How to Make Your Stage Lights Sparkle Again

Chris King from Multi-Image Productions gets down and dirty.

"These lights need replacing; they are so dull … no light coming out of them … there's not enough light coming out of them to light a bald mans head … we need to buy some new ones.."

Now how many times have I heard that on visits to schools and theatres around the globe.

Here's where I turn into Harry Potter and and work a little "illuminating magic" of my own.

A simple tilt of the head toward the offending luminaire is usually sufficient for me to start energising my magic powers!

I pull out my magic wand and chant the words … "Lightius Dirtius!" And, that is where the magic turns in reality. You see folks, the horrible truth is that lights get dirty too and require regular cleaning.
Every time your patrons walk into your venue and even sit in your seats they stir up small particles of dust, cotton, etc., among other fine particles. These particles usually head skywards … towards your lights.
So, do we keep the offending patrons out of the venue? No, not at all.

Another offender in the dirty light situation is our smoke and haze machines. I am not telling you to stop using them. I am just advising you to be mindful of where you place them.

Directly next to a moving light is probably not a good idea, as the damp particles from the smoke/haze machine will attach themselves to the lenses of the lights.
Many times I have removed the covers on our lights to find the lenses coated with a thin oily type of film.

Think of it as a "dust greenroom," and this is the tragic part of the article; the dust can't leave, so it gets trapped and then more dust gets trapped and … and … Oh please STOP!

OK, so enough about the tragic story and on with the show.

Firstly you will need some basic tools. I will give you some think music while you go and get them … Hmm Hmmm Hmmm … Oh, you're back then? OK here we go.


Screwdriver (Phillips and flat blade)
Vacuum cleaner
Clean old rags
Lint free cloth
Small air compressor
Face mask and goggles (no flippers though)
Clean water
Oh and one other thing, a glass of your favourite beverage.

So, are you all excited yet?? Good!

I would advise to wear some old clothes when doing this, as you will end up getting covered in dust and dirt.

May I also make a suggestion that this be done Outside of show season!

The reason for this is that you will have to remove the lights from the lighting bar, so you will have to re-focus them when you put them back.

STEP 1: If you don't already have a standard lighting rig plan, then make a note of where all your lights are and where they are patched.

STEP 2: Grab yourself a suitable climbing device and make sure that it is sturdy and safe BEFORE climbing it.

STEP 3: Carefully remove the lights from the lighting bar.

You are now ready to clean.

If you are unable to perform this task outdoors, spread out a large sheet to trap all the dust etc.

STEP 4: Brush off the exterior of the luminaire and give it a wipe with a damp (not wet) cloth and mild detergent.

STEP 5: Remove any covers over the lenses.

STEP 6: Aim the hose of the vacuum cleaner into the fixture and switch on air compressor. Apply medium pressure compressed air into the fixture to remove any loose particles of dust.

STEP 7: With a soft brush gently brush the dust from the lenses.

STEP 8: With a clean cloth, warm water and a mild detergent clean the lenses of the light, then rinse with clean water.

STEP 9: Dry lenses carefully with a lint free cloth.

Now, while you have the light down and the covers open it is a good idea to check the lamp and the working functions of the light.

Once you are satisfied that your light is clean and dry, replace all the covers you have removed securely.
(Remember, these lights are being mounted above people's heads, so make sure all covers, shutter blades, etc., are attached in a secure fashion.)

I usually set up a production run, so that the relatively boring job is over and done with as quickly as possible.

You are now ready to re-hang and re-patch your lovely clean fixtures. Make sure that all hook clamps are securely fastened and that all safety wires are attached and aren't in danger of cutting into the power cables.

Gently fade up your lights and admire your handy work. Now you too have magical powers!

There is a serious safety message to all this though. Small particles of dust and those pretty feathers are a very big fire risk!

I have worked on a few moving lights with cooling fans that are completely choked with fluff and feathers. A cooling system can't work safely and efficiently if it is blocked with fluff and dust.

So, make sure you check your lights regularly.
Happy Lighting