Curtains add a finishing touch to a room using color, pattern and texture to accentuate a decorative theme. Curtains also modulate light, heat and sound and provide privacy. Over time, window treatments become laden with contaminants, including dust, animal dander, hair and pollen. They can also develop mold and fade.
To keep your curtains in good condition, examine them frequently for dust, wear and fading. Vacuum and spot-clean them during regular household cleaning to keep them fresh. Deep cleaning curtains at least once a year refreshes the fabric and removes pollutants. Here, we describe how to wash every kind of curtain to help you keep your window dressings clean. You will be amazed at how good they look after treatment.
Table of Contents
- What To Remember Before Washing Curtains
- How To Wash Every Type of Curtain
- Rubber-backed Curtains, Blackout and Thermal Curtains
- Sheer Curtains and Lace Curtains
- Garment Fabric Curtains
- Velvet Curtains
- Dry-Clean-Only Curtains
- How To Clean Curtains Without Washing
- Regular Cleaning for Curtains
- Drying Techniques
- When Should You Wash Your Curtains?
- Tips for Cleaning Curtains the Easy Way
What To Remember Before Washing Curtains
Curtains are made of many types of materials. Formal draperies are made of heavy fabrics, such as raw silk, brocade, wool, velvet and linen, and are usually lined. Sheers are made from translucent fabrics, including polyester, cotton, voile and net. Blackout, thermal and soundproof curtains have backings or embedded layers of rubber, foam or acrylic. Casual curtains are made from lightweight materials, such as printed and solid cottons, linen and synthetic fabrics.
Each fabric responds differently to water, detergent and heat. Colors may run, some fabrics shrink, and some break down. Before you wash your curtains, always read the manufacturer's label for fabric content and laundering instructions.
There are several ways to clean curtains, including:
- Steam cleaning.
- Vacuuming, dusting and brushing.
- Spot-cleaning or blotting.
Curtains made from heavy material, that have a pronounced pile or are lined are usually dry-cleaned.
No matter which method you choose, take these steps before laundering:
- Remove all hooks, pins and weights.
- Loosen tapes to keep fabric from bunching up.
- Shake, vacuum or brush curtains to remove contaminants.
- Measure your curtains before cleaning so that you can restore them to the same size.
How To Wash Every Type of Curtain
If your curtains are washable, follow the manufacturer's instructions. For machine laundering, use the delicate cycle, cold water and a mild detergent. Do not overload. The panels need room to rotate freely during the wash cycle.
If your curtains are hand-washable, wash them in the bathtub, a large tub or a large sink in cool water with mild soap. You can also hang them on a clothesline and wet and rinse the fabric with a hose.
Use this method to find out whether your curtains are washable:
- Dip a section of the back of the hem into cool water.
- Add detergent, gently rub, and let sit for a minute.
- Rinse thoroughly with cool water.
- Gently squeeze or blot to remove excess water.
- Let the material air-dry.
Compare the test patch to the rest of the curtain. Is there a color change? Does the material pucker? If the patch has not changed in color, size or texture, the curtain should be washable.
Although your curtains may be washable, some materials require special handling to get the best results. Below, we detail how to wash every kind of curtain, including blackout curtains, sheer curtains and special fabrics.
1. Rubber-Backed Curtains and Woven, Triple-Weave Fabrics
Rubber-backed curtains block sunlight, add a thermal barrier and muffle sound. Triple-weave curtains are made of three interwoven layers that provide the same benefits as rubber-backed panels. They may be called blackout curtains, thermal curtains or soundproof curtains because of these features. Washing these curtains requires extra care to ensure that the backing and layers are not damaged during the process.
Deconovo's blackout and thermal curtains are washable. They come with detailed washing instructions so that you can wash your curtains with confidence and get the best results.
Follow these steps for hand- and machine-washing:
- Inspect curtains for dust. Shake or vacuum to remove contaminants.
- Evaluate the condition of rubber-backed curtains. If the backing is peeling or damaged, do not machine-wash. If damage is minimal, hand-washing is recommended. However, if curtains are extensively damaged, spot-cleaning is recommended.
