While window coverings come in a range of designs, they all have one thing in common: Curtains and drapes are magnets for dust, dirt, pet hair, and even mold. But can you wash curtains without ruining them? Absolutely!—and learning how to wash curtains not only makes your home look better, it can make it a healthier place to live.

When your windows are dirty, they make your home look dull and drab. But when your curtains are dirty, they not only look dingy, they can be unhealthy. Every time you move dirty curtains, dust, dirt, and spores can be released into the air your family breathes. The airborne stuff they don’t breathe ends up on surfaces and creates an environment filled with dirty air that can aggravate allergies and asthma.

Fortunately, when you learn how to clean curtains and drapes correctly, you can make your window treatments look like new again and create a healthier environment in your home.

How To Wash Curtains by Hand or in the Washer

Getting your drapes and curtains clean starts by checking the care label. But even when following the care label cleaning directions, it’s a good idea to check your curtains for colorfastness before hand or machine washing. Choose a hidden spot on your curtains and dip it in a bowl of warm water. If the color bleeds, you’ll be better off taking the drapes to a dry cleaner.

If the fabric passed the color fastness test, it’s time to learn how to wash curtains and drapes. The cleaning instructions below cover the most common drape and curtain fabrics and the steps you should take to get them clean.

How to Clean Cotton Drapes

Most cotton curtains can be machine washed, but the care label may recommend hand washing curtains if they are lined. Here’s how to get them clean either way:

  • Pre-Treat Stains

Cotton fabrics are more likely to get stains than some other fabrics, so it’s important to inspect cotton drapes for stains before you wash them. For most stains, you can use a natural stain remover like baking soda to safely remove them.

If your cotton drapes are lined and can’t be machine washed, skip the washer and follow the cleaning directions for silk drapes below.

  • Wash With Cold Water

Set your washer to a gentle or delicate setting and use cold water only. You’ll want to give your curtains plenty of room, so don’t overload the washer. Use your regular laundry detergent but don’t use fabric softeners or bleach.

  • Machine Dry

Put your curtains in the dryer and choose the lowest heat setting. Monitor how quickly your curtains are drying, because you want to remove them when they are still a little damp.

  • Iron Out the Wrinkles

Select the cotton setting and iron out wrinkles from the backside of the curtains using a pressing cloth (like a tea cloth or t-shirt) to avoid scorch marks. Hang the curtains immediately and let them air dry.

How to Clean Synthetic Curtains

Most synthetic fabrics made with nylon and polyester are “easy care” and some are stain-resistant, so they usually only require minimal cleaning. Even blackout curtains and liners made with synthetic material are usually machine washable, but check the label before you use these cleaning tips:

  • Pre-Treat Stains

Use the baking soda stain remover used for cotton drapes from above to pre-treat any stains and separate dark and light colors.

  • Wash in Cold Water

Set your washer to the gentle cycle and use cold water and regular laundry detergent only. Be sure to not overload the washing machine.

  • Machine Dry

Use a low to medium heat setting to dry the curtains and remove them as soon as they’re done. Hang the curtains right away to prevent wrinkles.

How to Clean Silk Drapes

Many curtains made from silk and other delicate fabrics should be hand washed only to prevent damage. There’s no need to pre-treat stains because you can scrub those out while you’re hand washing.

  • Wash With Warm Water

Fill the sink with warm water and a few drops of dish soap. Wash the silk curtain in the soap and water by massaging the suds into the fabric. Most stains will come out using this method, but you can use some baking soda for more firepower.

  • Rinse and Squeeze

Rinse the silk curtain with warm water until the water runs clear. Lay out a bath towel and place the curtain on it as flat as possible. Roll the curtain up with the towel and squeeze out excess water.

  • Air Dry

Hang your silk curtains right away and let them air dry to prevent wrinkles. It’s important to let the silk dry slowly, so avoid any heat sources like vents or direct sunlight.

How Often Should You Wash Curtains?

Curtains, drapes, and other window treatments should only need washing or dry cleaning about twice per year if you do a little cleaning maintenance to prevent buildup. Each week, vacuum your drapes using the upholstery attachment to remove dust, dirt, and allergens. If you have pets, use a lint roller to lift off pet hair after vacuuming.

To prevent your curtains from collecting so much dust, be sure to dust the curtain rods, valances, and any other window treatment parts. About once per month, take down your curtains and lay them flat on a bed. Use the brush attachment to vacuum up dust and dirt on both sides, then rehang your curtains.

Use this guide for how to wash curtains to keep your windows looking beautiful and the air you breathe clean and fresh. And when you’re ready to tackle other housekeeping chores, check out the rest of our cleaning guides to get your home clean fast and easy. Whether you do it yourself or use our convenient cleaning services, The Maids wants you to have a clean home week after week. Learn more by contacting a location near you or when you get your free estimate online.

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