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How to Clean Curtains at Home

There are multiple ways to clean curtains at home – this article is full of tips & advice on steam cleaning, hand washing, and washing curtains in the machine!


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

Window open, learn how to remove the smell of smoke from your home

Curtains tend to absorb smells from around the home, such as cooking aromas and cigarette smoke, which can leave the curtains smelling less than fresh and cause slight discolouration. These stains may be very noticeable on light-coloured or delicate curtains.

Cleaning curtains doesn’t have to be difficult, though: while steam cleaning your curtains means using special products, there are several other easy ways to clean your curtains, and different curtain cleaners you can use. So, if you’ve ever wondered how to clean curtains at home, here’s a quick and easy guide to the options available.

When hand washing curtains, be sure to use the right kind of detergent. Most good-quality brands offer a suitable option – we like Surf’s range of hand washing bars. Regardless of your chosen product, be sure to test on a hidden part of the fabric first, and to wear rubber gloves if you have sensitive or damaged skin.

Option 1: Wash Curtains in the Washing Machine

Depending on the material of your curtains, you may be able to clean them simply by putting them in the washing machine:

  1. If your washing machine has a delicate cycle, be sure to use it; otherwise, choose a cool wash with a slow spin.

  2. Your normal laundry detergent will be fine to use.

  3. If you are particularly worried about the material shrinking, don’t risk putting the curtains in the washing machine, and hand wash instead.

When to wash curtains in the washing machine: This option works best with lightweight curtains rather than with heavy materials that will retain water. However, keep in mind that some materials need special attention when being put in a washing machine – for instance, delicate cottons can shrink in hot washes. Be sure to check the label on your curtains before laundering them.

Option 2: Hand Wash Curtains

Hand washing curtains can sometimes be the safer option:

  1. Either use your regular laundry detergent, or a product specifically designed for hand washing delicates. It’s best to choose a gentle soap to avoid damage to the material.

  2. Follow the instructions on your chosen product to hand wash – different products will require different concentrations.

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When to hand wash curtains: Hand washing curtains is a bigger chore than simply putting them in the washing machine, but it does reduce the risk of shrinking, and it’s a good choice for delicate material like cotton. It’s best not to hand wash very heavy materials simply because it’s difficult to remove all the water, and it will prolong the drying time.

Option 3: Steam Cleaning Curtains

Using a good quality steam cleaner with an upholstery attachment is one of the most convenient methods of curtain cleaning.

  1. Be sure to start from the top and work your way down the curtain.

  2. If you notice that the material is becoming wet, hold the appliance further away from the curtain.

  3. Be careful when using a steam cleaner: always read the manufacturer’s instructions before you begin, and remember that steam can burn you ­– so ensure you wear appropriate protective clothing.

When to use a steam cleaner for curtain cleaning: Steam cleaning curtains is an excellent choice for curtains made from very heavy materials or for curtains that are particularly difficult to take down from the rail.

After Curtain Cleaning, What is the Best Way to Dry Them?

Don’t be tempted to put wet curtains into the dryer. The tumbling motion can cause stubborn creases to appear that not even a hot iron can remove. The best way to dry curtains is to hang them outside, away from direct sunlight to avoid bleaching, and in a breezy place if possible. Letting curtains dry naturally in a hanging position allows the creases to fall out, and a quick iron afterwards will have them looking like new.

There you have it! Your newly cleaned curtains will offer a brighter, fresher home, both inside and out.

  • Regular maintenance: make vacuuming your curtains part of your normal cleaning routine. Use the soft brush attachment to remove everyday dust and dirt.

  • Lightweight curtains: can be cleaned in the washing machine.

  • Curtains made of delicate materials: should be hand washed to reduce the risk of shrinking.

  • Curtains made from heavy fabric: can be steam cleaned, in order to avoid a lengthy drying process.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on cleaning curtains

Can curtains with rings be washed in a washing machine?

You can wash curtains with rings in washing machine as long as you first remove any hooks, rings, or pins.

Can you clean curtains while they are hung?

If you want to clean curtains while hung, there are a few easy steps you need to be aware of. First, clean down the curtain with a vacuum soft brush attachment. This will remove loose dirt and dust. Next, hand wash the surface with a soft cloth and a small amount of water and detergent. For any stains, dab a drop or two of rubbing alcohol onto the stain with a sponge. Allow your curtains to air dry, preferably with a window open to allow them plenty of ventilation to prevent mildew, mold, and damp odors.

How do you disinfect curtains?

The easiest step in how to disinfect curtains is to use a disinfectant spray. Apply it directly to the curtains and rinse off with a clean, damp cloth. For a more thorough clean, either pop them in the washing machine or follow our hand washing steps, above, to clean curtains while hung.

Should you wash curtains before hanging them up for the first time?

New curtains are more often than not a little stiff and can also have a strong odor about them. Washing them before hanging them for the first time will not only rid them of any unwanted odors but also help them to look and hang better when you put them up to your windows.

Originally published