I had my house painted, the painter did not cover my motion detector light, he sprayed paint into the socket. I can see paint on the threads but not where the bulb touches the connectors. I screwed on a light bulb, and it still works. But is the light safe to use? Will the paint cause a fire? There is no way I can remove the socket, how will I go about cleaning it safely?

  • Is this a regular light socket for incandescent lights? When you say "connectors" that makes it sound like possibly something else since the screw threads actually conduct electricity in regular old light sockets.
    – rfii
    Jun 6, 2021 at 1:25

4 Answers 4


If the light is working, it should be okay without having to clean the threads. Personally, I would probably clean it...but thats just because, mentally, I can't allow that imperfection. Although, It would certainly be unnecessary if the light is functioning properly.

If you are like me and must at least try something, and you are not comfortable cutting the power and testing for a current before cleaning it, you could simply twist the bulb all the way in and out a few times in an effort to rub some of the paint off of the threads.

  • Welcome to Home Improvement! Nice first answer.
    – IronEagle
    Jun 5, 2021 at 20:30

When I was a kid building a house with my family I noticed some of our recessed "can" lights had gotten paint spray into the sockets and covered the little "button" terminal. Before I'd even thought it through I put my finger in there to scratch the paint off.. yeah, the circuit was live. Obviously I lived to laugh about it, and I still occasionally work on circuits live.. but I recommend light socket cleaning be done with the power off. ;-)

The part of the threads where the light bulb contacts won't have received paint spray because they're on the side facing away from the spray source. If the button terminal at the bottom of the socket is clean then don't worry about it. Paint overspray into sockets happens often.

  • It probably isn't a safety concern but - especially with LEDs - power fluctuations can make bulbs burn out faster no matter how slight.
    – DMoore
    Jun 4, 2021 at 18:30

I recently installed dimmer switched in one part of the house where the ceiling lights have all been working fine. After the installation, one of the lights would not dim properly (all LEDs). It would sort of come on at full brightness (eventually, after a lag), but it would barely dim and usually just not come on at all.

After a lot of troubleshooting I discovered painters at painted the inside of the socket that the light was attached to. At full power there was enough current to turn on the light, but anything below that, the light would not come on, or dim.

After sanding for a long time I was able to peel off enough of the latex paint that I could finally see metal. And my light dims properly now.

So, if you have painted sockets, be aware that you are causing increased resistance (which equals heat) and that dimmers may not work properly. In short, it's worth cleaning out the paint that got into there.


The socket threads conduct electricity so there must be some bare spots that touch the bulb threads.

Trying to clean it could be dangerous...if you spill solvents in the fixture or damage it trying to scrap the paint out.

It's fine. Don't worry.

  • I would say probably don't worry. But if the connection is "barely enough" then it could lead to arcing or overheating. Jun 4, 2021 at 15:15
  • 1
    True, there are no guarantees in life (except, of course, death and taxes!). Jun 4, 2021 at 15:17

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