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How to Clean Drapes: Machine Wash, Hand Wash and More

Spring is in the air, so let the beautiful sunshine show off the beauty of your drapes, not highlight the dirt! Learn how to clean drapes safely and easily. Not all drapes require professional cleaning. Save time and money with our handy tips. If you don’t have the time or are afraid of taking on the big job of cleaning your drapes, Graham’s & Son offers professional drapery cleaning at reasonable rates. If your drapes are past simple cleaning and it’s time for a whole new look for your windows, contact the window treatment professionals at Graham’s & Son. We’ll bring beautiful samples right to your home for you to see how amazing they can look. Book a free in-home consultation today!

Washing Instruction labels

How To Know If It Is Safe To Wash Your Curtains

Check All Labels: Take a look at your labels for washing instructions and follow those recommendations. If your drapes are lined, make sure that both the drapes and the lining are labelled “machine washable.”

Dry Clean Only Labels: If the labels say dry clean only, then that is what you should do. Do not attempt to wash them yourself. It is also recommended to look for a dry cleaner in your area that specializes in window treatments.

Missing Labels: If your curtains do not have care labels on them, then it’s best to play it safe and have them dry cleaned professionally. Materials such as wool, cashmere, cotton, and very sheer fabrics are usually not suited to machine washing.

Don’t Wash Pleated Drapes: If your drapes have stitched in pleats or swags, they should be dry cleaned. This is because the lining and seams might shrink or come apart during machine or hand-washing.

Be Careful of Trims and Embellishments: Even if your drapes are made from a washable fabric, they may have additional ornamentation such as trims, braids, or embellishments that won’t stand up to machine washing and may not be colourfast.

Check for Damage: Window treatments are exposed to constant sunlight and therefore can get damaged by UV rays over time. Check to see if the material has thinned, frayed, or faded, and if so, hand wash them or get them dry cleaned.

how to clean drapes

How to Clean Drapes Without Taking Them Down

Taking down your curtains to clean them and then putting them back up again is a huge task, which you probably don’t want to be doing on a regular basis. In some cases, you may be able to clean your drapes while they are still hanging up.

How to Vacuum Drapes

Step 1: Attach the soft brush attachment to the accessory hose on your vacuum cleaner.
Step 2: Set your vacuum to a reduced suction setting or, if it doesn’t have this option, place a knee-high nylon over the nozzle to make the suction more gentle for your fabric.
Step 3: Using a gentle sweeping motion, move the brush up and down, over the surface of the fabric. Be careful not to pause too long over one section as the material may be pulled into the hose and damaged.
A hand-held vacuum like a DustBuster also works well for cleaning drapes.

The following video demonstrates how to vacuum your drapes.

*Note: Sheers are more delicate, therefore you probably should avoid vacuuming them and opt for shaking the dust off instead.

How to Steam Clean Your Drapes

You can use a basic steamer, turn it on and give it a few minutes to warm up. Steaming is good for cleaning your drapes and for removing any deep wrinkles. Move the steaming wand in an up and down motion, taking your time. As you move along the material, you will notice the wrinkles disappearing. Make sure that your hose doesn’t go below your water level or the machine will shut off. Pull the material tighter as you move along the seams. Time to do: approximately 10 – 15 minutes for one floor-length standard width panel.

How to Machine Wash Your Drapes

Dust Buster
Vacuum your drapes before washing them

Before machine washing your window coverings, you should remove any excess dirt and debris. Follow the steps above to vacuum your drapes while they are still hanging up, or, once you have removed them from the window, lay them flat on the floor and vacuum them there. Alternatively, you can shake your drapes outside if you don’t want to vacuum them.

Step 1: Take down your drapes from the rods. It may be a good idea to have someone help you with this. Be careful not to pull or tug on the drapes, as this might damage the fabric or dislodge the rods from the walls. Remove any pins or hooks that have been attached to the fabric to hang them.
Step 2: Only wash one panel at a time. Turn your machine to the gentlest cycle and set it for a cold water wash.

washing machine controls
Choose the delicate setting for washing drapes.

Step 3: 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. If your 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. If you have an outdoor clothesline, you could use that to hang up your drapes for drying. If you have two parallel lines for hanging clothes, drape them over the two so that two sides are not overlapping.

To avoid heat damage, hang your curtains up to dry.

*Note: The most common cause of damage to drapery is having them come in contact with heat. This is why hanging to dry or using the no heat setting on a dryer is preferable.

How to Clean Your Sheers and Prevent Discolouring

Sheers generally need to be cleaned more often than heavier drapes. This is 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.

Step 1: Check your manufacturer’s label for any special washing instructions and follow those.woolite
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 (they feel even thinner to the touch or are beginning to fray in places) then you should hand wash them instead of putting them in a machine.

