Cleaning Guides

How to Clean Curtains at Home – Definitive Guide /

Curtains are a fascinating feature of the home décor. They are not just mere means of keeping sunlight at bay and curious neighbours’ eyes away from your privacy. They are also a valuable home accessory. Using curtains and drapes as focal points in a room can significantly enhance your interior design. However, they are also constantly exposed to direct sunlight, with dust particles coming from both in and outdoors.

Nowadays, draperies are an expensive luxury which requires careful and methodical care. While the faded, worn look of the curtains can be a perfect excuse to redecorate your home – a practice that seems to occur more and more often these days, there are still many reasons why you should clean your curtains more frequently than you do right now.

So, here are the top ways to clean your curtains:

In this article:

How often you should wash your curtains

The frequency in which you should clean your curtains depends on many factors, including your maintenance habits of the room. For example, whether you dust them regularly if you live in a clean or dusty area, and if you’re a smoker or not. If you live near a salty water resource you’ll have to clean both windows and frames a lot more often to avoid salt accumulation and discolouring.

On average, curtains cleaning should be done once every six months, but if you have allergies or asthma, wash them at least three to four times a year.

How to clean curtains in the washing machine

Depending on the material of the curtains, it may be possible to clean them in the washing machine.

This option is good for lightweight curtains, made of sturdy materials. It’s not recommended for heavy materials that retain a lot of water, because drying would be very difficult and mould can develop. Here are some tips on machine washing your curtains:

  1. Set your washing machine to a delicate cycle, if possible.
    In case your machine doesn’t have that option, try washing them on the lowest possible temperature and the slowest spin cycle.
  2. Go with your regular washing detergent and some fabric softener.
  3. If your curtains have eyelets on the top, tie them together with a rope or twain, place a cotton bag on top of them and tie it.
    This will protect your washing machine from damage.
  4. Before laundering the curtains, check the manufacturer’s label and look for any additional notes. Certain materials, like cotton and wool can shrink when washed in hot water.

How to hand wash curtains

Hand washing your curtains is usually the safest option. It requires a lot more time and effort, but you avoid risks like shrinking and fabric tears in gentle materials. Here are some safety tips:

  1. You can use your regular washing detergent and softener or a laundry soap designed specifically for delicates.
  2. Avoid brushes and other tools, as they can damage the fabric.
    Follow the gentle “fabric to fabric” rubbing method for removing stains and dirt.
  3. Follow the instructions on the product you’re about to use, as different detergents need different concentrations.
  4. Never wash heavy curtains by hand, because it’s impossible to remove all the water and the drying time can take ages. Steam and dry cleaning are the best options for these types of drapes.

How to steam clean curtains

Owning a good handheld steam cleaner with a dust brush attachment will definitely help you maintain the good condition of your curtains. It’s the perfect way to clean curtains from heavy materials or ones that are difficult to take down. Here are some important points to follow:

  1. Fill the water tank of the steamer and wait for it to reach the needed temperature.
    You can also add a few drops of essential oil of choice if you want a better smell.
  2. Test on a small area of the curtain, to make sure the fabric can handle the heat.
  3. Start from the top of the curtain and work your way down.
  4. Place the steam cleaner at around 15cm from the fabric.
    If you notice that the curtain is getting very wet, move it further away.
  5. If there are any visible stains, use the jet nozzle to remove them.
  6. Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure to be as careful as possible.
    Steam can burn you, so remember to wear protective clothing and gloves.
Never steam clean dralon or velvet drapes.

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How to clean “dry-cleaning only” curtains

Some formal and lined curtains can have a label that says they can be dry-cleaned only. Most of these draperies are quite expensive and if you’re worried you may ruin them, the best step is to take them to a trusted dry cleaner.

