How To Clean A Yellow Stained Lampshade

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At the beginning of the year, I made a list of nuisance house projects. At the top of that list was the yellow stained lampshade that had been staring at me for years.

I had no idea how to clean a yellow stained lampshade, or if you could even get them wet.

Alas, after a little research and a quick trip to Walmart, I came up with a method that worked wonders for me.

So, if you have a yellowing lampshade and want to know how to restore it to its original white color, keep reading.

Why Are My Lampshades Turning Yellow?

Let me start off with a look at the two lamps on either side of my sofa.  You can clearly see that the shade on the lamp to the right of the photo is badly yellowed.

yellow stained lamp shade

I still don’t know exactly how it got this way. 

I’ve read conflicting information about what turns lampshades yellow.

Some say it’s the heat from the bulbs that stains the plastic drum of the shade. Others say that it’s UV exposure from the sun.

In my case, I’m thinking it is the latter because one of my shades is stained and one is not.

They have the same number and type of bulbs in them and get equal use. This leads me to believe they should be giving off the same amount of heat.

The only difference between the two is that the one that is stained has much more direct sunlight. It’s in a corner with a full wall of windows perpendicular to it.

The other lamp is much further away from that direct light and is by a window on the shady side of the house.

Another reason your lampshade can appear yellowed is simply because of dust build-up.

Whatever the reason, the fact that one is visibly more yellow than the other has been bothering me for almost 2 years now.  

So, I started researching how to clean a yellow stained lampshade.

How To Whiten a Yellowed Lampshade

I had a feeling that I didn’t just need to clean off the dust, but instead, needed to whiten the lampshade truly.

After searching online I found there are a few ways to whiten a yellow lampshade.  Some include using baking soda and vinegar while others suggest bleach.

yellow lampshade

The method I’ll show you today involves a laundry soap called Zote.

Zote is well known for its whitening power and I can attest that it does tackle stains on delicate surfaces extraordinarily well.

I’m currently working on a post all about Zote soap and its uses around the house. I’ll link it here when it’s complete.

The last thing I wanted to do was risk damaging my lampshade during the cleaning process.

So, I decided to stay away from the bleach. The method I used for how to clean a yellow stained lampshade was to use Zote soap in a bathtub filled with hot water.

How To Clean a Yellow Stained Lampshade

Here are the steps for how to clean a yellow stained lampshade with Zote laundry soap.

1- Remove the Shade

Remove your shade from your light fixture. Then, wipe off as much visible dust as you can.

remove lampshade
remove lampshade

2. Grate Zote Laundry Soap into hot water

Next, run a bath with hot water and grate approximately 2 cups of the Zote laundry soap bar into the running water.

Continue filling your tub till you have enough water to completely submerge the lampshade.

zote soap

3. Soak the Shade

Place the shade into the tub fully submerging it. Then, let it sit for approximately 10 minutes.

how to clean a yellow stained lampshade
cleaning lampshade

4. Scrub Gently

After 10 minutes use a microfiber cloth to gently scrub the outside and the inside of the shade.

Be careful not to put too much pressure on your shade. The longer it sits in the water the more the adhesive holding the fabric to its plastic liner will weaken.

Rinse and inspect your lampshade.

If the shade color has returned to its original white state stop here and skip ahead to step 6.

If, however, you’re still seeing a yellow tinge to your shade, move on to the next step.

clean lampshade

5. If stains remain…

At this point, my lampshade was mostly white, but I wanted to see if I could get it even brighter.

If you’re still seeing discoloration as well, gently rub the Zote laundry bar soap directly onto the outside and inside of the shade as best you can.

Let it sit for a minute or two and then gently scrub it with a microfiber cloth then rinse.

yellow stained lampshade
clean lampshade with Zote laundry soap

6. Dry the Shade

The next step in how to clean a yellow stained lampshade is to dry it.

Dry your lampshade as fast as you can using a blow dryer.

I don’t recommend leaving your lampshade out overnight to slowly air dry. The glue holding the fabric onto your lampshade frame will be soft at this point.

To avoid having your fabric curl away from the plastic liner you’ll want to dry and re-harden that adhesive as soon as possible.

To do this use a towel to blot dry the lampshade then use a blow dryer on a low heat setting to dry it.

This should only take a few minutes to complete.

how to whiten a yellow stained lamp shade
dry lampshade

7. Re-Assemble

Finally, once your lampshade is dry place it back on your lamp and you’re ready to go.

Your lampshade should now be significantly whitened and have minimal if any yellow staining left on it.

how to clean a yellow stained lampshade
cleaned lamp shade


There are two things that I’d like to caution you about when it comes to this method.

First, I don’t recommend putting your shade outside to dry. As I mentioned above, you’ll want your shade to dry as soon as possible to avoid giving the fabric a chance to peel away due to the softened adhesive.

Moreover, if it’s a warm day you do not want the heat or direct sunlight to potentially stain the lampshade again.

The second thing to avoid is soaking your lampshade for too long.

I was tempted to let my lampshade soak for another 10 minutes, but as I was cleaning it with the microfiber cloth I could hear it the plastic drum creaking and cracking beneath my fingers.

This is because the adhesive was softened from the first soak. I could also see where the fabric wanted to lift where it was folded over the edge of the drum.

So, don’t soak your shade for too long when using this method for how to clean a yellow stained lampshade.

Still Yellow?  Trick the Eye

If your lampshade still appears to be yellowed, trick the eye by changing the kelvins or the type of light bulb used.  

If you’re using warm bulbs beneath a yellowed shade it will only accentuate the problem.  

Instead, try daylight bulbs or, if your lamp takes multiple bulbs, replace one of your warm light bulbs with a daylight bulb or a cool bulb.


In conclusion, if you’ve been struggling with how to clean a yellow stained lampshade try out this method.

If all else fails, you can replace a lampshade relatively inexpensively.

I recommend At Home for affordable lampshade options. Both, in store and online, you can browse a huge selection of lampshades. They have almost every color, style, and size you can imagine. Most shades range between $10 and $20 each.

I hope you found this post helpful. If you did please share it with a friend and follow Dianne Decor on Instagram and Pinterest

Here are a few other posts you may like:

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