Vintage Find: Rain Lamp

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There are few pieces of decor that add charm and warmth to a room quite like vintage lighting.  I am a huge fan of the 1960s and 70s swag lights – the kind that hang from the ceiling by chains, with their cords woven in the chain links.

Until recently, I’ve only allowed myself to indulge my love of vintage lighting with one avocado green, macramé, swag light.  Now that we have our own home and we can drill as many holes in the ceiling as we like, I have been scooping up all of the vintage lighting I come across while treasure hunting.

This vintage Rain Lamp or Drip Lamp features the popular Venus Statue in the center. These swag lights were invented and manufactured by Johnson Industries in the 1970s.
Venus Rain Lamp. (Photo by Stars & Splendid Antique Mall/Creative Commons)

When the light is turned on, a pump moves the mineral oil up one of the pipes to the top of the lamp, where it rains down little droplets on the strings surrounding the goddess statue.

My favorite fixture thus far is a swag-style light I’ve have had my eye on since I was a little girl.  It’s called a rain lamp.  It features a small statue of Venus surrounded by drip lines, and green, plastic foliage.  The base of the lamp is filled with mineral oil – or Drakeol #35 oil if you want to shell out a bit more money for the original stuff.  When the light is turned on, a pump moves the mineral oil up one of the pipes to the top of the lamp, where it rains down little droplets on the strings surrounding the goddess statue.

The front page of this Johnson Industries brochure shows vintage Rain Lamps in the swag light, table top, and shaded lamp styles.
The cover of a Johnson Industries Rain Lamp brochure. (Photo credit to hippielight.com)

(See more of the brochure at hippielight.com)

Rain lights came in tabletop, wall-mount, and swag styles.  The most common and popular lamps have the Venus statue in the center.  There are some that feature other statues, such as prayer hands, a cabin, the Three Graces, or a dancing couple.  The lamps were invented and originally manufactured by Johnson Industries.

Rain lamps were popular in the late 1960s, 1970s, and into the 80s, which is when I came across one as a little girl.

This vintage swag light rain lamp features a dancing goddess Venus.
Vintage Rain Lamp with dancing Venus. (Photo credit to James/Creative Commons)

It is generally recommended that you clean the inside of your rain lamp out about once a year.  When I first read this I was a little intimidated…I didn’t want to break my new treasure!  As it turns out, this is a totally simple process.

Rain lamps have captured the nostalgic hearts of vintage lovers these days.  As a result of their cult popularity, these babies have gone up in price.  If you want to snag a rain lamp on eBay that is still in good shape, you are looking to spend upwards of $200 plus shipping costs.

Lamps found at a thrift store or garage sale will often need a good cleaning and perhaps a little maintenance.  After years of use, these lamps get coated with a layer of oil and will need to be cleaned up with soap and water.

It is generally recommended that you clean the inside of your rain lamp out about once a year.  When I first read this I was a little intimidated…I didn’t want to break my new treasure!  As it turns out, this is a totally simple process.

The very first thing I suggest doing before picking up your tools, is to find a workspace that will not be damaged by oil.  Many of these lamps have mineral oil inside from decades past, and it will stain clothing, tablecloths, carpet, etc.  Cover your workspace with a plastic garbage bag and have plenty of paper towels handy.

To clean the interior of a vintage Rain Lamp, you must first remove the foliage and unscrew the center statue.
STEP ONE: Remove the foliage and center statue

The first step in dismantling the rain lamp is to remove the foliage and unscrew the center statue.  The greenery can be removed pretty easily.  After removing the foliage, I turned the lamp sideways and drained as much oil as possible into a container.  The oil will spill from the larger holes near the small holes that hold the foliage stems.

To unscrew the center statue, reach very carefully through the strings and twist the statue counter-clockwise.  I suspect that this was the first time my lamp had been dismantled, so it was a little difficult to loosen the statue.  If possible, I suggest asking someone to hold the lamp for you while you do this step.

After removing them, I soaked the statue and foliage in hot soapy water and then scrubbed them with a sponge in order to remove the layers of oil and dust that had accumulated over the decades.  I also wiped each string with a soapy paper towel to remove the grime.