If, for some reason, dry cleaning is not an option at the moment, there are 4 things you can try to freshen up your curtains:

  1. Dust them often.
    Dusting will not only keep the curtains clean, but it will also prevent dust accumulation all over the room. Very often, a simple breeze or opening of the window is enough to spread the dust all over the room. Use the dust brush attachment of the vacuum, and set it to the lowest suction level, to avoid damage. If your vacuum cleaner is too powerful, you could invest in a rechargeable hand-held vacuum, as they are perfect for the task.
  2. Manage the pet hair.
    If you have pets at home, you need to keep in mind that curtains are like pet hair traps. This is why we advise you to perform a quick pet hair treatment occasionally. Wipe the drapes down with a sticky paper lint roller to remove fur, dust and stray fibres. Start at the top and work your way down. If you don’t have a roller, you can roll some tape on your hand or put on a rubber glove and try to dust them manually.
  3. Fresh air treatment.
    Fresh air can do wonders for removing stale odours from your draperies. Carefully bring each panel outside and just beat it. If the curtain is huge and delicate, you can ask someone to help you by holding the other end, so you can gently shake the dust off together. Then hang the drape on a clothesline and leave for a few hours for it to air out. Do that on a dry day, of course.
  4. Fluff them in the dryer.
    If the drapes are not easily wrinkled, you can refresh them by placing them in the dryer for 10 minutes on a no heat or fluff setting. Take them out immediately after it’s done, to avoid wrinkles. If the curtain panels are big and thick, place them one at a time, to provide optimal refreshing.

How to clean curtains without taking them down

Some draperies are simply too big, heavy or attached in a way that makes them basically stuck to your windows until it’s time to replace them. You’ll rarely find such curtains in modern homes. If you do, however, the process of taking them down, washing, pressing, drying and re-hanging them can become a full nightmare capable to ruin your whole day. Here’s how to care for such curtains:

  1. Vacuum and shake off dirt.
    There are two ways to battle the dust on draperies – one is to vacuum them like the dry-clean only ones. The other is to get a sturdy ladder, get to the top and shake them well, so the dust can fall and settle around the room, then vacuum the surroundings and wipe the dirty furniture.
  2. Brush away lint.
    Certain fabrics attract huge amounts of lint and pet hair. If the vacuum doesn’t take care of them, try a lint roller or brush. 
  3. Steam clean and deodorise.
    If the manufacturer’s label allows it, you can try the steam cleaning method. 
  4. Clean the windows.
    Curtains often get dirty and dusty from poorly maintained windows, so make sure to clean those regularly as well. Don’t spray the windows directly, because detergent and dust will mix and get stuck to the curtain, making it dirtier. Instead, spray the cloth and then apply to the window panels.
  5. Air out.
    It’s important to let your curtains breathe, not only after cleaning but regularly during your weekly routines, as well. Exposing them to fresh air limits mould growth and prevents the stale smell. 

How to clean curtains by type

Here’s how to clean some of the most popular types of curtains and drapes sold on the market:

Sheer fabric or lace curtains

These curtains are usually made from very lightweight fabrics, which means they are prone to snagging, wrinkling and all kinds of other damage while they are wet. This is why the best cleaning method for those is to hand wash them in a sink full of cold water. As a detergent, you can use a teaspoon of liquid laundry or dish detergent. Here are the steps:

  1. Take them outdoors and gently shake to remove any excess debris.
  2. Wash the curtain one panel at a time.
    Submerge each part in the soapy water, leave it to soak for around 10 minutes, then swirl it around a little to loosen the dirt.
  3. Drain the sink, then refill it with cold water.
    Swirl again to remove the soap from the fabric.
If you want to restore the fresh feel of your lace or sheer curtains, dissolve a cup of Epsom salt in a sink filled with cold water. Then submerge the already washed curtains for about 10 minutes and gently drain by pressing, but don’t rinse. Then you can hang them to dry on a clothesline.

Velvet curtains

Some velvet curtains are machine washable, others are not, so you need to check the label to make sure. In general, lined velvet drapes are considered dry-clean only, so it would be safe to treat them this way.

Unlined velvet curtains need to be tested for colourfastness before you can decide if they are machine washable. Just pick a hidden area and dab it with a wet white cloth repeatedly. If the colour transfers to the cloth, then it’s best to take the curtain to a dry cleaner or use the refreshing tips provided above in the dry-clean only section.

If the fabric is colourfast, then you can machine wash it one panel at a time, using the delicate cycle, only cold water and half the usual amount of detergent.

