While traditionally used by businesses, neon signs have evolved beyond their commercial use and are now a trending and sought-after home decoration. These signs are known to add personality, creativity, and nostalgia to all types of business and living spaces.
As they can collect dust and dirt over time, it’s important that they are regularly cleaned. This can be done using a feather duster or a soft-bristled brush. After that, all you need to do is wipe off any stains using a microfibre cloth and a cleaning solution of your choice before letting it dry.
In this article, we’ll share a step-by-step guide on how to clean all types of neon signs, whether they’re used indoors as part of your home decorations or outdoors for business purposes. We’ll also make sure to highlight some important do’s and don’ts that you should keep in mind.
1. Prepare Your Cleaning Space
Before you start cleaning your neon sign, it’s important to set up a cleaning space as this provides you with a safe and organized cleaning environment. First, lay down a tarp or mat that is large enough to fit your neon sign.
This will help catch any dust particles that may fall during the cleaning process, making it easier for you to clean afterward. Then, prepare some items that you will need to clean your neon sign, which we’ve listed below:
- Feather duster
- Soft-bristled brush
- Plastic container
- Microfiber cloth
- Cleaning Solution
2. Unplug & Remove the Neon Sign from the Wall
Once your neon sign has cooled off, unplug it, and remove it from the wall. This will prevent the dust from falling all over the place and also reduce the risk of accidentally getting the cleaning solution on the wall.
If your neon sign is large, you should be extra cautious while removing it to prevent it from getting damaged. You can also ask someone to help you with this task if needed. Then, place your neon sign on the tarp or mat.
Important Note: Always make sure that your neon sign is turn off and unplugged from the wall. It also needs to cool off, before starting the cleaning process. This is an important step because your neon sign may still be hot if it has been running for a while. Cleaning a neon sign that's still plugged in may cause it to short circuit, which can lead to injury.
3. Thoroughly Dust It
Now it’s time to move on to the actual cleaning process, which involves removing dust from the surfaces. You can use a feather duster for this – any will do. Then, it’s best to use a soft bristle nylon brush in tight spaces where dust is trapped that the feather duster can’t reach. If you don’t have a soft bristle nylon brush, you can wipe using a microfibre cloth instead.
4. Remove Any Stains
Once you have removed all the dust from your neon sign, you can focus on removing the stains that have accumulated on its surfaces. There are a few different ways to remove stains, which we’ve further outlined below. Select the cleaning solution that is most suitable for your needs.
Using Household Ammonia
Household ammonia is excellent at removing dried stains that are otherwise tough to remove. It breaks down various kinds of particles and evaporates quickly, making it both effective and efficient for cleaning neon signs.
We recommend Austin’s Lemon Scented Ammonia due to its excellent cleaning strength and pleasant lemon scent. Follow the steps below on how you can get rid of tough stains using household ammonia.
- Combine ½ cup household ammonia with ½ cup cool water in a plastic container and stir.
- Submerge a microfiber cloth in the water-ammonia mixture.
- Lift up the cloth and wring out the excess liquid.
- Wipe down the stains on the neon sign until they have been fully removed. Remember to apply soft pressure as they can be fragile.
Using Vinegar & Baking Soda
If you don’t have any household ammonia on hand, you can use a cleaning solution made from vinegar and baking soda instead. This method is great because you likely already have these ingredients at home.
They are also natural, which is ideal if you’re concerned about using artificial or harsh chemicals. Follow the step-by-step guide below on how to use vinegar and baking soda to clean your neon sign:
- Mix 3 tbsp of baking soda with ½ cup vinegar in a plastic container.
- Use a microfibre cloth to soak up some of the cleaning solution and wring out any excess liquid.
- Wipe the solution onto the stains using a firm circular motion until they are fully removed.
- If you’re dealing with stubborn stains, repeat the process until the neon sign is completely clean.
