Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

Here’s Everything You Really Need to Know About Cleaning Curtains

Adriana Aziz
September, 20, 2023
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how to clean curtains custom graphic

If your window treatment of choice is curtains or drapes, you already know that they encounter dust, pollen, dirt, and other outdoor pollutants that get blown in when your windows are open. Add this to the dust and dirt, and perhaps, pet hair and dander from the inside, and you’ve not only got a pretty dirty curtain, but one that will trigger allergies with the smallest gust of wind that shakes the material!

Aside from the fact that dusty curtains aren’t doing your allergies any favours, not cleaning them will leave the material looking dull and drabby, not to mention the toll it takes on the overall quality of the fabric. When left dirty, stains are more likely to set in while oils from pet hair can actually cause discolouration overtime.

So, with the knowledge of what’s at stake, you will definitely be more inclined to clean your curtains or drapes regularly. The question now is - how? Well, we’ll get to that shortly. First, let’s learn a few important things to know about cleaning curtains.

Is It Safe to Wash Curtains in a Washing Machine?

woman packing brown curtain into a front load washing machine

While a machine-wash is the easiest way to clean curtains, it’s not always the safest method. This is because not all fabrics can withstand the rigorous tossing around of a washer, or water/moisture altogether. Also note that various curtain fabrics can be damaged if the wrong temperature of water is used.

With that in mind, it is important to check the label of the drapes for their specific washing symbols. Always follow the material’s cleaning instructions to ensure an effective and damage-free cleaning result. This holds true for both machine and hand washing cleaning methods.

If your curtains don’t have a label or cleaning instructions mentioned anywhere, look up the manufacturer online for more information regarding the appropriate cleaning method. 

Which Curtains Require Dry Cleaning?

Other than the type of material, the manner in which the drapes are stitched must be factored in when considering the right cleaning approach to use. Here are some of the most common types of curtain fabrics and designs that should be dry cleaned instead of washed:

  • Silk
  • Wool
  • Tapestry
  • Velvet
  • Brocade
  • Chenille
  • Velour
  • Pleated Designs
  • Interlined Curtains
  • Heavily Structured Pieces
  • Heavy Curtains

What to Do Before You Clean or Wash Curtains

person unhooking white curtains from curtain rods

Most curtains or drapes come with hangers such as hooks or metal loops, as well as other hardware like weights and pins. Remove all these components so that you are left with just the curtain fabric. 

The second thing you need to do is test the material for colourfastness (irrespective of whether the material can be washed). To do this, mix a small amount of laundry detergent in a bowl of water; take either of the top corners of the curtain, and dip a small part of it into the bowl. After a few seconds of soaking, gently press and rub the fabric between your fingers (while in the water), and check if the colour runs out; if not, you’re good to go! For non-colourfast curtains, have them dry cleaned instead.

Lastly, be sure to remove dust and dirt from the curtain rod, windows, and surrounding areas so that everything is clean and ready for your washed curtains to be hung back up.

How to Machine-Wash Curtains

woman putting brown curtains in a front load washing machine

As we mentioned earlier, many types of fabrics have specific cleaning requirements even if they can be washed. This includes the water temperature and type of laundry detergent to use. Keeping these important factors in mind, one can follow the general steps below to wash curtains in the washing machine.

Step 1: Spot-Treat Stains

Curtains may encounter mild stains from dusty curtain rods, or dirty glass panes, sills, and tracks, as well as grubby hands and pet paws. While these common stains typically wash out in the machine, if they have had enough time to sit, getting them out may require pre-treatment.

Using a suitable stain remover for the fabric, follow the instructions on the bottle to spot clean the marks, and then proceed to the next step.

TIP: Consider vacuuming or brushing off dust and dirt on and around the stain before applying the stain remover to prevent smearing around loose debris on the material.

Step 2: Wash on a Cold, Gentle Cycle

For cotton, synthetic, and sheer curtains, cold water and a mild laundry soap are advised. Choose a gentle setting and be sure to not overload the washer. The drapes should have enough space to move around during the cycle in order to be cleaned properly.

Step 3: Tumble Dry on Low Heat

Sheer curtains require a no-heat setting when tumble drying. It is also advisable to put in 2-3 soft, absorbent cloths (like terry cloths) during the air-drying cycle as this will prevent the curtains from rolling into a ball. 

For cotton and synthetic drapes, use a low-heat dryer setting but do not allow the fabric to dry completely. Instead, stop the cycle as it gets closer to the end, and feel the material; if it is just about damp, pull the curtains out. Do the same for your sheer curtains.

Step 4: Iron/Straighten Out While Damp

If you have sheer curtains, they should not be ironed at all. Instead, pull them out when the material feels slightly damp, and hang them back up. Draw the curtains so that they are spread out completely, and then gently pull the material down from the bottom edges and corners to eliminate wrinkles. 

Cotton and synthetic drapes can be ironed on the wrong side while damp. A pressing cloth is highly recommended for this, as well as a low-heat setting which can be gradually increased (if needed) to prevent burning the fabric. Once ironed, hang and spread the curtains, and allow them to air-dry completely before drawing them.

How to Maintain Your Curtains

lady cleaning a blue hang down curtain with a vacuum

Ideally, you should wash your curtains every few months, or twice a year. 

For regular maintenance, vacuuming weekly with an upholstery brush will help eliminate dust and other particles, leaving the curtains looking clean and fresh. 

It is also recommended to spot clean stains as and when they occur; for stubborn or large stains, pre-treat them, and wash the curtain right away.

To get rid of pet hair that the vacuum cleaner has missed, use a lint roller or duct tape on the fabric.

Not all curtains can be cleaned using the same method. Some fabrics and designs are meant to be dry cleaned while others require hand washing. For the drapes that are machine-washable including cotton, synthetic, and sheer curtains, all you need to do is follow a few simple rules, and they will come out super-clean, damage-free, and fresh! Fortunately, all the crucial information you need to know about cleaning curtains is right here in this article. 

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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