Underneath the base of the statue you will see the two screws that secure the motor.  These screws do not have to be removed unless you find that the motor needs to be removed, cleaned, or replaced.  I suggest leaving them in place until you decide whether this is necessary.

The second step to clean a vintage rain lamp is to unscrew three screws around the base.
STEP TWO: Unscrew three screws around the base

The second step to cleaning the interior of the oil vessel is to unscrew the three screws that are on the base of the lamp.  I’ve included a photo of the screws on my lamp (above), but they may look different on other lamp styles.

There are similar screws on the top of the lamp that can be removed in order to open up the top side.  If you have a lamp that has clogged drip holes at the top, go ahead and carefully remove the light bulb and then open the top of the lamp by removing the screws.  This will give you access to those top holes, which can be cleaned with a toothpick.

Remove the base of the vintage Rain Lamp to clean the interior oil vessel.
STEP 3: Remove the base of the Rain Lamp and wash with hot soapy water.

The next step to clean out the oil tray is to carefully remove the base of the lamp.  This is where the oil sits when the lamp is not in use, and also where you put the oil when you refill the lamp.  Again, I think this was the first time my lamp was taken apart and I really had to (carefully) wiggle the base back and forth to coax it off.  I suggest having an assistant hold the top while you remove the base.

After removing the base, I washed it with hot soapy water and a sponge.  The motor seems to function properly on my lamp, so I just wiped off the excess oil.  (You can see the motor in the top right of the photo above.)  If you discover that your motor is burned out, you can buy a  replacement motor on eBay.

After allowing the pieces to air dry, I reassembled the lamp.  When re-positioning the greenery surrounding the statue, be sure that none of the plastic plants touch the drip lines and disrupt the flow of oil.  This can be a little tricky and requires some patience.  Leave one of the oil fill-holes empty until after you fill your lamp up with oil, at which point you can add that last bit of greenery.

I have read that it takes 1-3 pints of oil to fill the lamp up, depending on the size of the lamp.  I added exactly 2 pints to mine and caused more of a downpour than a gentle rain!  I emptied a bit out of it until it had a nice steady, beaded drip.   Learn from my mistake and add just a little bit of oil at a time until your lamp begins to rain.

Next step:  Hang it up, turn it on, and admire your resurrected rain lamp!

If you don’t have one of these incredible vintage lamps yet and would like to get one, I suggest checking Etsy and eBay:

Vintage Three Goddesses Rain Lamp from DayJahView on Etsy.
Vintage Three Goddesses Rain Lamp from DayJahView on Etsy.
Vintage Venus Tabletop Rain Lamp from FIGHOUSEVINTAGE on Etsy.
Vintage Venus Tabletop Rain Lamp from FIGHOUSEVINTAGE on Etsy.

As soon as I finish painting my living room and hanging my lamp, I will snap a picture of it for you all to see!

Do you remember seeing rain lamps when you were a kid?  Or maybe you had or have one yourself?  Tell us your story in the comments section!

Note:  If you click on the affiliate links in this post, I will earn a commission from subsequent purchases at no additional cost to you.  This extra bit of money allows me to continue to provide free, helpful, and entertaining content to my readers.  Your support is appreciated.

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27 Comments

  1. Thank you for your tips. I didn’t have one as a kid (but I saw them -or just one?- in some houses and i love them. Now I bought one and it needs some cleaning and your information is very helpful. I hope you’re enjoying your lamp 🙂

    • I am so happy I was able to help you out! I get so excited whenever I hear about one of these lamps being restored. I’d love to see pictures when you are finished. Our rain lamp is working great and, of course, I love it!

  2. My grandmother has the three goddesses rain lmap in working /good condition. We are looking to sell it. How do you suggest I do that.

    • Hi Stacy! I’ve noticed that the best prices have been received on eBay and Etsy. eBay tends to be the easiest to sell one piece at a time (as opposed to setting up an entire Etsy store to sell one item) so that might be a good option for you. I also see people selling rain lamps on Craigslist, though, because of the decrease in the audience size you will probably get less money for it. The upside of selling on Craigslist is that you won’t have to worry about shipping the item as you would if you were to sell on eBay or Etsy.

