How To: Clean a delicate old chandelier

November 20, 2013

Question:I have a beautiful but brittle antique chandelier. I have tried to clean it with simple dish soap and water with a cloth. It was tedious, and unfortunately, you could hardly notice a difference. Also a couple pieces of glass came off due to the brittle wire. Can you please tell me the best way to clean it carefully?

— Winchester

Answer: Try a spray-on specialty cleaner, such a Hagerty Chandelier Cleaner or Brillianté Crystal Chandelier Cleaner. The grime slips off as the fixture drips dry. Spread towels or a dropcloth underneath to catch the drips.

Or you can follow the lead of the folks at Burgess Lighting in Forestville. To clean chandeliers in their showroom, they dilute a chandelier cleaner with a ratio of one part cleaner to three or four parts water and then wipe down the chandeliers with that. “If you do it every six months or so, it works great,” said Marilyn Ellis, the showroom manager. The wiping technique stretches the cleaner. And for a chandelier that’s especially in need of cleaning, it might be more effective than spray alone, she said. But if the chandelier has brittle wires, you’d need to do this very carefully.


The reader’s chandelier. (Reader photo)

The cleaners are sold at lighting and hardware stores. The active ingredients in Hagerty Chandelier Cleaner include isopropyl alcohol and ammonia. The Web site for Brillianté Crystal Chandelier Cleaner doesn’t disclose ingredients except to say that the formula is ammonia-free.

If you try one of these cleaners and the chandelier still looks dirty, you might want to have your chandelier professionally cleaned. Burgess Lighting refers people who want that service to Krystal Clear in Fairfax (703-896-2332; wiosman@hotmail.com). The price to have a chandelier with crystals cleaned starts at $200 and depends on the fixture’s height, complexity and dirtiness. Kitchen chandeliers tend to be especially grimy, owner Waleed Osman says. Cleaning a chandelier without crystals costs less.

Years ago I painted my living room trim with oil-based paint. It looks fabulous still, but I am thinking of repainting with a different color. It is a very dark green. Sanding it all before repainting is a chore I do not relish. Are there any primer paints out there that I can use to cover it before I apply the new color? I do not plan to use oil-based paint again. It was quite the chore to apply.

— Arlington

If you want the new trim color to be white or pastel, you’re actually asking for a primer that can do triple duty: stick to a slick surface, have just enough flexibility to work as a bridge between your relatively brittle oil paint and the new, more flexible water-based paint, and hide the dark green so you can transition to a lighter color with just a coat or two of paint.

A primer such as Zinsser’s Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Water-Base Primer, which is white and labeled for use over slick surfaces, will work well. An adhesion primer, such as Sherwin Williams’s PrimeRx, will also stick and work as a bridge, but the formula is clear, so it won’t obscure the old color if you are going for a dramatic color change.

Be sure to test-paint a section of trim before you commit to skipping sanding. Prime a small area, let that dry, then brush on the new trim paint and let that dry. If it adheres well, continue with the rest of the room.

But if the test paint peels, take the time to dull the old paint before you prime the rest of the trim. This probably isn’t as time-consuming as you think because you don’t need to remove all of the paint. You just need to create tiny grooves that will help the new paint stick. Or you can create the grooves by wiping down the woodwork with a deglosser, such as Klean-Strip Easy Liquid Sander. Be sure not to get any drips on your skin, furniture or flooring, though, because it will dull those surfaces, too.

HHave a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in November, such as upgrading night lights, at washingtonpost.com/home.

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