How to de-funk a paper lampshade?
January 31, 2019 10:36 AM   Subscribe

I recently purchased a pair of second-hand lamps. The shades have a plastic lining and a woven paper exterior. I didn’t realize they’re quite stinky til I got them home. I suspect the previous owner had one of those air freshener/oil diffuser things as the paper is unstained, so I don’t think they were Febrezed.

I’ve tried wiping them with a barely moistened towel marinated in vinegar and baking soda, but they still stink. I also wiped the bulbs as I read some people put oil on light bulbs to act as an air freshener. The weather is not conducive to leaving them out for long, so I’ve done it for short periods without any improvement. What else can I try? I’d prefer not to toss them and returning them is not an option.
posted by stillmoving to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Leave them in the garage for a while? Or some other part of your house where smelly things can go? They will naturally un-stink eventually.

If you have an apartment or something where there aren't any unfinished spaces, I dunno. Mist them with a 50/50 water/vodka blend, maybe? Or just wait it out, it you can.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:45 AM on January 31, 2019

Put them in a cardboard box with a layer of unscented kitty litter in the bottom and let them sit for a week or so.
posted by belladonna at 11:10 AM on January 31, 2019

You can also put them in a box with crushed up newspaper or coffee grounds (not used) if you don't have kitty litter. This works for books, so I would guess it would work for paper lampshades. It might take longer than a week though.
posted by FencingGal at 11:11 AM on January 31, 2019

You might also add some activated charcoal to that unscented kitty litter (the kind sold for fish tank filters), per belladonna's suggestion. I usually encase the offending object in a plastic storage tub with lid and leave for several days.

How did I learn this? Once, a quart of milk overlooked for many days leaked in my trunk, and after removing and washing the rug it still stunk. I tried coffee. The charcoal method was best, though even then the car took weeks to totally air out.
posted by citygirl at 11:25 AM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe spray them with white vinegar? We've used that to defunk clothing stored too close to far too many mothballs...
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 11:38 AM on January 31, 2019

There is unscented Febreeze out there. Removing odors like that, especially from something as fragile as paper, might be impossible; I think that Febreeze might cover/coat in such a way as to suppress the odor.

If you were really desperate, you might try using the powder form of Odorklenz - it's designed for use while washing fabrics, but it might be interesting to just use it dry and see what happens. Plus, if you get clothes that have a chemical smell (maybe from dye or perfumes), and want to remove that smell, this stuff works.
posted by amtho at 11:58 AM on January 31, 2019

One: Change those bulbs. If there's cooked-on essential oil on them, the most thorough wiping in the world isn't going to clean it off.

Two: Vacuum the crap out of the exterior of those shades and get any dust particles out of the weave.

Three: Bag those shades up and freeze them for at least a week. If you're in snow right now, great! Stick 'em outside. If not, try to find space in your freezer.

Four: Put a Bad Air Sponge or other heavy-duty odor absorber in the bag and leave it for another week, at room temp this time.

Five: Buy new shades. ;)
posted by DSime at 12:05 PM on January 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

Take them apart as much as possible: base, bulbs, hardware, shades. What's stinking? What can you actually wash in the sink (base? hardware!) and what can you replace (bulbs?). And listen to DSime about the shades.
posted by aimedwander at 1:25 PM on January 31, 2019

Is it possible to just replace the shades? Lampshades don’t have to be expensive, and if you Iike the bases of the lamps, that might make them even more to your personal taste. Target sells shades, but personally my preferred source for good all-purpose, inexpensive cloth shades is JCPenney.

If you need a lamp harp and/or a finial, Home Depot sells those for about $5 each.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:13 PM on January 31, 2019

Yes to unscented febreeze - the active ingredient is a cyclic dextran that binds and neutralizes volatile organic compounds.

I've used it on a variety of materials and it hasn't stained anything so far. You might give the lampshade a misting, wait a while, repeat as necessary.
posted by porpoise at 2:34 PM on February 1, 2019

Response by poster: Update: I tried airing, spraying with vinegar, sealing in a contar with baking soda and coffee grounds and kitty litter but, unfortunately, no dice. The weather turned and I even left them in the sun and fresh air for a few days but they remained stinky. Gave up after a month or two and ended up buying new lampshades.
posted by stillmoving at 8:21 PM on April 24, 2019

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