    • Your best bet is to search on Etsy or eBay. Every one in a while I see them pop up on Craigslist. I found mine in a thrift store but I had to wait years before I found one!

  3. Trying to get the top off my rain lamp to clean it, it wont budge any suggestions?? Its an old one from the seventies.

    • Hello! I read that you can unplug the holes with a toothpick. I cleaned my strings using a cloth dipped in warm soapy water. I hope that helps!

  4. Hi,I I was given when that was stored away for last 10 years I didn’t absolutely terrible shape as first when it was given to me I thought it was a broken down Birdcage this one some of the strings were broken so once I knew what it was and did some research it all came back to me,my grandparents had one when I was a a little boy and was simply Amazed by them, so I’ve completely restored this one including 40lb fishing wire, luckily the pump is in fine shape I had to do some rewiring for the light, which I’m going to use a dark green 40w bulb for a nice glow, the figurine in this particular one is a water wheel house, and still had all the foilage with it,an absolute beautiful treasure from the past and brought back life! Rick

    • Wow! That’s wonderful! I am so excited to hear stories of vintage pieces that have been resurrected with a bit of TLC. Enjoy your treasure!

  5. Hi,I was recently given one that was stored away for last 10 years,it was in absolutely terrible shape,at first I thought it was a broken down Birdcage!Some of the strings were broken and it was filthy, so once i did some research on the lamp,it all came back to me,my grandparents had one and when I was a little boy I was simply Amazed by it. So I’ve completely restored this one including 40lb fishing wire, luckily the pump is in fine shape, I had to do some rewiring for the light, which I’m going to use a dark green 40w bulb for a nice glow, the figurine in this particular one is a water wheel house, and still has all the foilage with it,an absolute beautiful treasure from the past,brought back life! Rick

  6. I am looking for a genuine Johnson industries swag type rainlamp. As you will see, my name is Darrell Johnson, and I am the son of the inventor of the lamps. I built many in my dad’s factory as a kid.
    I was given the last one made a couple of years before my father passed. I had brought it to him for repair a couple of months before he passed, but my step mother stole it from me.
    I hope maybe you can help me in my quest.
    This is very personal to me. There are many Chinese and Taiwanese fakes out there, but only the real thing will do.

    Thank you,
    Darrell Johnson

    • I am sorry for your troubles. I wish I could direct you to one. I think your best bet is to keep your eye on Etsy and eBay. Sometimes I see rain lamps in their original boxes pop up for sale. Even though it’s along shot, I would also keep my eye on Craigslist because they sometimes show up and are cheap. Best of luck to you in your search.

    • I have an original Johnson swag lamp that has been in my family for 48 yrs, my eldest sister bought it in1971 and I got it when she passed in 2013,it is in great shape and still works great

  7. I have a lamp which needs a new pump. It is apart now as I needed to know what pump and motor I needed to make it work again. The rest of the lamp is in good shape. It belonged to my mother and father — both now deceased . I have the brochure from Johnson Industries. I am debating whether I should look for a working replacement or try to buy the pump and attempt to find someone who can put the lamp back together. No luck with finding someone with the patience to do that so far. I am an 86 year old widow so I cannot do it myself. I found Darrell Johnson’s inquiry interesting. I found one site on the computer where a company had taken over the Johnson Industries, but I cannot find it again. Not great with the computer.

    Thank you,

  8. Hi! I am trying to restore my Grandmother’s Johnson Industries oil lamp. Does anyone know what lightbulb to use? I am considering re-wiring in a new chain and light socket. The power supply is still working, but the chain is too tarnished to repair. My concern is knowing what watts the pump runs on. This is my first vintage repair so I am all ears for any help 😀

    • Hi Susie! The Johnson Industries tag on my lamp says “Because of fire hazards, use only 60 watt bulb or less. Lamp rated 1 Amp., 120 Volt, 60 Hertz.” I don’t know what wattage the pump runs on. Perhaps someone else can chime in with that info?

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