- Ensure that triple-weave curtains are in good condition. Look for faded areas, excess soil or damage. If damage or fading is present, hand-washing is preferable.
- If curtains have grommets, hand-wash to prevent damage to grommets and the washing machine.
- Spot-treat areas of heavy soil.
- Use a mild detergent.
- Wash in cool water. If machine-washing, use the delicate cycle.
- If hand-washing, gently agitate to infuse detergent and water through the fabric.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- After washing, do not wring or twist. Instead, squeeze the fabric to remove moisture. You can also place the curtains on towels and roll them up, gently applying pressure as you roll.
- Do not put rubber-backed fabrics in the dryer. Follow the manufacturer's directions to dry triple-weave fabrics.
2. Sheer and Lace Curtains
Sheer curtains made of polyester, cotton, nylon or voile usually can be machine-washed. If the fabric is washable, fragile sheers can be placed in a mesh bag and washed in the machine or hand-washed. Because of the open weave, sheers attract more dust than other fabrics and may need more frequent washing. To restore the brilliance of your sheers, follow these steps:
- Shake or vacuum to remove dust and other debris.
- Pre-treat heavily soiled areas.
- To machine-wash, soak panels in the machine for 10 minutes in cool water with a mild detergent. Drain the water, and wash on delicate.
- If hand-washing, soak for a few minutes, drain, and wash panels separately. Gently squeeze or roll panels in towels to remove water.
Sheers and lace curtains with appliqué, embroidery or other embellishments may not do well in the washing machine. If decorations are a different color from the panels, test to make sure colors will not run. Dry-cleaning may be the best option for panels with decorative trim.
3. Garment Fabric Curtains
Garment fabrics are lightweight, decorative and usually machine-washable. Fabrics include cotton, wool, ramie, rayon, polyester and other synthetics. These fabrics come in a variety of colors, patterns and prints, including checks, calicos, florals and stripes. Their lighter weight makes them suitable for café curtains, sheers or curtains for kids' rooms, kitchens and bathrooms.
Test garment fabrics for colorfastness and shrinkage as outlined above. Spot-treat heavily soiled areas before washing. Use cool or warm water and mild detergent. If curtains are damaged or fragile, hand-washing is safer.
4. Velvet Curtains
The thick fabric, sheen and deep pile give velvet its luxurious look. Velvet may be made of polyester, cotton or a blend. Velvet curtains are often lined to add body and protect the fabric from sunlight. Lined curtains should always be dry-cleaned. If your velvet curtains are not lined, check the manufacturer's laundering recommendations. Some velvet, such as polyester, can be machine-washed. If in doubt, vacuuming, steam cleaning and brushing are safe ways to clean velvet.
To machine-wash velvet curtains, test the fabric for colorfastness and shrinkage. If the fabric is stable, use cool water, wash on the gentle cycle and remove as soon as the cycle ends. Curtains can be laid flat, spread over two clotheslines or tumble-dried on air. Washing and drying will revive the pile and restore the texture that gives velvet curtains their gorgeous appearance.
5. Dry-Clean-Only Curtains
Curtains made of heavy material, fragile fabrics or unusual textures are usually dry-cleaned. Lined curtains should be dry-cleaned because the fabric of the lining and panels may perform differently. If the manufacturer recommends dry-cleaning, it is safest to follow these recommendations.
How To Clean Curtains Without Washing
There are alternatives to washing and dry-cleaning that work well, including spot-cleaning, steam cleaning and home dry-cleaning. Dusting and vacuuming will remove many pollutants that settle on cloth.
- If your curtains are difficult to remove from the rod, close them to eliminate folds and pleats. If they are easy to remove, lay them flat. Dust each side with a feather duster, lint roller, soft brush or lightly moistened chamois cloth.
- They can also be vacuumed either on or off the rod.
- Blot heavily soiled areas with a damp cloth. Spot-treat stains using a mild soap, vinegar or commercial stain remover. Be sure to test a hidden area first.
