How to Buy a Lamp Shade – And Keep it Clean

Close-up photo of white lamp shade

A new lamp shade is an easy and affordable way to breathe life into your favorite lamp. Luckily, new or replacement lamp shades come in various sizes, styles, colors, and shapes. Whether you want to replicate your former shade, or go for a different look, your shopping experience can be fun and easy when you follow the right steps.

Watch our video and read our tips below for more information about buying a lamp shade.

Buying the Right Size Lamp Shade

Replacement Lamp Shades: How to Measure a Lamp Shade

If you like the size of the current shade you’re replacing, just measure it and look for a similar size replacement.

To measure the shade, simply use a ruler or measuring tape to determine the following dimensions (in inches):

A diagram of lamp shade dimensions.

A. Top width

B. Bottom width

C. Slant (if applicable)

D. Vertical height

With these measurements on hand, you can shop for the lamp shade that fits the size. Lamp shade dimensions are always provided both online and in stores.

New Lamp Shades: Getting the Shade Size Just Right

If you’re shopping for a new lamp shade, follow these general guidelines to get you started:

Height: The shade should be 1/3 the overall height of the lamp, give or take.

Width: The width of your shade should be 2x the width of the lamp base.

Keep in mind that this is just a starting point. As the shape of bases varies, the recommended shade width does too.

Types of Lamp Shade Fitters

The fitter is the wire part of a shade that connects it to the lamp body. Fitters are not interchangeable, so be sure to use a shade with the correct fitter for your lamp. There are the three common fitters: Spider, Clip-On, and Uno.

1. Spider Fitter Shades

The spider lamp shade is the most common type of fitter for table and floor lamp shades. Spider fitters sit atop the lamp’s harp (the U-shaped metal part of a lamp that fits around and protects the light bulb).

The spider and harp fitter of a lamp.

Once placed on top of the harp, spider fitters are secured to the lamp by a finial.

Shades that are up to 14″ high typically have a 1/2″ fitter drop, meaning that the fitter sits 1/2″ below the top of the shade.

Shades taller than 14″ will usually have a larger drop, and will be noted in product details.

To ensure the correct fit, Lamps Plus includes the appropriate size harp for free with each shade purchase.

2. Clip-On Fitter Shades

As the name suggests, clip-on lamp shade fitters attach directly onto the light bulb with no additional hardware. Clip-on fitters come in two sizes to fit the following bulbs:

  • Candelabra bulbs
    • Commonly used on chandeliers and/or sconces.
    • Maximum bulb wattage: 25 watts.
  • Regular sized bulbs
    • Most commonly used on accent and table lamps.
    • Maximum bulb wattage: 40-60 watts (as noted in product details).

Safety Tip: Because clip-on shades are typically in close proximity to the bulb, they are not recommended for use with higher wattage bulbs than those noted above. For a brighter light, try swapping in low-wattage LED bulbs.

3. Uno Fitter Shades

The uno fitter sits directly on a specialized light bulb socket and is mainly used on European lamps. It is secured by a threaded ring that’s held in place by the light bulb.

Lamp Shade Shapes 

Invite new and exciting shapes into your living space.

Here are some of the most popular decorative shapes: bell shaped shades, drum lamp shades, oval, rectangular and square.

Five different lamp shade shapes.

How to Clean a Shade

Linen, silk, paper, or plastic, keeping a shade clean will keep it looking good for years to come. Remove the shade from your lamp, then use of of these methods:

  1. To clean fabric or silk shades, we recommend wiping it down with a sponge lamp cleaner, or a soft, dry cloth. We carry a lampshade cleaner sponge made just for this purpose.
  2. You can also remove most dust in minutes using a sticky-tape lint-roller, soft brush or vacuum (with soft brush attachment).
  3. For paper or parchment shades, wear gloves to prevent dirt and oils from your hands getting on the shade. Use a dry microfiber cloth to brush clean.
  4. Plastic shades can be cleaned with a soft cloth and warm water with a mild dish detergent. Gently wipe clean, then air dry.

More Lamp Shade Ideas and Advice

All About Lampshades 

Lamp Shade Buying 101

Add a New Look with Giclee Art Shades