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The Cleaning and Maintenance of Lights


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I was hoping someone could advise on how and when theatre lights should be taken down for cleaning and maintenance. At the school where I work they have the following fixtures.


  • 4 Elation Design Spot 300e moving head spots
  • 4 Eleation design wash l.e.d 60 - moving head washes
  • 6 showtec led par 64 cans
  • 12 Procan Par64
  • 12 elation fresnel theatre spots
  • 4 UV cannons
  • 1 gliiter ball


I am not a lampy myself, but have been learning about theatre lighting and working as a technician part time across music and also performing arts. I want to learn how to maintain our equipment instead of paying for an external company to come in. We recently had our moving head spots sent off for repairs and maintenance after many of them developed faults, I want to minimise this from happening by developing a schedule and procedure for lighting maintenance.


Can anyone advise the best procedures for maintaining and cleaning moving head spots, and also if there is a need to take down and fully clean out par can, fresnel or l.e.d lights.


Many Thanks



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Equipment manufacturers usually document cleaning procedures in their technical manuals.


Service intervals for routine and preventative maintenance are usually dictated by;


duration and frequency of use - are they used and struck a few times a week just during term time or are they always on, 6 days a week all year round.


environment - Is it a clean indoor venue, with stable conditions, little use of water based haze or is it an old venue susceptible to dust and lots of cracked oil based haze.


complexity of the fixture - a par can and a moving light have very different requirements.


exposure mechanical wear and damage - Are the fixtures constantly rigged and derigged in different positions or do they remain fairly static in fixed positions.


With all things considered, it would be strongly advisable that all fixtures are inspected, cleaned and tested by a competent and qualified person on a yearly basis. This should include;


- A test cycle performed on all the fixtures and any faults noted such as a sticky color wheel or slipping pan belt.

- Inspection of the fixture for mechanical and electrical safety, wear or damage. pay particular attention to trailing leads, damage to plugs, exposure or damage to mains cable and check that the grommet and strain relief on the fixture are intact.

- Check that all the rigging and safety bonds are in good order and all bolts and nuts are tight as they should be.

- Dismantle and Clean the fixture internally using lint free cloth and compressed air being careful not to damage internal elements. bulkheads can be removed and checked wear appropriate. this should be performed by a person with the relevant knowledge as significant damage can be done if not performed correctly. During this process, you will be able to establish the effects that environment has had on the fixture, is there a build up of sticky dust/haze residue? has this effected and of the components?



Although not currently a legal requirement, it would be ideal to PAT test the fixtures annually during this process. Not only can this help maintain a record and help highlight problems but in fact it can sometimes be a requrement by Insurers that this is conducted to prove that equipment is in good working order and electrically safe.


I hope the information is of use to you and whilst not a definitive guide it should cover the primary objectives of servicing a lighting rig. Also this is just my opinion and of course, if in any doubt, there is no substitute for professional, expert advise so please only use this to help develop your own preventive maintenance schedule.

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I agree with the above regarding your movers. You need to get someone who 'knows what they're doing' to do it if you want them to be properly stripped and cleaned.


In my experience, they nearly always develop more faults after they've been in pieces than they had before - although this isn't usually a problem as we can fix 80% of the problems that arise (from past experience). However, if you've never worked on movers before, I'd definitely not take them apart yourself, but get someone who is trained and experienced to do it for you as they are a hell of a lot more complex than they look!


If you can't get anyone to do them for you, I'd simply just take off the head covers and give them a fairly gentle blow-out using compressed air (and making sure that you gently hold the fans with a screwdriver), and maybe give the lenses and colours a quick DRY wipe if they're accessible without taking anything apart. As said above, I'd avoid taking out any modules or lenses as you can so easily break things by taking them out in the wrong way (voice of experience there... I've broken my fair share of modules by forcing them out). And especially as these are 'more budget' fixtures, parts are going to be much harder to source if they do break.


Sorry if this comes across as a bit harsh - I don't mean it to - but I'd hate to think that you break some of your movers by doing something in such a well-meaning manner!


All the best, & I hope I've helped!

