Home & Garden Home How to Clean Your Solar Lights With Eco-Friendly Materials Learn how to extend the life of your lights with minimal effort and prep. By Autumn Spanne Autumn Spanne Writer Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism University of California, Santa Cruz Western New Mexico University Autumn is an independent journalist and educator who writes about climate, wildlife, biodiversity, and environmental justice and policy. Learn about our editorial process Published November 11, 2021 Share Twitter Pinterest Email bruev / Getty Images Home DIY Pest Control Natural Cleaning Family Green Living Thrift & Minimalism Sustainable Eating Overview Total Time: 1 - 3 hours Skill Level: Beginner Estimated Cost: $20 Outdoor solar lights such as those used in gardens, trees, patios, or mounted on the exterior of a building are exposed to the elements—water, dirt, pollutants, and, of course, the sun. They must be cleaned periodically to ensure optimal functioning and longevity. Luckily, this is not difficult. Your home and garden solar lights can shine bright with a few cheap and simple eco-friendly cleaning products and a bit of routine maintenance. How Often to Clean Solar Lights Solar lights that are not regularly maintained will not last nearly as long as those that undergo periodic cleaning, and will definitely not perform as well. Dirt blocks sunlight from permeating the lights’ solar panels, which perpetually drains the battery because it fails to store enough energy. Thus, if you don’t regularly clean your solar lights, you will be inclined to replace them prematurely out of frustration for their poor performance. But how often do the lights need to be cleaned in order to keep them functioning well for years? This depends in part on where you live, but in general, cleaning should be done every one to three months. Solar lights in damper climates tend to experience less buildup of dirt and debris than those in dry, dusty climates. If you live in a place where conditions are rainy or sufficiently damp enough to tamp down dust, aim to clean your solar lights every two to three months (unless they get muddy, of course). If you’re in a drier region, especially if it’s frequently windy, a monthly cleaning may be necessary. The best way to know how often to clean your lights is to simply check them periodically to see if they need attention. Before Getting Started Always check the manufacturer’s directions before cleaning your solar lights for the first time. Different kinds of lights may have different requirements to ensure safe, effective cleaning and avoid damaging the product. Also, take special care when cleaning batteries. Wear goggles or glasses to prevent water from splashing into your eyes. If you have sensitive skin or allergies, wearing gloves during the cleaning process is recommended. What You'll Need Tools 1 screwdriver 1 pair of safety goggles or glasses Supplies 1 bottle of eco-friendly dish soap 2 soft dish cloths or old t-shirts 2 eco-friendly cellulose sponges 1 pair of biodegradable waterproof gloves 1 old toothbrush or other small soft-bristle brush Instructions Do a Preliminary Surface Cleaning If your unit has a cover that protects the bulb, start by removing it. Then use the damp cloth to gently remove excess dust, dirt, and any organic debris from all of the unit’s surfaces. Use special care when cleaning the bulb and any electronic components as water may damage them; do not over-soak your cleaning cloth. Notice the Unit's Electrical Components You may need a screwdriver to remove the cover for this sensitive area. Check wires and cables to ensure they are clean. If necessary, gently clean them with a soft dry cloth or old t-shirt. Have a look at wires and exposed metal components to ensure nothing is rusted or damaged. It’s important that this area stays dry, so very carefully dab any dampness away with the cloth. Clean the Batteries if Necessary Check your unit’s batteries to see if they harbor tell-tale signs of corrosion: a white, gritty debris similar to sand. A wet dish cloth will usually do the job, but you can also use a soft-bristle, natural fiber brush (old toothbrushes often work well) for stubborn corrosive film. Clean the battery compartment as well. Dry both the compartment and the batteries thoroughly before re-inserting them; dampness will encourage corrosion. Do a Deeper Cleaning With Dish Soap Once you have replaced the cover(s) of the electrical components and battery, it’s time to go to work on any lingering filmy residue coating the surfaces of the light, cover, and solar panel. This can usually be remedied with a wet cloth lathered with a drop of dish soap. For tougher grime buildup, vinegar may be more effective. In that case, put eight parts water to one part vinegar and a tiny drop of dish soap in a spray bottle and mix well, then spray it onto areas with stubborn residue and scrub with a non-abrasive cloth. Thoroughly Rinse the Unit Do a final rinse with a clean, soaked cloth or old t-shirt so that any lingering soap scum is removed, as dust and dirt will tend to stick to it.