If you purchased and set up your neon sign fairly recently, it may have only light stains on its surface. In this situation, wiping it down with a microfiber cloth soaked in water should be enough to get rid of most stains.
You should note that it is important to avoid using a cloth that is dripping wet for this purpose as water can get in contact with the electrical components, which can cause damage. For this reason, you should ensure you wring out the cloth so that it is damp but not wet.
- Pour 1 cup of room-temperature water into a plastic container.
- Submerge a microfiber cloth in the water, lift up the cloth, and wring out the excess water.
- Use a firm windshield wiping motion to wipe down the stains on the neon sign.
- Repeat until all stains are removed.
5. Wipe It Clean & Let It Air Dry
Once you’ve removed the stains from your neon sign, you will need to get rid of the excess cleaning solution and water that may still be present. You can do this by gently wiping it down with a clean cloth.
Following this, you should let your neon sign air dry for a few hours. This is important as attempting to plug your neon sign back in while it is still wet could damage it. It’s always better to be on the safe side.
6. Reattach the Neon Sign & Turn It Back On
Once your neon sign is dry, you can reattach it to the wall or place it back on the shelve, before turning on the switch. Your neon sign should now look as good as new and ready to show off its vibrant glow.
Do’s and Don’ts When Cleaning
As you should have gathered by now, the process of cleaning neon signs is relatively straightforward. However, you should still familiarize yourself with the do’s and don’ts that we’ve listed below. This helps to ensure that the cleaning process goes smoothly and that you don’t accidentally damage your sign.
- Be Gentle When Cleaning: Applying too much pressure damages your neon sign. If your sign is made of glass, it could shatter and harm you. If the sign is made from plastic it may still deform if you apply too much pressure.
- Ensure Sign Is Completely Dry Before Switching On: Attempting to turn on a wet sign could cause it to short circuit as its electrical components aren’t designed to work when wet. Wait until the sign is completely dry before attempting to turn it on.
- Test Solution On An Inconspicuous Spot: Your neon sign could have paint or materials that could potentially get damaged by certain cleaning solutions. To avoid running into problems, consider testing out your cleaning solution near an inconspicuous spot and checking whether the solution is removing paint or causing discoloration.
- Don’t Use Bleach: Bleach may be a strong cleaning solution, but it can also cause discoloration and damage to your neon sign. This chemical also releases fumes that are harmful when inhaled so avoid using it when cleaning neon signs.
- Don’t Soak the Sign When Cleaning: Soaking the sign in a cleaning solution may damage its coating and cause damage to its electrical components. It’s best to apply the cleaning solution to your microfiber cloth instead.
Tips on Maintaining Your Neon Sign
It’s vital to maintain your neon sign to help it retain its pristine appearance and vibrant glow for many years. Below are some essential tips to ensure your neon sign stays in excellent condition.
- Display it Appropriately: Keep your neon sign somewhere where it won’t be exposed to direct heat or rain. Extreme temperatures and weather elements can damage the sign or cause it to lose its pristine appearance.
- Dust It Regularly: Dusting your sign regularly will help it look new. It also prevents a thick layer of dust from accumulating, which can be difficult to remove without performing a deep clean.
- Keep It On All the Time: Contrary to popular belief, turning your neon sign on and off can actually cause it to burn out faster. These signs are designed to have a working lifespan of tens of thousands of hours, so don’t be afraid to keep them on the majority of the time.
- Keep Bugs Away: Bugs can cover neon signs and their carcasses and droppings can cause stains that are difficult to remove. It’s recommended to keep bugs away by installing a bug zapper near your neon sign.
- Get Professional Help to Repair: If you notice problems with your neon sign, consider reaching out to a professional to repair it. Failing to address such problems as soon as they appear may cause them to get worse over time and more difficult to fix.
Sirinan is a self-proclaimed cleanaholic and the editor-in-chief of Cleaney. Apart from coming with up creative ways to keep her living spaces clean and tidy, she loves to read on rainy days.