How to Hand Wash Your Drapes or Sheers

Drapes which are made of wool, cotton, or sheer fabrics such as lace are usually more suited to hand washing. Check your manufacturer’s label before beginning to see if it says hand wash only. Never be tempted to machine wash these types of window coverings as this could damage them.

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. You need enough water to completely submerge your drapes.
Step 2: Wash only one panel at a time. Place the 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 material around to remove all of the soap residue.
Step 5: If necessary, do an additional rinse to make sure that all of the detergent has been removed.
Step 6: Gently squeeze out the excess water. Avoid wringing out the water as this may damage the material.
Step 7: Hang your sheers back up to dry. Place some old towels on the floor underneath them to soak up the water that drips down.

The following video shows the technique of hand washing drapes. They suggest using baking soda instead of detergent.

How to Clean Valences

While drapes are relatively easy to remove and wash or take to a dry cleaner, your valences or swags mounted on boards are a different story. They attract dust and dirt like crazy but are difficult to remove and expensive to have professionally cleaned. Try the following to clean them yourself:

Step 1: Cover the nozzle of a hand-held vacuum with a knee high stocking to decrease the suction power.
Step 2: Carefully climb up on a step stool and begin by vacuuming the top, flat surface of the valence or board.
Step 3: Hold the fabric on the front of the valence or swag taut with your free hand and gently work the nozzle into all of the folds and pleats.
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 on to the fabric from a few inches away.

custom curtains and valence by Graham's & Son
Custom Drapes and Valence by Graham’s & Son

How to Clean Drapes with a Rubber Backing

Drapes which have a rubber backing are a great way to add extra insulation. They can keep your room cooler in the summertime by shielding it from the outside sunlight and heat and they can keep it warmer in the winter by blocking drafts and preventing the outside cold air from entering your room. This rubber backing, however, requires extra care when you are cleaning your window treatments.

Machine Washing: If your drapes are suitable for machine washing then wash one panel at a time on the gentle cycle, using cold water and a gentle detergent. 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. If your drapes are too bulky for your own washing machine, consider taking them to a laundromat to use their commercial-sized machines.

Take larger drapes to a laundromat to take advantage of larger machines.

Hand Washing: If the rubber backing on your drapes has begun to deteriorate, then you should hand wash them even if they are machine washable. Follow the steps above for hand washing and hang them up immediately to prevent any mildew forming. Avoid any urge to twist or wring out the panels to remove excess water, as this may also damage the rubber backing.

Ironing: If you have to iron out any wrinkles on your drapes, make sure that you are careful to only iron the fabric side of the drape on a very low setting. Do not stay on any one section very long as you don’t want to expose the rubber backing to heat.

Preventative Maintenance Tips

Shake Your Drapes Daily: Once a day, whether in the morning when you are opening your drapes or in the evening when you are closing them, give your drapes a gentle shake. This will help to remove any dust that has accumulated during the day.

Vacuum Your Drapes Weekly: Include your drapes in your weekly vacuuming routine. If you regularly vacuum the dust and dirt from the fabric, you should extend the time between having to actually wash them. The following video gives you some simple curtain maintenance tips, including how to vacuum them properly.

Dust Your Valences Regularly: Any time that you are using a long-handled duster to remove cobwebs on your ceilings, take a little extra time and give your valance boards a quick wipe to help prevent a large build-up of dirt and dust.

Spray Your Sheers with Static Guard: To help repel dust and keep your sheers cleaner longer, spray them with a static reducing spray such as Static Guard.

Remove Smudges with an Eraser: If you notice a smudge on your non-washable drapes, use a kneaded eraser to try and remove it before it sets in. You can purchase this type of eraser at an art supply store.

Wipe with a Damp Cloth: In between deep cleanings, you can remove excess dust that doesn’t come off with regular shaking by dipping a chamois or other type of soft cloth in warm water and gently running it over the drapes. Make sure to wring out any excess water so that the cloth is damp, not wet. This method works well for sheers and other delicate materials that won’t stand up well to vacuuming. Check your manufacturer’s label though, before trying this method as some types of drapes don’t react well with certain types of materials.

Custom Drapery by Graham’s & Son

If you have shutters on some of your windows, check out our post “Is wood or Vinyl better for California Shutters” which includes helpful tips for cleaning shutters. If you own blinds, click here to learn how to clean them properly.

“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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Custom drapery by Graham’s & Son

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Graham’s & Son: Designing Elegant Custom Drapery For Over 40 Years

If you don’t have the time or are afraid of taking on the big job of cleaning your drapes, 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. Our customers have been so pleased with the high standard of our work that they selected us for the “Best Business Service – Interior Decorating: Platinum” and “Best Shopping – Kitchen Renovations: Gold” awards in the 2017 Cambridge Times Readers’ Choice Competition. Book a free in-home consultation today and find out for yourself why Graham’s is the best in the interior design business.

2017 CT Reader's choice award platinum  2017 READERS Gold Black


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