Even if they don’t look dirty, knowing how to clean curtains, and making it part of your cleaning routine, will go a long way to helping your home stay clean.
Most curtains, whether they’re casual cotton or fancier damask, are made of woven fabrics that gather dust, pet hair and dander, even mold spores. Over time, these things accumulate, and your window treatments start to look dingy.
That accumulation can also drastically affect your indoor air quality. Every time the curtains are opened or closed, dust and other debris begin swirling around in your home. You’ll find that debris settling on your furniture as well as your carpet, where every step stirs it up again.
For allergy sufferers, cleaning curtains regularly will provide significant relief to indoor allergy symptoms. (So will these other steps to reduce dust in your home.)
How To Clean Curtains
What are they made of?
Since cleaning methods vary based on your curtain material, it’s essential to identify your curtain material before proceeding. If you are unsure, stick to the maintenance cleaning instructions (described at the bottom of this post) to avoid permanent damage.
How to Clean Curtains
Start with a seasonal cleaning then keep up with the maintenance cleaning instructions below. You’ll love how much less dust you see flying around.
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
The design of these curtains makes them prone to tangling when they’re taken down, so you’ll need to wash them in place.
- The easiest way to do this is by hanging a bed sheet behind them — fasten it to the curtain rod with clothespins.
- Lay towels on the floor beneath the curtain.
- 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.
- Let dry and remove the bed sheet backdrop.
Some velvet curtains are machine washable while others require dry cleaning. Check the manufacturer’s label to find out which yours are.
- In general, lined velvet curtains should be treated as Dry Clean Only.
- Unlined velvet curtains require testing for colorfastness by dabbing a hidden area with a damp white washcloth. If the dye transfers to the cloth, take them to the dry cleaner. 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.
- Freshly washed velvet curtains should be laid flat on a cotton sheet to dry, and never placed in the dryer.
Dry Clean Only Curtains
Formal or lined curtains may have a label saying they should be Dry Cleaned Only. If they’re expensive or you’re concerned about ruining them, by all means, take them to a trusted dry cleaner!
If they’re old and you’ve been thinking about replacing them because they’re so dingy looking, you can try washing them to see if there’s any improvement but know that washing may ruin them, so you’re assuming the risk.
- If you decide to wash Dry Clean Only curtains, do one panel at a time in the machine on the gentle cycle using cold water.
- Remove them from the machine immediately to keep the lining from wrinkling and then hang them on a laundry line or lay them flat to dry.
- Do NOT dry them in the dryer or the liner will most likely shrink.
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: Once a month use the dust brush attachment on your vacuum to clean curtains from top to bottom, paying extra attention to the top 5 inches where the majority of dust accumulates. Do NOT 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.