How To Clean All Types of Curtains

person examining curtains

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Curtains can add just the right touch of light to a room, but as much we love how they add to the decor, sometimes knowing how to care for them can be a mystery. How often should you clean curtains? How do you protect delicate sheers? Can you use a washing machine?

Items Needed to Clean Curtains

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Upholstery attachment
  • Laundry detergent
  • Washing machine/hand washing supplies
  • Clothes dryer/clothesline
  • Dry cleaners for dry clean only curtains.

Weekly Curtain Care

For weekly care, use the upholstery brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to vacuum heavier weight curtains. For lightweight curtains, an occasional shake is more practical to protect delicate fabric. When cleaning the curtains weekly, lookout for stains or areas that need more in-depth attention. The tops of the curtains along the rod are especially susceptible to dust accumulation. You can use a long-handled dusting tool to gently brush and dust the area or the wand of your vacuum cleaner.

using the vacuum attachment to clean a curtain

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Machine Washing Curtains

Remove all hardware from your curtains before washing. When washing them, check the care label first. If you're in doubt about your curtains, try spot testing a small corner with a mix of water and a small amount of liquid laundry detergent or liquid dish soap. Most washable curtains need to be washed in cold water with a small amount of laundry detergent. Delicate lace and sheer curtains may benefit from hand washing or machine washing inside a mesh bag. In a pinch, you can wash delicate curtains inside an old pillowcase that is tied shut tightly to prevent fraying and damage.

Drying Curtains

Line drying or using a low setting on a clothes dryer will both work for washable curtains. Remove the curtains from the dryer before they are 100% dry. Aim to remove them when they are about 95% dry. Overdrying will set wrinkles, but removing while still slightly damp makes ironing curtains a cinch. A quick ironing is all that's needed before replacing your curtain hardware and rehanging your curtains.

line-drying curtains

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo

Dry Cleaning

Some curtains may have a label that reads dry clean only. Doing anything other than dry cleaning is at your own risk. Some fabrics may bleed and fade if they aren't properly dry cleaned, and others may shrink or pill on the fabric surface. If you do decide to try to machine or hand wash dry clean only curtains, use a very mild detergent and a gentle cycle. Don't wash anything else with them in the cycle as they may not be colorfast. Hang them to dry and only resort to a light ironing if absolutely necessary. You may be able to iron curtains with a thin white towel, tee shirt or a blanket in between the curtains and the iron. When in doubt, follow the directions on the curtain label.

Steam Cleaning

Some steam cleaners have attachments to steam upholstery or curtains. Be aware, though, that only machine washable curtains will hold up to steam treatment. You may, however, get better results washing machine washable curtains than steaming them and it's not that much more trouble to take them down and wash them. If you do want to try steam cleaning, be sure that your curtains are in fact machine washable before proceeding.

steam-cleaning a curtain

The Spruce / Nelly Cuanalo