How you clean your curtains depends on the type, style and fabric of the curtains. Note that certain types of curtains can be machine-washed, while drapery or lace curtains require delicate care.

Here’s the golden rule on how to clean curtains: Start by reading the cleaning instructions.

This is a curtain care guide, not a list of hard-and-fast instructions. Always refer to the care labels before taking any action.

Certain fabrics may wrinkle, shrink, discolor or get damaged in the washing cycle. Others should only be hand washed or taken to the dry cleaners. Either way, if you’re in doubt, shake your curtains out outside and spot clean them. If you don’t have access to care instructions, here’s how to clean some popular types of curtains.

How to Clean Standard Fabric Curtains

Store-bought, unlined fabric curtains typically can be cleaned in the washing machine.

Only clean one or two curtain panels at a time, depending on the thickness of the fabric — you don’t want to overload your washer. Run the gentle cycle, and avoid using hot water. You can also use a steamer with an upholstery attachment to steam-clean your curtains (keep in mind washing will yield better results).

If you’re steam cleaning, make sure to do a spot test first on an inconspicuous corner to double-check the steam doesn’t damage the fabric. Let the area dry completely to ensure it doesn’t damage or wrinkle the curtains. If all is good to go, steam from the top to the bottom in a careful motion.

Once washed, hang curtains outside to dry if possible. If you need to hang them inside, make sure to keep a plastic garbage bag or a towel underneath to catch the dripping water.

If you throw your curtains in the dryer, use the lowest heat setting and remove them promptly so they don’t wrinkle. The tumble-dry motion can press permanent, unsightly creases into your curtains.

Note: If your curtains are made of standard fabric but have ornate decorations or delicate pleats, it might be best to wash by hand or visit the dry cleaners.

How to Clean Sheer or Lace Curtains
Sheer, lace or delicate curtains should be hand washed.

Fill the soap or bathtub with warm water. Add a few drops of detergent. Massage the curtains in the suds. Handle with care and don’t twist or wring the fabric. If stains have set in, leave it to soak for an hour and hang them outside to dry.

If you do wash sheer curtains in the washer, always use the delicate cycle.

Kwik-Tip: Wash sheer and light curtains more frequently than other curtains. Even if your curtains don’t appear grimy, they’ll be discolored by the you finally notice the dirt.

How to Clean Heavy Fabrics and Drapes
Drapes, lined curtains or any heavy fabrics such as wool, cashmere, brocade and velvet curtains are typically dry clean or spot clean only.

Don’t make the mistake of throwing drapes into a washer or dryer. Most drapery fabrics require special care, and it’s not worth the risk of ruining them.

How to Spot Clean Curtains
Can you clean curtains without taking them down? If you don’t have time for a full cleaning, you can get away with consistent spot cleaning (though a yearly thorough wash is still our top recommendation).

Here are a few tips on how to spot clean your curtains (note that this will vary depending on the type of curtain fabric you’re working with):

Use a duster or lint roller to grab dust, dirt and other particles with ease.
Shake them out, holding the top of your curtains near your rod. Remember to vacuum the floor afterward!
Use a brush attachment on your vacuum and run it over your curtains gently or on the lowest suction power.
Soak a cloth in warm or hot water to clean up spots that require extra attention. (This works well for velvet curtains.)
Follow up with a light, fresh-smelling fabric spray or deodorizer and make sure your curtains have room to breathe and air out.

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