Restoring and Updating Vintage Light Fixtures

Restoring and Updating Vintage Light Fixtures

The global secondhand home goods market is now worth over 4.9 billion USD. This growth mirrors the increased interest homeowners have in eco-friendly shopping, vintage trends, and DIY home improvement.

Some home goods, however, are easier to restore or update than others. It’s one thing to buy a secondhand bookcase and give it a fresh coat of paint. It’s another to buy vintage light fixtures and learn not only how to restore it aesthetically, but bring it back to working condition.

Lighting is something that can make or break a room and finding the perfect light fixture is an opportunity you never want to miss! That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide that will help you bring vintage light fixtures into your home improvement repertoire.


Safety First

Before you consider connecting a vintage light fixture to electricity, take a look at the wiring. Does it look original? Even if it isn’t broken or corroded, you’re going to want to consider replacing original wiring for safety reasons.

This is a job best left to professionals, especially if you’re dealing with a light fixture that has more than just a simple single wire and socket. The reality is that improperly wired light fixtures are dangerous, posing risks from a light shock to a full-blown housefire. Professionals use testing equipment to ensure that the wiring is safe before plugging it in, something that most homeowners, even DIY aficionados, don’t have on hand.

Replacing Missing Parts

Chances are that your vintage light fixtures, especially those purchased from a thrift store, are going to be missing some parts. Their previous owners may not have realized how important certain components (like the canopy, for example) are or they may have junked pieces that were not in good condition.

Because your goal is restoration, you’re going to want to replace missing parts in a way that looks authentic. Lighting experts may be able to help you find or create parts that match both the style and the finish of your vintage light fixtures. In some cases, they may even need to replace components that were part of a previous fix that don’t look or work well.


Cleaning may seem like the easiest part of vintage light fixture restoration, but remember that you’re dealing with delicate features. If you’re lucky, all you’ll need is to remove superficial dust and grime with a microfiber cloth. If your vintage light fixtures need a deeper clean, however, you’re going to need to delve into some specific know-how.

To get a sense of what materials compose your lighting fixture, dig into the history of lighting fixtures.

Cleaning Metal

If your vintage lighting fixture is made of brass coated with lacquer, cleaning won’t be terribly difficult. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe away any dust or loose grime. Then use a mixture of diluted, mild dish soap and a rag to carefully wipe down the metal.

If the fixture is made of steel or cast-iron, remember that these metals rust easily. Use small amounts of your diluted mixture to wipe down the metal and then wipe with a dry cloth immediately.

Lacquer-coated brass can be polished with a metal or paint wax finish. Steel or cast-iron can be polished with either wax or tungsten oil.

Cleaning Glass

Vintage glass is easy to clean. Use warm water mixed with dish soap and a soft cloth to wipe it down. Avoid using paper towels, as the roughness can cause small scratches in old glass.

Cleaning Painted Areas

If your vintage light fixture is painted, you’re going to need to exercise caution. Rather than using a rag or microfiber cloth, use cotton balls or Q-tips to clean around the painted detailing. Do your best to avoid touching the paint with a cleaning solution, no matter how mild, as you may risk dissolving the paint.

Restoring the Finish

If, after cleaning, you notice that the lighting fixture appears dull or discolored, this might be a sign that the finish needs to be restored. Restoring the finish of a vintage lighting fixture is a delicate process and one that is best handled by a professional.

Typically, you’re going to be looking at finishes like clear lacquer (the easiest to restore), enameling, or gilding. If your light fixture needs replacing, you’re definitely going to want to involve a professional, as replating requires specific environmental conditions.

If you’re going for an updated look rather than a restored look, you might be able to play around with the finish more. Whether you want to create a matte look, a creative shine, or go with a whole new color scheme, choosing the right finish will help you create the look you desire.


Once you’ve cleaned and restored your vintage light fixtures to your liking, it’s time to install. Lighting Distinctions provides interior lighting services that will give you the best results.

Our goal is to find the best light and location for all of your lighting fixtures. Our team is adept at selecting the lighting color that is most flattering to your home and illuminating the features you wish to highlight. We also provide safe installation and can guarantee that your vintage lighting fixtures are safe to use and handle once installed.

Lighting Distinctions Can Help You Bring Your Vintage Light Fixtures to Life

If you’ve caught the secondhand shopping bug and found the perfect vintage light fixtures for your home, don’t let the restoration process stop you. With a little bit of research and professional help, you can restore or update your vintage light fixtures and get them to a gorgeous, working condition.

Need a hand? Lighting Distinctions provides both interior and exterior lighting services to transform your home. Contact us and request a free consultation today.

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