Exceptional closet organization and storage is all well and good, but without proper lighting, the simple task of finding an article of clothing or a jacket can become a major inconvenience. The right closet lighting system will illuminate your wardrobe and make your life easier. As you shop for the best lighting for your closet, it’s essential to think about which kind of light, and which special lighting features, will fit your space best. The size and shape of your closet (and whether it is wired for electricity) will also determine the kind of lighting that best suits your wardrobe space.
- BEST OVERALL: Lithonia Lighting LED Flush Mount Closet Light
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Brilliant Evolution Wireless LED Puck Light 3-Pack
- BEST STRIP: Cotanic 70 LED Closet Light
- BEST RECESSED: Sunco Lighting 4-Inch LED Recessed Downlights
- BEST TRACK: Globe Electric Grayson 4 S-Shape Track Lighting
- BEST DIMMABLE: Light Blue USA LED Ceiling Mount Light Dimmable
- BEST WIRELESS: imenou LED Closet Light USB Rechargeable
- BEST MOTION SENSOR: Youtob Motion Sensor LED Ceiling Light
Popular Types of Closet Lighting
The most common types of lighting used in closets are strip lighting, recessed lighting, and track lighting. Each option has a different kind of bulb and different types of mounts. Of these different types, some have a motion sensor for automatic turn on, or are wireless and battery-powered for easy installation.
Strip lights are flexible cords or strips of tiny LED lights that are usually attached to a wall or other surface with a strong adhesive backing. There is no hardwiring required for strip lighting—just plug them in and use them. These lights are great for lighting up small, dark spaces because the strip is so compact. Many strip lights come with remote controls that allow users to change the color and pattern of the lights, creating a more varied illumination for those seeking to liven up their closet space.
Recessed lighting fits inside a cutout in the ceiling and sits flush with drywall once the lighting is hardwired and installed. These lights are usually round, and measure from 3 to 12 inches in diameter. When using recessed lighting to illuminate your wardrobe, this will usually get better coverage installing a series of small recessed lights rather than a couple of big ones. As is the case with any electrical fixtures you’d install in a closet, follow good fire-safety precautions and install recessed lights only if you can maintain a clearance of at least 6 inches between the lights and clothing or other items you store in the closet.
With a track lighting system, individual light bulbs are mounted on a metal bar, or track. What’s nice about track lights is you can swivel the light bulbs, and spotlight specific areas of your closet. Track lighting works best for walk-in closets because larger closets usually have enough ceiling clearance to avoid a fire hazard. These lights are also relatively easy to install because they require just one hardwiring point, rather than multiple points (as with recessed lighting).
Motion Sensor Lighting
Motion sensor lights are designed to turn on automatically when they detect movement within their sensor range. There are two common types of motion sensors: active ultrasound and passive infrared (PIR), which uses ultrasonic waves to detect movement. PIR relies on changes in infrared energy, or body heat, to detect motion and trigger the light. Motion sensor closet lighting is convenient because it doesn’t require a light switch.
It isn’t always possible or feasible to cut into ceilings and walls to install new closet lighting. Wireless closet lighting is a terrific option in these situations because it doesn’t require electrical hardwiring. Instead, wireless lights are battery powered, usually with AA or AAA batteries. Some wireless lights are even rechargeable.
To recharge a wireless light, plug it into a standard USB port or phone charger using the accompanying charging cable. Wireless lights are usually mounted onto surfaces with magnetic strips or strong adhesives made for walls. Most wireless lights will run for 3 to 5 hours of continuous use, or 1 to 2 months of sporadic use.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Closet Lighting
Other important things to consider while shopping for the best closet lighting are your closet’s layout and square footage, your personal style, and the type of light you want to cast in the space. Your closet lights’ color temperature and brightness, for example, can affect how your clothing looks.
Closet Space and Features
Not all types of closet lighting can be used in all closets. As with any electrical wiring or device, fire safety is critical. Many wired lighting fixtures require a minimum clearance of 6 to 12 inches between a light source and a surface. Most municipalities follow National Electric Code (NEC) guidelines, which stipulate that closet lights should be recessed, or surface mounted without exposed bulbs, unless your closet is a walk-in space.
In other words, the size and layout of your closet has everything to do with the kind of lighting you can use in the space. It’s always best to contact your local municipality to see what the exact building codes are in your area.
The materials your closet lighting is made of is another important consideration, and will vary depending on the type of lighting you install. For example, frames for track lighting are usually made of metal. These frames, or tracks, come in a variety of finishes to match different décor styles. Recessed lights, on the other hand, are often framed in rings of white plastic resin or silver metal.