Never place your velvet curtains in the dryer, the best way to dry them is to lay them flat on a cotton sheet and let them dry slowly.

Lined curtains

Lined curtains are also generally considered “dry-clean only”. In some cases, you can machine wash them on a delicate cycle, but it really depends on the type of lining and how it’s attached to the main part.

Machine washing can cause irreversible wrinkles, especially if there is a middle layer in the drape (just like neckties). To stay safe, we would recommend either taking them to the dry cleaner or following the maintenance instructions in the Dry-Clean Only section.

Polyester curtains

Polyester curtains are probably the best type to have around the house because they are durable and they don’t get wrinkled easily, which means you will rarely have to iron them.

If you follow the regular maintenance tips and there are no accidents and spills, there will be no need for a deep clean. However, if it comes to that, the washing machine will do just fine. You can follow the instructions above.

Rubber backed curtains

Rubber or latex-backed and thermal backed curtains are the perfect choices for an energy efficient home, as they have the ability to retain heat. They can be machine washed, however, you need to remember that you can only use cold water and very small amounts of liquid laundry detergent (about half or even a third of what you would usually use).

If the drapes are coloured, it’s recommended to use an appropriately formulated detergent, because colour fastness is common in these types of curtains. Take them out of the washer as soon as the cycle is over to avoid the formation of mildew on the rubber backing. Dry and then rehang.

How to Spot Clean Curtains

No matter how careful and considerate everyone in your household is, accidents happen. And sometimes these accidents can result in an unpleasant mark on your curtains that you now have to deal with.

Now, there’s no point in taking down the entire curtain for just one small stain. Instead, focus on a particular area. Here are some tips on how to easily deal with greasy stains, grubby marks and other kinds of blemishes:

  1. Remove any excess moisture or particles from the stain by blotting it with a soft cloth.
  2. Apply some talcum powder to the stain and brush gently.
    Put some more and leave for a few hours. It will absorb the moisture and leave you with a paler mark, that is easier to remove.
  3. You can either use a store-bought stain remover, a mixture of baking soda and vinegar or baby wipes to remove the rest of the mark.
    Again, remember to do a spot test with the chosen method so you don’t damage the drape.
  4. Apply the chosen solution to a clean white cloth, and blot the stain until it disappears.
    Then blot some more with clear water and leave it to dry.

How to Get Mould Out of Curtains

Moisture and sunlight can be the cause of mould appearing on your curtains, and even though it’s quite unpleasant, it can happen to anyone. However, this not a problem you can just ignore, as the spores can be very dangerous to your health.

Before using any kind of cleaning products, it’s better to carefully brush away the mould from the fabric with a kitchen sponge and vacuuming it. If the fungi’s grip on the fabric is not that strong, you may be able to suck it from the fibres and ease your work a little.

After that, you can apply an appropriate solution to pre-treat the stains. There are many options in the stores, or you can alternatively try a mixture of one part bleach and five parts water. Pour it in a spray bottle and apply on the affected areas from a distance around 20cm, to avoid whitening the fabric. Of course, it would be wise to test the solution on a hidden spot somewhere, to make sure the fabric can handle it.

Machine wash the drapes on a low temperature (lower than 40C), and add a cup of baking soda to the laundry detergent, to remove the unpleasant smell efficiently. Then hang the curtains outside, if possible. Avoid dryers, because they can shrink the fabric.

Remember to check the labels on the curtains, some types are not machine washable.

How to Maintain Your Curtains Between Cleanings

There are a few things you can include in your regular housekeeping routine that will keep your drapes clean for a longer period:

Weekly: Before cleaning the room, shake the curtains very well, to dislodge the dust settled in there. Then wait 10-15 minutes for the dust to settle before proceeding to dust the furniture and vacuum the floor.

Monthly: Once a month you can take out the dust brush attachment of the vacuum cleaner and use it to vacuum the curtains from top to bottom. Pay extra attention to the top 10-20cm, as this is where most of the dust gathers. If vacuuming is not an option, you can put them in the dryer for 5 minutes on the fluff setting. Just remember to take them out right away, or wrinkles will appear.

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