Find out how to clean curtains at home, so you can remove dust and odors without damage, no matter what they’re made from.
Curtains or drapes gather dust, pet hair, and dander — even mold spores. Over time, these things accumulate and make your window treatments look dingy.
Every time you open or close dirty curtains, the dust and other debris swirls around in your home’s air. Eventually, it lands on your furniture and floors, making your home look and smell dirty. If you suffer from indoor allergies, washing your curtains regularly will really help ease symptoms. (So will these other steps to reduce dust in your home.)
How To Clean Curtains
The best way to clean your curtains depends on the material they’re made from, so take a moment to check. Start with a seasonal cleaning then keep up with the maintenance cleaning instructions below.
If you’re unsure what type of curtains you have, stick to the maintenance cleaning instructions (described at the bottom of this post), so you don’t damage your window coverings.
Garment Fabric Curtains
- Remove all hardware.
- Shake outdoors if possible.
- Wash two panels at a time on the delicate cycle using the cold setting.
- Dry on a low-heat setting.
- Immediately remove from the dryer to prevent wrinkles and rehang.
Sheer Fabric or Lace Curtains
The lightweight fabric of these curtains makes them prone to wrinkling and snagging when they’re wet. For that reason, it’s best to hand wash them in a sink filled with cold water and one teaspoon liquid dish detergent.
- Shake outdoors to dislodge dust and pet hair.
- Wash one panel at a time by submerging it in the soapy water for 10 minutes then swirling to loosen debris.
- Drain, refill the sink with cold water and swirl the panel again to remove soap residue.
TIP: To restore a crisp feel to sheer or lace curtains, dissolve 1 cup of Epsom salt in a sink full of cold water. Submerge freshly-washed curtains for 10 minutes. Drain, gently press out any water but do not rinse. Let the curtains drip dry from your shower rod or laundry line and hang them.
Acrylic Bead or Shell Curtains
Bead or shell curtains get tangled easily, so you’ll need to wash them in place. Here’s the easiest way to wash them:
- Hang a bedsheet behind them and fasten it to the curtain rod with clothespins.
- Cover the floor below your curtains with a towel.
- Fill a spray bottle with 2 cups warm water and 2-3 drops of liquid dish detergent and liberally spray the curtain top to bottom.
- Wipe them clean with a damp white cotton washcloth, lightly rubbing heavily soiled areas as needed. Move the bedsheet to the other side and repeat.
- Take the bedsheet down and let your bead curtains air dry.
Some velvet curtains are machine washable while others require dry cleaning. Check the manufacturer’s label to find out which yours are.
- Lined velvet curtains should be treated as Dry Clean Only. (See next section.)
- Test unlined velvet curtains for colorfastness by dabbing a hidden area with a damp white washcloth. If the dye transfers to the cloth, treat them like dry-clean curtains. If the fabric is colorfast, wash them one panel at a time on the delicate cycle using cold water and half the usual amount of detergent.
- Be gentle with damp velvet curtains, so you don’t crush the fabric. Never put them in the dryer or hang them on a line. Instead, lay them flat on a cotton sheet to dry.
Dry-Clean Only or Polyester Curtains
Formal or lined curtains may have a label saying they should be Dry Cleaned Only. Polyester curtains usually say this, too. If they’re expensive or you’re concerned about ruining them, by all means, take them to a trusted dry cleaner!
If you simply want to refresh dry clean-only curtains, try a dry clean at-home kit. You can also try washing them to see if there’s any improvement but know that washing may ruin them, so there’s definitely a risk.
- Wash one panel at a time in the machine on the gentle cycle using cold water.
- Remove each curtain panel from the machine immediately to keep the lining from wrinkling and lay them flat to dry.
- Do NOT dry them in the dryer, or the liner will most likely shrink.
Maintenance Keeps Curtains Fresh
Keep your curtains in good shape between washings with the following steps.
Weekly: Before cleaning a room, give the curtains a good shake to dislodge dust. Wait 10 minutes for the dust to settle before dusting furniture and vacuuming the floor.
Monthly: Use the dust brush attachment on your vacuum to clean curtains from top to bottom. Cover the end with a nylon sock or piece of cheesecloth if your curtain fabric is very delicate. Don’t use the upholstery attachment since its teeth may snag the fabric and destroy your curtains.
Monthly alternative: If vacuuming isn’t an option, you can also remove dust from curtains by running them through the dryer on a “no heat” (or fluff) setting for 5 minutes. Remove promptly and rehang to prevent wrinkles.