Fluorescent vs. LED
When shopping for the best closet lighting, you may come across the terms “fluorescent” and “LED” and wonder, what is the difference? Fluorescent lighting is a gas-discharge lamp that requires an electrical charge to start up. It may produce a buzzing sound with age. Fluorescent bulbs have been a reliable source of light for years and are more efficient than incandescent bulbs.
Light-emitting diodes, or LED lights, are solely electrical. Compared with fluorescent lights, LEDs are brighter, have a longer lifespan, turn on faster, and do not require the careful handling that mercury-based fluorescent lights do. LED lights are more energy efficient because they use less wattage to produce equal or brighter light than a fluorescent or incandescent bulb of higher wattage. LED lights should be your top choice for closet lighting.
Brightness and Color Temperature
The brightness and color temperature of your new closet lighting are essential shopping considerations because they dictate how well a bulb illuminates your space. Watts, the amount of energy a bulb uses, and lumens, which measure brightness, are two important measurements to be aware of. A small, 30- to 80-square-foot closet is best illuminated with an LED light system of 7 to 15 watts, or 500 to 1,000 lumens of light. (A 15-watt LED bulb is about as bright as a 25-watt fluorescent bulb or a 75-watt incandescent bulb. All three produce about 800 lumens of light, but the LED consumes the least energy.) Larger closets may require additional light fixtures or higher-wattage bulbs.
The color temperature, or tone, of a light bulb is measured in Kelvins. A lower rating of 2,000 to 4,000 Kelvins produces a warm yellowish tone; cooler white tones are found in the 4,500 to 6,000-plus Kelvins range. Warmer lights are softer and easier on your eyes, but cool-toned lighting may help you distinguish clothing colors more easily.
Your closet lighting’s design aesthetic is probably more exciting to shop for than the bulb tone. Though most closet lights are trimmed in simple white tones so they’ll blend in with drywall, other light fixtures are available in black, silver, bronze, or other trim colors. You may also want to take your home’s design or style into account when selecting closet lighting, and go with an industrial, vintage, or contemporary modern fixture to match your home’s décor. Of course, the fixtures that are best for your closet depend on its size. You have more flexibility to choose a bigger or more ornate closet light if your closet is a walk-in rather than a standard 4 by 6-foot storage area.
Wired vs. Wireless
Whether you select a hardwired or wireless closet light depends on your closet’s attributes, and your willingness to put time and expense into a closet-light installation. Installing a new hardwired light usually involves cutting and splicing wires, cutting out drywall, and drilling and mounting hardware to fit your fixture. These tasks require electrical expertise and are best done by a professional electrician. If you plan to install your new closet lights yourself, be sure to turn off all electrical power sources and follow safety guidelines.
If there’s a need for a closet light that’s easier to install, consider a plug-in electric light or a battery-powered wireless light. Most wireless lights run off AA or AAA batteries that last for a couple of months. Some wireless lights these days have rechargeable batteries, so you don’t have to worry about purchasing new ones every time the light’s battery dies. Most rechargeable batteries can be juiced up using a simple USB charger.
Our Top Picks
With these essential shopping considerations in mind, we chose some of the best closet lighting options available. From hardwired lights to decorative strip lighting, check out our top choices for illuminating your closet.
Made from durable painted steel, this LED flush mount light by Lithonia is easy to install and low on power consumption. Its LED bulbs are Energy Star rated and emit 4,000 Kelvins of cool-ish white at 920 lumens. You can expect a long lifespan of about 50,000 hours to help reduce your carbon footprint even further.
This closet light has a PIR motion sensor that turns on the second it detects movement and automatically switches off after 30 seconds of inactivity. Included with the light are mounting hardware and an easy-to-understand installation guide for DIYers; it’s available in three lengths, with or without a pull chain switch.
Brilliant Evolution’s wireless LED puck lights are easy to install and won’t break. This three-pack of lights does not require any hardwiring or hardware. The adhesive on the backs of the lights is designed to stick to walls and other home surfaces. The lights are powered by AA batteries and last for about 100 hours before the batteries have to be replaced, which is longer than most other wireless puck lights.
These LED lights have a push-button on-off switch, and a warm-white glow of 55 lumens at 3,000 Kelvins. Though these lights have ease of installation and wireless construction going for them, the lights’ beam is front-focused, and doesn’t work well when angled. These work best in a smaller closet or wardrobe.
