How to Clean Solar Lights: Our Expert Tips

Last Updated:

Solar lights are a fantastic way to light up any outdoor space, lower your carbon footprint, and save yourself some money in the process.

Solar garden lights get their power from the sun – by turning solar energy into renewable, eco-friendly electricity – they are almost always used exclusively as outdoor lights.

However, as with all garden lights, being permanently outside at the mercy of nature means that regular maintenance and upkeep are required to keep your solar lights in the best shape possible.

Below, we’ll cover everything you’ll need to know about how to clean solar lights and panels properly, as well as explain what parts of your solar panels and lights to concentrate most on during this cleaning process.

Which Solar Light Components Require Maintenance?

Solar Panels

Unsurprisingly, solar panels are one of the most critical components of any solar lighting system.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not the solar panels that supply power to the light bulb within solar lighting. Instead, they transfer energy from sunlight into usable electricity, which is then stored in solar batteries.

As the solar panel is responsible for generating the electricity which the light stores, the solar panel’s surface must always be clean and free of any dirt or dust.

If your solar panel has a thin layer of dirt blocking total sun exposure, it could result in the panel not getting enough sunlight to charge the batteries – causing them to fail.

Batteries

When a solar light stops working, the most common cause of the fault is with the batteries.

Unlike the panel itself – which remains fixed in position for several years – the batteries which solar lights use will need to be changed over every two years or so.

Luckily, however, changing over the rechargeable batteries on a solar light is a carefree undertaking similar to swapping out traditional alkaline batteries from a classic battery compartment.

Casing

The casing, or light cover, is another component of a solar light that may call for some regular cleaning and maintenance to prolong its lifespan.

Generally, a light cover for a solar light fixture is made from either a durable plastic covering or a weatherproof metal surface.

This means that they rarely encounter any damage during bad weather conditions.

Like solar panels, if the casing of a light fixture becomes coated in dirt or loose debris from bad weather, it can spread inside the light itself and cause internal damage.

What Will You Need For Cleaning?

Gloves

Whenever your preparing to clean anything, gloves are always a good place to start.

When you clean solar lights, there is a strong chance of some dirt or residue buildup on the exterior and within more difficult-to-reach areas.

Besides being unpleasant to touch, there is also a slight chance that this residue contains trace amounts of chemicals that may irritate your skin – so always use gloves when cleaning solar lights.

Soft Cloth/Paper Towel

Another must-have for cleaning solar lights is a soft cloth or roll or towel (preferably paper).

There are few electrical wires within the inner workings of solar lights; there is little risk of you causing any accidental damage by using a damp paper towel to remove any dirt or debris.

Alongside a damp towel, a soft damp cloth is also an invaluable tool as it can gently remove any dirt or stains without leaking or damaging the interior of the light.

Soft Brush

If you find more brittle or stubborn stains on the exterior of your solar lights that a damp cloth cannot remove, another option is to use a soft brush.

By softly buffering these sections of your solar cover with a light brush and mild detergent, you should find that even the toughest stains wash away easily.

Warm Water & Mild Soap

As solar lights are built for outdoor use, the vast majority are waterproof graded and built entirely from durable, weather-resistant materials.

This means that you don’t need to be overly concerned with soapy water or dish soap leaking when cleaning your solar lights.

When cleaning your light cover, always use a mix of mild detergent and warm water to get the most effective clean.

Dry Towel

Finally, another key cleaning tool you’ll want to have on hand when giving your solar lights and panels a deep clean is a dry towel to remove any leftover moisture.

As with many other cleaning and maintenance tasks, the best approach for keeping your solar lights clean is a two-step approach. You initially use a wet paper towel or cloth to remove any dirt before using a dry towel to soak up any residual water or dampness.

How To Clean Solar Lights

This is a 3 step process:

Clean The Solar Panels

When you clean solar panels, you should begin by using a wet cloth or paper towel to wipe the surface of the solar panel clean and remove any buildup of dirt or dust which may be causing an obstruction.

During this stage, always avoid using too much pressure with your wet cloth or towel, as there is a risk of accidentally scratching the solar panel itself and causing more harm than good.

After lightly cleaning the solar panel to remove any dust, you can then pour a small quantity of a mild detergent or dish soap over the panel’s surface.

Following this, clean the solar panel once more with a cloth (as if it were a delicate plate), ensuring that all soap is removed.

Any leftover moisture – should there be any – can then be removed with a dry towel.

Clean The Batteries

As solar lights are almost always used as garden lights, their batteries are at a higher risk of battery corrosion due to being constantly exposed to the forces of nature.

For this reason, you should check the special solar batteries within your lights regularly and follow these basic cleaning tips.

Firstly, remove the batteries from their casing and inspect them. If you notice a buildup of white dust, this is usually a sight of onset battery corrosion.

