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How To Clean Curtains: Step by Step

It’s easy to clean curtains by following these simple steps. Click on the appropriate sections to learn how.

  1. How to Do a Regular Light Cleaning
  2. How to Steam Clean Your Curtains
  3. How to Machine Wash Your Drapes
  4. How to Hand Wash More Delicate Curtains
  5. How to Clean Your Sheers
  6. How to Clean Valances
  7. How to Clean Curtains with Rubber Backings

If you don’t have the time or you are afraid to clean window treatments in case you mess them up, contact us.

We offer professional drapery cleaning at reasonable rates.

How to Clean Curtains

1. How to Do a Regular Light Cleaning

Daily Cleaning:

It is a good idea to give your curtains a gentle shake each day to remove any dust that has accumulated. This is easy to do especially if you are in the habit of closing them at night and opening them the next morning. Just add an extra shake to your opening or closing routine.

Weekly Cleaning:

You should also try to vacuum your drapes once a week. Just incorporate it into your weekly vacuuming routine. The video will show you how or you can read and follow the simple steps below:

Clean drapes weekly with a vacuum

Vacuuming Your Drapes:

Step 1: Attach the soft brush attachment to the accessory hose on your vacuum cleaner. If you don’t have one of these attachments, you can also stretch a nylon stocking over the end of your hand-held nozzle. The stocking will prevent your curtains from being sucked into the vacuum.

Step 2: Set your vacuum to a reduced suction setting to make the suction more gentle for your fabric. A hand-held vacuum like a DustBuster also works well for vacuuming drapes. 

Step 3: Using a gentle sweeping motion, move the brush up and down, over the surface of the fabric. If you are using a brush attachment, be careful not to pause too long over one section as the material may be pulled into the hose and get damaged.

Allergies? Vacuuming your drapes will also help if you or anyone in your family suffers from allergies. 

Pets? If you have pets, and your vacuum won’t remove that stubborn hair, you can also try using a lint brush or wrap duct tape around your hand with the sticky side out and rub it down your window treatments to remove hair.

Note: Oil from pet hair can discolour the fabric over time, so it is a good idea to remove it on a regular basis.

2. How to Steam Clean Your Curtains

steam cleaner

Image Source: Amazon

You can also clean curtains with a steam cleaner

If you have a steam cleaner, then you can use it to clean your drapes while they are still hanging up. A steamer is also great for removing any deep wrinkles from the fabric. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Turn on your steamer and wait until it warms up.

Step 2: Move the steaming wand up and down while taking your time. Keep moving the wand so that you don’t spend too much time in one spot.

Step 3: Pull the material tighter as you move along the seams. As you move along the material, you will notice the wrinkles disappearing.

Step 4: Make sure that your hose doesn’t go below your water level or the machine will shut off.

3. How to Machine Wash Your Drapes

Before you clean curtains in the washing machine, check the label or check with the manufacturer to make sure that they can be machine washed.

If you are unsure, you can test them for colorfastness. Dip a small corner of the fabric in a small bowl of cold water and gentle detergent to see if the colour starts to bleed or if any other change occurs. If it does, then it is best to get them professionally cleaned.


Before you clean drapes in a washing machine, make sure they are colourfast

Before machine washing your window coverings, you should remove any excess dirt and debris. You can do this by one of the following methods:

  • Vacuuming your drapes before taking them down following the instructions above
  • Once you have removed them from the window, lay them flat on the floor or on your bed and vacuum them there
  • You can also shake your drapes outside if you don’t want to vacuum them

Step 1: Take down your drapes from the rods being careful not to pull or tug on the drapes, as this might damage the fabric or dislodge the rods from the walls.

Step 2: Remove all pins or hooks that have been attached to the fabric to hang them. Leaving any hardware on your drapes could damage the material or your machine while they are being washed.

Step 3: Wash one panel at a time. Turn your machine to the gentlest cycle, set it for a cold water wash, and use a gentle detergent.

Step 4: Take the panel out of the machine as soon as it is finished to help prevent wrinkling.

Step 5: It is best to hang your drapes up to dry. Place old towels underneath them to protect your floors from any excess dripping water.

Other Drying Methods


You can dry your curtains outside

Dryer: If the labels say that they are dryer safe, you could put them in a dryer on low or on the no heat setting, one panel at a time.

