Curtains play an important role in any home. They provide privacy, help control light, and add beauty and style to a room’s décor. However, curtains can easily collect dust, dirt, and odors over time. Knowing how to properly wash curtains is key to keeping them fresh and extending their lifespan. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about washing curtains at home.
Should You Machine Wash Curtains?
The first question many people have when it comes to cleaning curtains is whether or not they can be washed in a washing machine. The short answer is: it depends.
Certain lightweight curtain fabrics like cotton, linen, polyester, and nylon can typically be machine washed. However, you’ll want to check the manufacturer’s care label on your curtains first. This will indicate if machine washing is recommended and what settings to use. If there is no care label, you can test an inconspicuous area of the curtain with a bit of water to see if the fabric bleeds or seems delicate.
In general, machine washing is not recommended for curtains made of silk, velvet, lace, embroidered fabrics, or other delicate materials. The agitation and spinning of a washing machine can damage fragile fabrics and cause them to shrink. Delicate curtains are better off being professionally dry cleaned.
When machine washing curtains that are labeled as washable, use the gentle cycle and cold water. You can add a small amount of mild detergent made for delicates. Remove the curtains promptly after the wash cycle ends and either line dry or tumble dry on low.
How to Hand Wash Delicate Curtains
For non-washable curtains, hand washing is the best cleaning method. This allows you to gently clean without risking damage in a washing machine.
Fill a bathtub or large sink with cool water and add a small amount of a mild hand washing detergent or soap, like Persil Non-Bio Liquid Detergent or Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds All-Purpose Cleaner. Allow heavy curtain fabrics to soak briefly, then gently swish the curtains around to release dirt and dust trapped in the fibers. Avoid vigorously rubbing or twisting the material. Drain the dirty water and repeat the process with clean cool water to rinse.
After hand washing, remove excess water by rolling the curtains in a towel. Lay flat to air dry. For silk curtains, do not wring or twist the material when removing water. Simply lay flat on a towel and allow to air dry without disturbance to prevent creases.
What About Putting Curtains in the Dryer?
If your curtains are machine washable, the dryer is fine on a low, delicate setting. But limit drying time to 10-15 minutes then air dry the rest of the way to avoid heat damage. For hand washed curtains, always air dry. Hanging curtains outside on a clothesline is ideal when possible.
How Often You Should Wash Curtains
During spring and fall cleaning, it’s a good idea to machine wash any launderable curtains. For households with pets or smokers, bump this up to every 2-3 months. Delicate curtains that require dry cleaning can be thoroughly cleaned once or twice a year.
Between deeper cleanings, regular dusting and vacuuming is recommended. Use the soft brush attachment on your vacuum once a week to remove surface dust and dirt from curtains. This helps keep them fresh longer between washings.
Things to Avoid When Washing Curtains:
- Hot water, which can cause shrinking or bleeding of fabrics
- Fabric softener sheets in the washing machine, which can leave residue
- High heat drying, which can damage delicate fabrics
- Harsh detergents, bleach or chemicals not formulated for delicates
- Wringing or twisting delicate fabrics when wet
By understanding your curtains’ fabric content and following the proper care methods, you can safely wash curtains at home. Always check labels first and when in doubt, opt for a more gentle approach of hand washing, air drying, and low heat to clean curtains without damage. With proper care, your curtains will stay beautiful and functional for years to come.