Regular Cleaning for Curtains
The weave, texture and colors of fabrics show dirt and wear differently. Inspect your curtains during weekly and monthly housecleaning sessions to evaluate their condition. If you notice stains, dust, mold or odors, refresh your curtains with one of these methods.
1. Spot-Clean With Detergent
Spot-cleaning is a simple way to remove stains and contaminants while the curtains are still on the rod. This method works well with heavy or textured fabrics and most dry-clean-only materials.
- Test a hidden area first to verify colorfastness.
- To spot-clean, dip a soft cloth into cool water mixed with laundry soap.
- Apply soapy water onto the spot. Gently rub with a moist, clean, lint-free cloth, working from the center outward.
- For tough stains, let the soapy solution sit a few minutes.
- Dip a clean cloth in plain water, and blot to remove the stain and soap.
- Blot to dry.
2. Deep Cleaning with Soap and Water
Deep cleaning removes contaminants and odors, prolongs the life of curtain material, refreshes colors and restores the texture and hand of the panels. Cottons, synthetics and blends are usually washable. As always, test a small patch before washing to verify fabric stability.
To deep clean with soap and water, follow these steps:
- Submerge the panel in soapy water in a tub or washing machine.
- Soak if heavily soiled.
- Drain. Refill the tub with fresh, cool water.
- If hand-washing, gently agitate to release embedded soil. If machine-washing, wash on the delicate cycle.
- Rinse until water runs clear.
- Hang or lie flat to dry.
3. Steam Cleaning
If your draperies are difficult to remove from the rod, steam cleaning removes contaminants and revives tired-looking fabrics. As with all cleaning methods, test a sample patch first.
- Close the curtains. Smooth out creases and folds. Work the front first.
- Hold the steamer approximately 6 inches from the curtain to avoid saturating the fabric.
- Work from top to bottom using the warmest steam setting the fabric will tolerate.
- Re-treat areas that are still soiled. Repeat the process on the back.
- Let the curtains air-dry on the rod.
Some curtains, such as those made of cotton and cotton blends, can be dried in a dryer. Rubber-backed and triple-weave curtains should be air-dried.
- If using a dryer, set on low heat or air. Remove panels while damp to avoid wrinkling.
- To air-dry, spread curtains over two lines or on several hangers. You can also lay them flat on clean towels. If drying inside, use fans or open windows to increase air circulation. If drying outside, avoid direct sunlight to prevent colors from fading.
- Iron on the back, gently pulling seams to restore shape and prevent puckering.
- To line-dry rubber-backed curtains, make sure backings do not touch each other to prevent sticking. Iron rubber-backed curtains on the front using a steam iron and press cloth. Never allow the iron to touch the backing.
When Should You Wash Your Curtains?
Curtains should be laundered at least once each year. If you live in an area with a lot of traffic, pollen or dust, they may need to be washed more often. If yours look dingy or have lost their crispness, wash them as needed to revive them.
Deconovo's easy-care fabrics make washing curtains easy. The resilient fabric of our indoor-outdoor sheer curtains needs washing only two or three times a year. Our back tab sheers are machine-washable and air-dry quickly.
Tips for Cleaning Curtains the Easy Way
Including curtains in your regular cleaning schedule reduces the need for laundering and prolongs the fabric's life. Here are simple ways to keep your curtains looking good:
- Always test a patch before washing curtains the first time.
- Vacuum and dust weekly.
- If the curtains have an odor, hang them outdoors for a few hours. Alternatively, sprinkle with baking soda, wait 30 minutes, and vacuum.
- Spritz white vinegar or a mixture of vinegar and water to remove odors.
- When you wash your curtains, also clean curtain rods, grommets, hooks and accessories.
These simple tips on how to wash every kind of curtain will help you keep your window dressings in tip-top shape and enhance the beauty of your windows.
Browse our online catalog to see our extensive offerings of easy-care, attractive curtains, including blackout and thermal curtains, sheers, valances, café styles for kitchens and curtains for playrooms. Our staff can help you select sizes, styles and colors suitable for your windows and doors.
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