It’s easy to remember to vacuum the floor, change your sheets, and clean the dishes, but when it comes to really deep cleaning your home, you can’t forget to wash your curtains. Unfortunately, curtains can gather a lot of dust, mold, or dirt if not cleaned every so often, and can lead to allergies and an unhygienic home. Below, we’ve asked two experts for their recommendations on how to wash curtains, how often you should be cleaning them, what not to do, and more.
How to wash your curtains
The first step to washing your curtains is to determine whether your window treatments are curtains or drapes—people often use these terms interchangeably. “Curtains usually cover only the window and hang no further than a couple of inches below the window sill,” explains Brian Adams of Renewal Claim Solutions in Texas. “Curtains are made from relatively light material, such as cotton or cotton/poly blends, and are usually labeled machine washable. For cleaning purposes, blackout curtains should be considered as drapes.” Drapes, on the other hand, are made from heavy fabric, are usually lined, and are often hung from the top of the window to the floor. According to Adams, you should not wash drapes at home.
To wash curtains at home, you want to use the gentle cycle on the washing machine. “Select cold water and rinse for dark color curtains and cool/lukewarm water for light color curtains,” suggests Adams. “Do not use hot water.”
Once you’ve run them through the washing machine, you can dry the curtains by hanging them on a clothesline or tumbling them in a dryer on the no-heat setting. “You can iron or steam curtains just prior to rehanging them,” says Adams.
To clean drapes, Adams suggests getting them professionally dry cleaned. “At Renewal Claim Solutions, we first inspect the drapes for signs of sun damage, water spotting, mildew, pet damage, etc.,” he says. “If they can be cleaned, we spot-treat areas with chemicals and steam, dry clean the panels, then press them through a linen presser (if there are no pleats) or hand iron if the panels are pleated.”
When rehanging drapes in your home, it’s a good idea to have them steamed in place to remove any remaining wrinkles. “Due to the weight of the material, the folds and wrinkles dissipate quickly,” explains Adams.
If your machine-washable curtains have been affected by mold, water damage, fire, or smoke, Adams suggests also getting them professionally laundered by a restoration dry cleaning company.
Although it is definitely not recommended to clean your drapes at home, you can do a bit of maintenance on them to try and keep them cleaner for longer. “If you must do any at-home drapery cleaning, I would suggest using daily maintenance as an option,” explains Lexi Schultz, owner and lead designer of The Great Curtain Company in Austin, Texas. “For both curtains and drapes, you can use vacuum attachments between the folds, use Swiffers or dusters to dust off top dust layers, and to dust the tops of the hardware to keep them functioning and looking good all the time.”
How often to wash your curtains
The frequency with which you clean your curtains and get drapes cleaned is up to your lifestyle, but it’s recommended to clean them or get them cleaned about once per year (or after considerable damage from water, mildew, fire, or smoke).. “Some customers have experienced high allergy situations and need to have their curtains cleaned more often, whereas others have more decor curtains that never function and perhaps do not collect as much dust, so they would be cleaned considerably less often,” explains Schultz. “It is all up to your lifestyle and the functionality of your household—if you have kids, pets, or a high-traffic area of your home, you might end up cleaning these more often than you think.”
How to tell if your curtains are actually washable
The best way to tell is to check the manufacturer’s tag—this should have the washing codes and the instructions. “For curtains, consider the fabric and wash similar to how you would wash your expensive shirts,” suggests Adams.
What not to do when washing your curtains
According to Adams, you should never use bleach, hot water, or chemicals not specifically marketed for washing machines when washing your curtains at home.