You can clean most curtains at home to remove dust, pet hair, mold, and allergens.
Curtains or drapes gather dust, pet hair, and dander — even mold spores. Over time, these can make your window treatments look dingy. Plus, dust and other debris swirls around in your home’s air whenever you open or close dirty curtains. Eventually, it lands on your furniture and floors, making your home look and smell dirty. If you suffer from indoor allergies, washing your curtains will help ease symptoms. (So will these other steps to reduce dust in your home.)
How To Clean Curtains at Home
The best way to clean your curtains depends on the material they’re made from, so take a moment to check. Start with seasonal cleaning, then follow the maintenance routine. If you’re unsure what type of curtains you have, stick to the maintenance cleaning instructions so you don’t damage your window coverings.
Garment Fabric Curtains
- Remove all hardware.
- Shake outdoors if possible.
- Wash two panels at a time using your washing machine’s delicate cycle and cold water, or wash by hand in a sink with mild liquid dish detergent.
- Dry on a low-heat setting or line-dry them outdoors.
- Immediately remove from the dryer to prevent wrinkles and rehang.
Sheer Fabric or Lace Curtains
The lightweight fabric of sheer curtains makes them prone to wrinkling and snagging when wet. For that reason, it’s best to hand wash them in a sink filled with cold water and one teaspoon of 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 clean 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 of 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 care 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
The care instructions for formal or lined curtains may indicate they must 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. You should always take silk curtains or drapery to the dry-cleaner, too, since it is not washable.
If you simply want to refresh dry clean-only curtains, try a dry clean at-home kit. (Here’s the one I buy.) You can also try washing them, 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 to Keep Your 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. Inspect your curtains and clean any stains you see with a damp sponge and mild laundry detergent.
Monthly: Use the soft brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to go over clean drapes and curtains from top to bottom. Pay special attention to the top of any pleats where dust collects. 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. For curtains that are too difficult or delicate to remove monthly, use a lint roller to remove dirt and pet hair.