To avoid this corrosion developing further, use a fine brush to rub the battery casing and interior compartment to ensure that all the white powder is removed.

If this proves difficult using a brush, it may call for something more brittle – such as fine-grit sandpaper to ensure that the corrosion will not spread further.

After removing all the white dust from the battery itself and its compartment, you can then reinsert the new battery – making sure that any excess moisture is removed beforehand, as this will only lead to further corrosion.

Clean The Casing

The plastic or glass cover which encases your solar garden lights is essential to protect the internal components and keep your light fixture shining brightly.

If there is a layer of dirt or debris leftover from poor weather conditions, then it could affect the brightness of your solar path lights.

Thankfully cleaning the casing of garden lights is the same process used to clean solar panels.

This involves initially using a wet cloth or towel to clean the exterior of the light and get rid of any leaves, dirt, or debris which may have formed.

Once this has been removed, you can then pour a small amount of washing detergent over the exterior of the casing and go over it once more with a wet cloth in a buffering motion.

Finally, get a dry cloth or towel and dab the casing until fully dry.

When Do Solar Light Components Need Replacing

As solar lights get their energy from solar panels and are all built from weatherproof, durable materials, they should last you for years – providing you carry out the basic maintenance processes detailed above.

However, although they are built to last, they won’t be around forever – there will come a time when components will need to be replaced.

The most common part which may need replacing is the batteries, as they have a shorter lifespan than the other components (although they still last around 2 years).

Luckily, changing over the rechargeable batteries of solar light is a simple and carefree task. Almost all devices use standard 1.2V NiCd or 1.2V NiMH batteries, which can easily be found in most hardware stores.

Most solar panels are graded to last for up to 10 years before they may need replacing, and carrying out regular cleaning can be a massive help in prolonging a panel’s lifespan.

Tips For Keeping Your Solar Lights Clean

Prune Nearby Plants

Because solar panels need the sun’s rays to absorb energy and charge their batteries properly, they must be placed in an area that has direct sunlight.

People encounter a common problem when they place solar powered garden lights, or path lights is nearby plants blocking out the sun, which means the panels cannot properly extract light energy.

To avoid this, you should always make sure you prune back nearby plants and trees which may block the sun from your solar panels, and be strategic when placing your lights in an area that gets consistent direct sunlight.

Remove Lights When You’re Gardening

Another common problem people have with solar lights is the effect that other artificial light sources can have on solar panels.

If you place solar lighting within direct range of another artificial light source such as spotlights or streetlamps this light can accidentally trigger the sensor on the solar lighting.

When this dusk-till-dawn sensor is triggered, the solar light may mistake the light source like sunlight, meaning it may not turn itself on or properly charge the batteries.

Also, when performing other gardening duties such as mowing the lawn you should remove your solar-powered light fixtures to avoid them being damaged by any loose bits of gravel or dirt which your gardening equipment may expel.

Clean Components Regularly

Clean solar panels and lights are happy solar panels.

As with any piece of technology, the better you look after it, the longer it will work.

All of the necessary cleaning directions for cleaning your lights effectively and efficiently should have been covered above.

Still, if you require device-specific information about how to clean solar panels of a particular variety, you can always look up the instructions online.

Final Thoughts

In summary, the above article should hopefully have provided you with some insight into the critical components of a solar-powered light and how to properly clean and maintain each part.

With more people than ever being continuously aware of their carbon footprint and effect on the climate, switching from traditional incandescent lighting to renewable solar energy can be a great way of being more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Within the last few years, the amount of variety in solar lighting has excelled massively, and it is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.

This is why there has never been a better time to go solar, and (by following all the tips listed above) you should now have all the information you’ll need to keep your solar lights shining brightly for years to come.

FAQs

How Do You Clean Cloudy Solar Lights?

If your solar lights produce a dimmer, duller hue than they first were, the most likely cause is a dirty solar-cell covering.

To solve this, remove clean the casing with warm water and a damp cloth, and if the cloudiness persists, you can also apply a thin coat of nail polish or lacquer to the interior of the plastic to renew its shine.

Does Clear Nail Polish Work On Solar Lights?

Yes, nail polish is the perfect thing to renew the effectiveness of the plastic-covered solar cell on a solar-powered light. This is because it is both thin and transparent enough to allow light to pass through and is also waterproof and durable to prevent further damage.

How Do You Clean Solar Light Batteries?

Cleaning solar light batteries involve removing them from their container and rubbing them thoroughly with a brush or piece of sandpaper.

The most common problem that solar light batteries encounter is corrosion, which usually takes fine white dust. Simply rub this dust off, and your batteries should be good to go.

How Can I Make My Solar Lights Work Again?

There are several ways that you can restore your solar lights, most of which have been detailed above. Should the tips above fail, however, you can always check for device-specific tips online.