Clothesline: If you have an outdoor clothesline, you could use that to hang up your drapes for drying.

Double Clothesline: If you have two parallel lines for hanging clothes, drape them over the two so that the two sides are not overlapping.

4. How to Hand Wash More Delicate Curtains

Clean delicate drapes by hand

If your drapes are made of wool, cotton, or sheer fabrics such as lace then they are probably more suited to hand washing. Check your manufacturer’s label before beginning to see if it says hand wash only.

Here’s how clean drapes by handwashing:

Step 1: Fill your sink or bathtub with cold water and add one teaspoon of liquid dish detergent or a gentle fabric soap such as Woolite. Make sure you have enough water to completely submerge your drapes.

Step 2: Place one panel in the water and let it soak for about 10 minutes.

Step 3: Gently swirl the panel around to remove any dirt or debris.

Step 4: Drain the water and refill the sink or tub with clean water. Swirl the panel around to remove all of the remaining soap. If necessary, rinse it again with clean water to make sure that all of the detergent has been removed.

Step 5: Gently squeeze out the excess water. Avoid wringing out the water as this may damage the material.

Step 6: Hang your drapes back up to dry. Place some old towels on the floor underneath them to soak up the water that drips down.

5. How to Clean Your Sheers

Clean sheers more often

Sheers need to be cleaned more often than heavier drapes because they will discolour if you wait too long between cleanings. Most sheers are made of either nylon, polyester, or cotton so they usually are machine washable and dryable. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Check your manufacturer’s label for any special washing instructions and make sure you follow them.

Step 2: If there isn’t a label, then wash them in warm water on a short, gentle cycle using a gentle detergent such as Woolite

Step 3: Dry your sheers on low heat for approximately 15 -20 minutes until they feel dry to the touch.

Step 4: Take them out of the dryer immediately to prevent wrinkles.

Step 5: Hang them back up immediately so that you won’t need to iron them.

*Note: If your sheers are older and are showing signs of sun damage such as they feel even thinner to the touch or they are beginning to fray in places, then you should hand wash them instead of putting them in a machine. You can use the same instructions for handwashing drapes.

6. How to Clean Valances

Valances can be tricky to get cleaned

Valances tend to be dust and dirt magnets, but they are difficult to remove. Here are some easy steps for getting them clean:

Step 1: Cover the nozzle of a hand-held vacuum with a knee-high stocking to decrease the suction power.

Step 2: Using a step stool, vacuum the top, flat surface of the valence or board.

Step 3: Hold the fabric on the front of the valance or swag tightly with your free hand and gently work the nozzle into all of the folds and pleats. If there is pet hair stuck to your valance, you can use a lint brush or duct tape rolled around your hand with the sticky side out to remove it.

Step 4: If the fabric still looks dull, use a hand-held garment steamer and go over it to gently clean. If you don’t have a steamer, you can use a steam iron and shoot a blast of steam onto the fabric from a few inches away.

Another alternative to cleaning your valances yourself is to get them professionally cleaned.

7. How to Clean Curtains with Rubber Backings

Check to make sure you rubber-backed curtains are machine washable

You can clean curtains that have rubber backings as follows:

Step 1: Check to make sure that your rubber backings as safe to machine wash.

Step 2: Wash one panel at a time on the gentle cycle, using cold water and a gentle detergent.

Step 3: It is especially important to remove rubber-backed curtains immediately from the washing machine as prolonged exposure to moisture could cause mildew to form on the rubber backing.

Tip: If your drapes are too bulky for your own washing machine, consider taking them to a laundromat to use their commercial-sized machines.

No Time or Desire to Clean Curtains Yourself? Contact Graham’s & Son

If you don’t have the time or are afraid to clean window treatments in case you mess them up, Graham’s & Son offers professional drapery cleaning at reasonable rates.

If you would like to replace your old window treatments with new ones, contact the professionals at Graham’s & Son. Graham’s & Son has been selling and installing custom drapes, blinds, shades, and shutters in Cambridge for more than 40 years.

We are locally owned and operated and we can provide you with gorgeous and practical window treatments for any room in your home. We will give you expert advice, quality, custom-made products, and top-notch customer service.

“I had Graham’s and Son make a custom drapery for my daughter’s room. It was a great experience since they provided a quality product for a reasonable price. I’m very happy with my purchase and would highly recommend their services! Thank you very much!”
-Tanya P.


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