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Because curtains are made of woven fabric, and they spend large portions of the time folded into pleats, dust, pet hair and even mould gathers on them. Over time this builds up so even if they don’t look dirty, they’re not helping you keep a clean, healthy home, stirring up dust every time they move. Cleaning instructions for curtains differ depending on the fabrics used and whether they are lined or unlined so if yours have a cleaning instruction label, follow these directions. If not, here are our professional tips on curtain cleaning.

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Unlined curtains

Typically low-maintenance, you can wash these on a delicate cycle or better yet, hand wash in lukewarm water.

Lined curtains

No matter what fabric they are made of, lined curtains are tricky to wash because often the curtain fabric and lining fabric are different. To ensure there’s no shrinkage we recommend dry cleaning. Pick one who specialises in curtains if possible. 

Thermal backed curtains

Hand-wash in cold water and make sure the thermal coating doesn’t stick to itself.

Cotton, acrylic and polyester curtains

Remove all hardware and give them a good shake outside. Put the curtains through the washing machine on a cold delicate cycle but don’t overload the machine; you probably don’t want it to be any more than half full before you start.

Cotton and polyester can go in the dryer on a low heat but be sure to remove and rehang as soon as they’re done to avoid wrinkles. If you don’t have a dryer, or you’re washing acrylic fabric, let them air dry and give them a low-medium heat iron before rehanging. It’s important the iron is not hot as this will melt an acrylic. With polyester it’s best to iron while still slightly damp.

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Sheers/Voiles

These are delicate and can easily snag in the machine. Hand wash in a sink of cold water with a bit of laundry powder or detergent. Soak for 10 minutes, give them a swirl to loosen up the dust and dirt, drain and squeeze out the water (but don’t wring them) then refill the sink with just cold water and dip them in again to wash out any detergent. Air dry.

To give them a nice crisp feel, dissolve a cup of Epsom salt in a sink of cold water and soak them for 10 minutes. Gently squeeze the water out of the curtain and let them drip dry. Do not rinse them again. Rehang once fully dry.

Velvet Curtains

If your velvet curtains are machine washable (check the manufacturer’s instruction label) they can go through the wash one panel at a time on a cold, delicate cycle. To dry, lay them flat on a cotton sheet. Do not put them in the dryer. Most velvet curtains, especially those that are lined, will be dry clean only.

Silk curtains

Dry cleaning is best but you can do it yourself if you’re prepared to take some time and care. Fill a tub with lukewarm water and 1tsp of mild laundry detergent for every 4L of water. Gently hand wash. Drain the tub and rinse the curtains in clean lukewarm water until the detergent is gone. Refill the tub (lukewarm water), add 1TBS of white vinegar and gently hand wash for about 10 minutes. Rinse again.

Silk can stretch so gently squeeze out as much water as possible then lay them flat on towels out of direct sunlight. While they are still slightly damp, run a warm iron over the inside of the curtain.

Linen curtains

Sometimes these can go through the washing machine on a cold delicate cycle; check the care instructions from the manufacturer. If not, hand wash with a mild detergent suitable for linen. Do not tumble dry. Once dry-ish, iron them using a steam iron on a low heat. Linen curtains can also be rehanged while still slightly damp, just be sure to keep them full closed until they’re completely dry.

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Cleaning mouldy curtains

To remove mould from curtains dissolve 500g of non-iodised salt (so not table salt) into a bucket of room-temperature water, then add a 1/2tsp clove oil. Soak one curtain panel at a time for two to four hours. Remove and gently squeeze out as much water as possible (do not wring them). This is a task best done in summer as they need to dry by hanging in a warm, windy spot. As the salt crystals dry you can just dust them off with a soft brush.

Regular cleaning

Giving your curtains a spruce on a regular basis will stop this becoming a major chore. Before you do your regular weekly house clean, give them a shake to dislodge dust. Let it settle for a bit then vacuum it up. And once a month use the dust brush attachment on your vacuum to clean curtains from top to bottom. HINT: a lot of the build-up of dust will be near the top. And don’t use the upholstery vacuum attachment as it has teeth and will likely snag. If you don’t want to vacuum, you could pop them through the dryer for 10 minutes on a no heat/no fluff setting. 

Bonus tips:
  • For pencil pleat curtains, untie the heading cords and spread out the pleats.
  • Do not use pegs if hanging on the line. Best option is to hang them high by their hooks. Also, remember that hanging them in direct sunlight could speed up fading.
  • Never bleach curtains.

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