Do not put crystals in your dishwasher. Dishwashing tablets will cause pitting to the crystal.
- If you are removing crystals for cleaning, make a sketch/diagram or take pictures so you can replace everything in the correct position. Do not use stickers or markers as these could mark the frames or crystals. Some newer chandeliers come with diagrams showing you how to put the pieces back together. Another useful tip is to clean the chandelier in small manageable sections.
- Place a sheet (water proof if you are using one of the spray cleaners) or some towels underneath the fitting to protect your floor coverings and nearby pieces of furniture. Some form of padding on the floor around the chandelier will help prevent any breakages should you accidentally drop something.
- If you have to use a ladder or steps to reach your chandelier, ensure it is positioned correctly to allow you to reach without having to stretch and if possible have another person on the ground to help you.
- If you are lucky enough to have a large, good quality chandelier with a complicated arrangement of crystals, or it is hung too high to reach safely, you may wish to consider employing a specialist chandelier cleaning company. Antique and high quality crystal chandeliers will hold their price and often increase in value as they get older and in order to protect your investment you may wish to avoid opting for DIY methods.
How Often Should I Clean My Chandelier?
There is no hard and fast answer to this question as it very much depends of its location. Basically if your chandelier is not reflecting the light as well as it did, or the crystals seem to be dusty or dull and milky, then the time has come to clean it and restore it to its former glory. Entrance hallway chandeliers tend to need cleaning more often, as do those in kitchens and bathrooms. Some more recently made crystal light fittings have a coating applied to repel dust and dirt and these will need less cleaning.
There are essentially 3 DIY methods for cleaning chandeliers – cleaning with the crystals left on, removing the crystals from the fitting for cleaning or using a special crystal chandelier cleaner.
Cleaning with Crystals On
This method involves cleaning the crystal in situ. The cleaning is a little more time consuming but a bit less messy and easier as you will not have to worry about replacing the crystals again afterwards. You will need a pair of white cotton gloves and a solution of glass or chandelier cleaner in a small bowl. You could also use a spray can of chandelier cleaner or a very mild solution of detergent. Ensure light is switched off and take out the light bulbs. Use one gloved hand for cleaning and the other for drying off. Place your fingertips into the solution or spray a small amount onto your finger tips and gently wipe each crystal with this glove before drying it immediately with the other clean glove. Start at the top and work slowly and systematically down to the bottom to avoid any damage to the glass or fitting. If you have a large fitting you may need to change the solution and or the gloves a few times. If you find it easier, you can use 2 lint free cotton cloths rather than gloves. The frame and any metal links should be cleaned with a dry cloth only as the cleaning solutions can damage the gold and silver finishes.
Cleaning by Removing the Crystals
Use this heavy duty clean for chandeliers that have been neglected for some time. This is a more complex method but it does allow you to reach every nook and cranny of the frame and allow you to restore your chandelier to its former glory. With this method you will be removing the crystal bead strands, droplets and drip saucers or bobeches from the frame, washing and drying them, cleaning the frame and finally replacing the crystal. Preparation is key here. Make sure before you remove any crystals that you have a diagram or take pictures to ensure you can replace them in exactly the right place. Again ensure the light is switched off and remove the bulbs. Prepare your sink or a bowl by lining it with a folded towel and half fill with lukewarm water and a small amount of mild detergent. If your chandelier is large do a section at a time. Remove the crystals from the fitting and place in your washing up bowl ensuring you allow space between them – don’t dump them all in at once and be careful not to clink them together. Use your hands to gently clean each piece of crystal before rinsing in clear water. Immediately after rinsing, dry each crystal with a soft cotton cloth to avoid water marks forming and place on a clean dry towel to await refitting. Before replacing the crystals take the opportunity to clean the frame. Wipe over with a lint free cloth soaked in a solution of water and a few drops of washing up liquid – wring the cloth out so it is slightly damp and wipe over the metal surfaces and then buff with a dry lint free cloth. Do not use any abrasive cleaners as these can damage the metal finishes. Finally use cotton gloves to replace the crystal onto the frame.
Using Chandelier Cleaners
There are a number of specialist crystal and chandelier cleaners on the market which make the task of cleaning chandeliers so much easier. Mostly they are aerosol spray can type cleaners that are relatively inexpensive to buy with prices ranging from around £7 to £15. They are sprayed onto the crystal and the dust and dirt will simply drip off. It is essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions as some of these cleaners can damage the metal finishes on chandelier frames and caution needs to be taken when spraying around the bulb holders.
Before you start make sure your chandelier is switched off for safety and as an extra precaution identify the circuit on your distribution board and switch it off too. Remove the bulbs and stuff the bulb holder sockets with some tissue paper or tie plastic bags around them to prevent any liquid from getting into the electrics. Plastic bags can also be used to protect the metal parts of the frame. As you will be generously spraying your crystal you will need to place plenty of towels or newspapers below your chandelier to catch the drips – it’s useful to have a waterproof sheet under the towels or paper as an added safeguard. Spray the crystal according to the instructions on the can and allow the drips to fall from the chandelier bringing the dust and dirt with it. Work in a well ventilated area or wear a facemask to avoid inhaling any fumes. Ensure the chandelier is completely dry before removing the protective stuffing or bags from the bulb sockets and replacing the bulbs. Bespoke Light’s crystal and chandelier cleaner can be found by clicking on this link.