Max J


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deadpixel has given a good overview of maintenance. The dichroic colour flags are very fragile so be very careful with cleaning. See if you can, do a moving light maintenance course to pick up all the good techniques.


The main light path problems are cigarette smoke and haze as they build up on the glass surfaces and have to be removed. You can feel any binding of stepper motors when doing maintenance, so can replace them before they affect the units performance.


To clean glass I dust off with a soft brush, clean with alcohol, clean the alcohol of with distilled water, dry the glass with a soft clean cloth. Check the manufacturers handbook to see if they warn you not to use alcohol, as it can damage some surface finishes or lens coatings.


When you buy moving lights, you need to factor maintenance into your operating budget, if you want reliable operation of the units.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi guys, many thanks for your responses.


We have recently had all of our moving head spots (the Elation Design Wash 300e) serviced and cleaned by a company, there was some problems with them and parts had to be sourced from the manufacturer. Almost all 4 fixtures had developed some sort of issue, ranging from mechanical sticking of the motors, to lamps striking down - probably due to overheating, and also some lens focussing issues, gobo issues etc.


Before I came to the Academy there was no technician and the lights were basically left on all the time at the mains, clocking up ridiculous amounts of lamp time/wear, as I am assuming they were never lamped off properly or switched off. Only the desk was powered down but the main power supply to the lights remained on at all times. This has probably significantly decreased the longevity of the lights.


I think the par can and fresnel lamps are relatively straightforward, although I dont have any experience in servicing these either, but lamp replacement and cleaning seems pretty easy. I understand that the fresnel lamps are prone to blow more easily as cannot be flashed like par cans. So we avoid using them for any concert lighting. All our L.E.D fixtures have been fine, and to my knowledge have never been serviced or cleaned since installation in 2010.


Anyway the reason for taking maintenance and cleaning action is to basically service the lights without taking them apart, just to try to prevent any big problems.


To give you an idea of the lighting usage, we only really use the lights during school productions and assemblies. So at most three times per week, but in reality this number is less, as not every assembly has lighting. So for the most part the lights are not in use. Stationary, and are constantly rigged in the same place, and as yet have never been de-rigged or removed for any productions. Only for servicing of the 4 moving heads I mentioned before. We rarely use Haze and the building is clean and new. We do have some ventilation system in there also, which may or may not help with dust. But as the fixtures have been in the same place for number of years there is sure to be a big buildup of dust and residue from when we have used hazers in productions over the years.


Are there any guide books or online video resources on cleaning methods - dismantling or servicing par cans, fresnel theatre spots, moving head or l.e.d?


What I want to do is be able to fairly regularly go up on the scissor lift and inspect/clean the lights, but not do anything too complicated or that would risk me damaging the lights due to inexperience or lack of knowledge.


So from what has been advised I need a can of compressed air, a lint free cloth and a dry wipe (what about alcohol solution), and I'm assuming this will be sufficient to clean and wipe over par cans, fresnel theatre spots, moving head and led without the need to open up or de-rig any fixtures?


I will certainly try to learn more and perhaps do a course in moving head maintenance and lighting maintenance in general. Also I will schedule in an annual servicing with a reputable company to ensure our lights are properly looked at by a professional. I think this is something the school need to take seriously and I cannot in my current position provide the expertise and experience required for me to be sure im doing a professional job with any real confidence or insurance on the work I could carry out. I would not want to risk breaking anything and wont usually open up things unless I am somewhat familiar with the technology inside and have seen or worked on a unit before alongside someone else. So I want to avoid opening up the moving heads, par cans and fresnel fixtures if possible. Although perhaps taking off the head covers might yield better cleaning results.


So aside from getting a company in, just a blast with compressed air, externally - without opening up the lights, and a wipe/clean of the lamp/lens would be sufficient, or is there some taking of covers, opening things up essentially required for routine maintenance, bearing in mind that I will look to get a company in annually to do a thorough full service check.


Any final clarification / advice would be greatly appreciated.


We have an upcoming panto soon, so will look to change some lamps, do a quick clean and get everything ready over the comming weeks.


Thanks for the support guys, its very much appreciated.



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