The Cotanic LED Motion Sensor Light Strip isn’t flexible like most other light strips. It provides a 10-foot area in which the motion sensor can detect movement and automatically turn on the LED light strip. After 18 seconds of inactivity within the 10-foot range, the light strip shuts off. The high-density light strip can be attached or removed from its magnetic mount for easy recharging through a USB port, eliminating the need for electrical wires.
The ultra-thin form is specifically designed for closets to provide light in dark spaces. The glare-free diffusion plate makes it an ideal nighttime guide, preventing you from being blinded when it automatically activates.
Sunco’s 10-pack of recessed LED downlights is one of the best closest lighting systems for larger walk-in closets that require more than one light fixture. These LEDs have a baffle trim that diffuses light and creates a softer and more pleasant viewing experience. Their 90-degree flood beams can illuminate wide areas.
These 10-watt Energy Star LEDs lights are equivalent to 60-watt incandescents, and shine with 3,000-Kelvin warm white tone. These Suncos are also dimmable, have a lifespan of about 35,000 hours and come with a 7-year warranty.
An excellent choice for walk-in closets, Globe Electric’s Grayson track lighting is an upscale system that illuminates your wardrobe with style. It features four light bulbs that can be adjusted in any direction, which gives you more flexibility than most closet lights. This fixture uses four 50-watt, MR16 light bulbs that are not included but are easy enough to find at a hardware store.
This track lighting system is compatible with Globe Electric’s dimmer switch (sold separately). Though it requires hardwiring, the Grayson fixture comes with all necessary mounting hardware. Available with three, four or six track heads.
Light Blue USA’s dimmable LED ceiling light works well in larger closets, and its minimalist, brushed-nickel exterior looks great with almost any style of décor. The fixture is available in three lighting tone options (warm, cool, or daylight-toned) to suit your preference. It uses 15-watt LED light bulbs, which are long lasting and energy efficient. This fixture requires a hardwire installation and can be paired with an LED dimmer switch.
Imenou’s 13-inch, 35-watt LED wireless closet light is great for use in utility closets, wardrobes, and even in small storage cabinets. It’s easily mounted in seconds using either the 3M adhesive tape or magnetic strip on the back of the light. It is equipped with a built-in 1500mAH rechargeable battery that can last for up to four hours of continuous use, or 1 to 2 months in motion-sensor mode.
When the unit’s battery needs to be recharged, simply remove the light from its mount and plug it into a USB charging port. (You can charge it using your phone charger, a computer USB port, or any other charging block that is USB compatible.) This light’s motion sensor can detect human motion up to 10 feet away and will turn off after 20 seconds if it no longer detects movement. It’s designed to turn on only when it’s dark, which conserves the battery for when it’s needed.
Youtob’s motion-sensing LED ceiling light is a great option for those seeking a bright, 1,500-lumen LED that turns on automatically when you need it. Its motion sensor can detect movement up to 16 feet away, and switches off after 30 or 180 seconds of inactivity. It has two modes, daylight mode and night mode, so you can choose if you’d like the lights to turn on during the day and night, or only at night. The tone of the light can be changed from 3,000, 4,000, or 5,000 Kelvins with the push of a button.
Though this LED light needs to be hardwired, Youtob has made the installation fairly painless. The light comes with the required mounting hardware, a mounting bracket, and an installation guide to make the process quick and easy. Youtob offers an 18-month money-back guarantee if you have any problems with its product.
FAQs About Your New Closet Lighting
Finding the best closet lighting requires a lot of attention to detail. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about closet lighting.
Q. Can you put recessed lighting in a closet?
It is possible to install recessed lighting in a closet, but it will require some hardwiring. It’s always best to check building codes and follow proper fire safety regulations when installing closet lighting, or doing any type of electrical work.
Q. How many lumens do you need for a closet?
For a standard, 20- to 50-square-foot closet, 500 to 1,000 lumens should suffice.
Q. How much light do you need for a walk-in closet?
The amount of lighting your closet needs depends on its dimensions and your personal preference for how bright you want the lights to be. You can quickly calculate the recommended number of lumens for a space by multiplying the square footage by your desired lumens/square foot (this figure is sometimes called “foot-candles”), or how intense a light source is. For a closet, 20 to 30 or more lumens per square foot is recommended. The calculation for a 7-foot by 10-foot walk-in closet, therefore, is 70 square feet x 20 lumens/square foot. This closet needs at least 1,400 lumens.
Q. How do you install a closet light fixture?
It depends on the type of closet light you choose and your closet’s layout. Installing a light fixture can be as simple as removing an adhesive backing on the fixture, or as complex as cutting drywall and hardwiring electrical units. If you have no experience installing light fixtures, it’s probably best to hire a professional.