Regular cleaning of your home’s exterior brass or copper finish, or decorative metal light fixtures will ensure the best outdoor lighting and enhance your home’s curbside appeal. If you have artisan, real brass or copper fixtures different cleaning methods will apply. See below for step-by-step instructions.

Supplies for cleaning lacquer-coated brass, copper or metal finish fixtures:

  • Step ladder
  • Protective gloves
  • Old, flat paintbrush (for dusting)
  • Screwdriver
  • Old towel
  • Two utility buckets
  • Hot water
  • Liquid dish washing soap
  • Soft cloth for cleaning (such as microfiber)
  • Optional: Non-abrasive polishing paste or liquid wax (provides extra protection)
  • Glass cleaner

Step 1
Safety check – Turn off the circuit breaker to all outside lighting. Check that all indoor light switches to outside lights are turned off as well.

Step 2
Set up a step ladder on a level, flat surface, next to the light fixture.

Step 3
Put on protective gloves.

Step 4
Remove the light bulb(s) first to make it easier to clean the inside.

Step 5
Using an old household paint brush, brush away all spider webs, bug debris and dust.

Step 6
Remove all decorative globes, grills or shields with a screwdriver. Set the parts aside on a soft surface. A folded towel works well.

Step 7
Fill two utility buckets with hot water. Add liquid dish washing soap to one bucket, mixing to create suds. Note: Be sure to test any cleaner you use on a small, inconspicuous spot before continuing.

Step 8
Place the globe, shield and miscellaneous removed parts in the bucket filled with soapy water.

Step 9
Wet a soft cloth or sponge with soapy water. Wipe down the non-removable parts of the fixture still attached to the wall. Keep water away from the electrical sockets. (If you can reach the sockets, temporarily cover them with masking tape before cleaning.) Rinse with water.

Step 10
Remove the globe, shield and parts out of the soapy water. Dunk these in the second bucket, with clear water to rinse. Dry with a towel.

Step 11
Add shine by applying a non-abrasive liquid polish or paste wax to all metal surfaces. Car wax works well.

Step 12
Use a commercial glass cleaner to clean and shine any glass panes, shades or surfaces.

Step 13
Wipe off the removed light bulbs with a damp cloth. Reinsert the bulbs and reassemble the fixture. Wait until the fixture is completely dry to turn the circuit breaker back on.

Tip: Spider webs can accumulate quickly in and around lighting fixtures. After cleaning your outdoor lighting fixtures spray Miss Muffet’s Revenge spider control around the perimeter to keep spiders out!

outdoor light

A Few Don’ts

To avoid damaging the metal outdoor lighting’s protective lacquer coating:

  • Don’t use all-purpose, chemical-based cleaners.
  • Avoid any cleaning products that contain ammonia or alcohol.
  • Keep away from using abrasive cleaners or rough-textured cleaning cloths.

hanging lantern

Cleaning Artisan, True Brass and Copper Outdoor Lighting

Real brass or copper outdoor (unlacquered) lighting can tarnish or take on an unsightly patina over time. You can create your own safe, natural brass and copper cleaners from everyday kitchen ingredients. To clean brass or copper fixtures follow steps 1 through 6 above, then see below for how to clean unlacquered brass or copper surfaces.

Lemon and Salt
Remove small spots of tarnish on brass or copper by rubbing the cut side of a lemon on the surface. For a more robust cleaner, mix together equal parts table salt, lemon juice and non-iodized cornstarch making a paste. Rub the paste on the surface with a soft, clean cloth. Mix together a bucket of warm water with a little mild, vegetable-based soap. (Castile soap works well.) Use the soapy water to clean the surface, then rinse and dry.

Baking Soda
Baking soda is natural powdered mineral used in the kitchen. It makes a fantastic, eco-friendly alternative to harsh commercial copper and brass cleaners. Mix together two teaspoons of baking soda with a little lemon juice to make a paste. Use the paste, applied to a soft cloth, to polish the surface. For tougher stains sprinkle just baking soda on a damp cloth and then rub over the tarnished area. You can also sprinkle baking soda onto the cut surface of a lemon and then rub. Wash off the paste with a mixture of mild, vegetable-based soap and water. Rinse with clear water and dry with a clean towel.

Visit for more exterior home cleaning tips and DIY projects for your home.

Editorial Contributors
Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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