Can You Wash Curtains? [5 Tips to Keep Them Clean After Washing]

Dirty curtains on a window

Curtains should always be spotlessly clean. This is part and parcel of a chic and well-put-together home.

The same applies to commercial and business spaces too.

But, can you really wash them?

Washing Curtains

Yes, most curtains can be machine or hand-washed. However, you might have to dry clean some of the curtains depending on the fabric of the curtain.

There are two problems that often get in the way of keeping the curtains nifty—the size of the curtains and their fabric.

Here’s how to work around these challenges.

Can All Curtains Be Washed?

Generally speaking, not all fabrics can be washed, whether that is through machine washing or hand washing.

Here are some of the cases where it’s not recommended to clean fabric by washing it:

  • The label on the fabric explicitly says that it should be dry cleaned only.
  • The curtain has swags, pleats, or supporting sewed-in structures. These could shrink with washing and skew the curtain’s panels.
  • Draperies with elaborate swells and ornaments shouldn’t be machine washed as that would almost certainly spoil their appearance.
  • Sheer and delicate fabrics that have been exposed to the sun for too long could become brittle. Even though the curtains might not be labeled as dry-clean only, they could spoil with washing.
  • Finally, double-layered heavy draperies, or ones with a sewn-in blackout backing, would be pretty hard to wash.

Other than that, you can courageously take out the curtains and give them a nice rinse!

The thorough wash would revive the fabric, improve its appearance, and even the way it sways with the breeze.

How to Wash Curtains Properly?

There are two basic methods to choose from for washing any fabric: using a machine or going soft and using your hands.

Machine wash is generally preferred as it’s far easier and often gives better results.

Hand washing is often challenging, and it gets exhausting with the bulky size of the draperies.

Either way, it’s best to use lukewarm water for washing the curtains.

Additionally, pre-soaking the fabric would facilitate the subsequent cleaning phase and make it more effective.

It would also be wise to spot-test the fabric first with the detergents you intend to use.

Choose a small spot and try out your washing method.

One last thing to do before washing the curtains is to remove any metal or plastic accessories.

Leaving them in place could damage the curtain or the washing machine.

1. Machine Washing

We would like to think that machine washing is as simple as tossing the curtains in the washing machine and pressing a button.

However, there are a few more points to consider:

  • Select the right program for the curtain’s fabric. You can go with a lower temperature and slower spin speed.
  • Use a small amount of mild gel detergent.
  • You can add a fabric softener to decrease wrinkles. It also leaves a lovely fragrance.
  • For white curtains that are heavily soiled or yellowed, adding bleach should recover the fabric’s original color.
  • Monochromatic color-fast fabrics should be washed alone.
  • Multi-colored color-fast fabrics could be spoiled as the colors run into one another. A color catcher dye-trapping sheet should be used to minimize that possibility.
  • Avoid filling up the washing machine too much. Half-loads often work best.

2. Hand Washing

Hand washing is much easier on any fabric than machine washing.

Silk, voile, and sheer curtains often benefit far more from this light wash than from a rough machine rinse.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to hand washing your curtains:

  • Soaking and pre-washing can do wonders for the curtain. This extra step often loosens up most of the dirt that’s been clinging to the delicate curtain fabric. Thus, it wouldn’t need too much work to get it all cleaned up.
  • It’s best to use a mild detergent for the soaking and the washing steps. Some people use dishwashing soap for that, while others prefer gel detergents.
  • If you decide to add bleach or any other harsh chemicals to the wash, then make sure to wear thick gloves to protect your hands.
  • Getting rid of the soiled water is often a difficult step, but you can make it easier by washing the curtain in the bathtub. Just release the used water down the drain, then add clean water.
  • Move the curtain into the clean water to make sure all the soap is rinsed away. When the exiting water becomes clear, then you’re done.
  • You can then press the fabric to wring out the remaining water, then take it out.

What to Do After Washing the Curtains?

Old woman ironing washed curtains

Some people hang the curtains in place while they’re still damp.

Cutting corners here rarely give the required outcome and often leaves the curtains smelling and looking odd.

Drying the curtains is a critical step that would either bring back the curtains to their mint condition or leave them creased and disheveled.

In short, you need to do this drying stage right!

There are a couple of good options to do that, in addition to a finishing step.

1. Air Drying the Curtains

Hanging the curtains to dry is actually the best thing you can do.

The fresh air and sunshine revive the fabric and dry it up thoroughly.

Not every household has a clothesline handy, but no need to despair. A dryer would be just as good.

2. Machine Drying the Curtains

Drying the curtains needs to be done gently, and it’s only applicable to certain fabrics.

It’s important to read the label carefully before resorting to a dryer.

Use the lowest setting on the machine, and select “delicate fabrics.”

This should provide the necessary protection for your curtains.

It’s essential to avoid hot drying, even if that would be a quicker option.

The heat could damage the curtain or any materials that are sewn into it.

Additionally, it’s best to remove the curtain from the dryer before it becomes totally dry.

A little dampness would keep it from creasing.

3. Ironing the Curtains

Few fabrics would come out of the dryer or the clothesline smooth and ready for hanging.

Most curtains need a quick press with a steam iron.

The heavy fabrics wouldn’t object to regular ironing, while silk and voile would.

It’s best to remove the creases from these delicate fabrics using vertical steam irons.

What if The Curtain Can’t Be Washed?

Curtains with delicate fabrics or ones with elaborate ornamentation are hard to wash.

In that case, you can send them out to the dry cleaner.

Alternatively, you can use a steamer, or vertical steam iron, to loosen up the dirt.

Then, you can remove the dirt with a vacuum cleaner.

Routine cleaning of these draperies or silk curtains should keep them in top condition for weeks.

5 Tips to Keep the Curtains Clean After Washing

Cleaning the curtains, one way or another, would look amazing for a few weeks.

Then, the dust, pet hair, smoke, and stains would set in again.

Luckily, there are some quick-cleaning tips that would keep the curtains looking good for a long while.

And when the time comes for the next wash, they shouldn’t be too heavily soiled.

  1. Use a vacuum cleaner once a week to keep the dust from accumulating on the fabric.
  2. Add an old pantyhose, or light sock, to the vacuuming head to keep it from pinching the fabric.
  3. Clean up the fixtures and hardware around the curtain regularly.
  4. For sheer, voile, and silk curtains, it’s best to shake the curtains rather than vacuum them. This would be easier on the fabric.
  5. Every other week, pass a barely-wet microfiber cloth on the curtain, especially the drapes with heavy fabrics. This should take care of dust, dirt, and pet hair.

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