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How to Clean Washable Curtains

There are many things to be aware of when you are cleaning your curtains. Curtains take a lot of abuse from many angles that can make them complicated to clean:

  • Sunlight beats down on them, fading their colour and weakening their fabric.

  • Smoke, dirt, and other pollutants become entwined in the fibres, making them smell and dulling their lustre, but sometimes hiding other defects.

  • Dirt acts as a cover for natural bleaching from sunlight and cleaning it away may make your curtains look worse. So think twice about washing the drapes in a conservatory or sunroom.

    Take extra care with old curtains, even if they carry a care label that says they’re machine-washable, as they may be too damaged to wash safely.

Brocade and ribbon trims can get dirty ahead of the curtains. Spot treat them with dry-foam upholstery shampoo. On the other extreme, pelmets (valances) and other types of trim may get dirty more slowly than the curtains themselves.

This is no reason not to wash them when you clean the curtains, though. Clean all the major curtain components at the same time so that one item doesn’t look fresher (or more tired) than the others.

If your curtains and your washing-machine are a good match, go right ahead and let them get together, being careful to follow the care labels on the curtains. If any part of your washable curtain is going to shrink, it’s generally the lining. Detach the lining first if you’re worried, then hand wash the lining or do nothing to it.

If you forget to take off the lining and it does shrink, you can snip it off after washing the curtains and just stretch the wet curtains back to their regular size.

If the lining is very colour-stained, stitch it back inside out.

To safely wash washable curtains, follow these steps after you take them down:

  1. Remove the curtain hooks.

  2. Check the weight of each curtain against the maximum wash-load weight recommended for your machine.

    One full-length curtain can easily weigh the maximum amount your machine can handle. A pair may need two loads.

  3. Add the amount of washing-powder (laundry detergent) recommended on the container for maximum soil.

  4. Select a gentle wash cycle.

    Remove promptly afterwards to cut down on creasing.

When the curtains come out of the machine, you may have to stretch them back into shape before hanging them on the line to dry. Even if your curtains can stand up to the washing-machine, the dryer is almost guaranteed to be the end of them, so let them air-dry.

Wet curtains are extremely heavy, so if you have two parallel wash lines, lay the curtains over both.

If the curtains need ironing, do it whilst they’re still damp. Iron the inside of the curtain, pressing the seams flat.

Use upholstery shampoo to clean fixed pelmets, taking care not to get them too wet. Towel dry.

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