This Is How Professionals Clean Curtains and Drapes

A bedroom with colorful curtains

Erin Williamson

A great set of curtains or drapes can offer privacy and allow you to control how much light enters your home during the day—but as with any functional item in your home, they require upkeep. A dirty set of curtains isn't just an eyesore; they can also contribute to the amount of dust in your home For that reason, you'll want to stay on top of cleaning your drapes and curtains. But what's the best way to go about curtain cleaning?

The good news is, cleaning your drapes and curtains doesn't have to be a strenuous job. In some cases, you may want to leave deep-cleaning to the pros, but you can take care of everyday upkeep on your own.

Here's what you need to know about how to clean drapes and curtains.

How Often Should You Clean Your Drapes and Curtains?

How often you clean your drapes and curtains depends on a couple of factors. According to Lauren Bowen, the director of franchise operations for Two Maids & A Mop, people with allergies may want to clean their drapes or curtains every three months to alleviate symptoms; those without allergies or respiratory issues can aim for every six months. In addition to deep cleaning, keep curtains dust-free and looking good between washings by vacuuming them weekly or biweekly, and spot-cleaning them when necessary.

Meet the Expert

  • Haley Weidenbaum is the founder of Everhem, a custom window treatment company.
  • Davina Ogilvie is the founder of the custom window treatment company Wovn Home.
  • Lauren Bowen is the director of franchise operations for Two Maids & A Mop.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum with upholstery brush or dust brush attachment
  • Warm water
  • Cloth
  • Mild laundry soap
  • Iron
  • Hand-held steamer (optional)

Before you clean your curtains, identify the type of fabric. How you clean your drapes or curtains will vary depending on the material. In general, Haley Weidenbaum, founder of Everhem, a custom window treatment company, says drapes made of linen, wool, or cashmere should always go to the dry cleaner for thorough cleaning to avoid potential damage during the cleaning process.

A large white bedroom with cream colored drapes

Reagen Taylor Photography

Step 1: Remove Your Drapes

First, remove the drapes or curtains from their respective rods and hardware, then lay them out on a flat surface, such as a kitchen island, table, or hardwood floors.

Step 2: Vacuum the Drapes

According to Weidenbaum, it's always a good idea to vacuum drapes before washing them to remove any excess dust or debris. "For the best results, use your vacuum’s detachable upholstery brush or dust brush and set to a reduced suction if your machine allows," she says. "You can also cover the attachment hose with a nylon sock to lessen the power of the suction."

One exception to the vacuuming rule: Sheer, delicate fabrics may get caught in the vacuum cleaner. For these drapes, simply take them outside to shake the dust and debris off the material.

Step 3: Wash the Drapes

Always wash your drapes per the manufacturer's instructions. If your curtains have lost their tags, Weidenbaum says dry-cleaning is usually a safe option (with a few exceptions, which you can find below).

Washing Linen Drapes

Always dry-clean linen drapes rather than washing them at home to protect them from potential damage. Some companies, Weidenbaum says, offer dedicated cleaning services for drapery and curtains.

Washing Cotton Drapes

As long as your cotton drapes are free of fragile liners, Weidenbaum says they are machine washable.

Washing Silk Drapes

Because silk is a fine and finicky fabric, Weidenbaum says it's better suited for gentle hand washing. Use mild soap and lukewarm or cool water to wash them in the sink or a basin, then hang dry. But be careful not to forcibly twist the silk, or it could wrinkle.

Washing Sheer Drapes

Sheer drapes or curtains, Weidenbaum says, have a tendency to discolor if you don’t clean them frequently. They are another fragile type of drapery, which requires soaking in cold water before hand-washing. Certain sheer fabrics can withstand machine washing; just be sure to use the gentle cycle. To dry, add to a machine dryer with no heat and a couple of soft terry cloth towels that serve as fabric softeners. 

Washing Synthetic Drapes

When it comes to acrylic, polyester, and other synthetic curtains, dry-cleaning is actually not advised. "The solvents that dry cleaners use can degrade the integrity of synthetic fibers," Weidenbaum says. "Instead, hand-wash or machine-wash these drapes at home."

Washing Wool or Cashmere Drapes

Wool and cashmere aren't common fabrics for drapes, but if yours contain those materials, Weidenbaum says it's best to take them to the dry cleaner.

Washing Velvet Drapes

Velvet or velvet-blended window coverings should be brushed instead of washed, says Weidenbaum. Simply dip a chamois cloth in hot water and wring out any excess before using it to gently wipe off any dust bunnies. 

A large bedroom with accent wall

Design: Blue Copper Design; Photography: Life Created

Step 4: Dry Your Drapes

If you wash your curtains or drapes at home, Bowen suggests hanging them dry or putting them in the dryer on low heat.

Step 5: Press Your Drapes

Before you hang your freshly-cleaned drapes back up, Bowen says it's always a good idea to press them with an iron on the appropriate fabric setting. when they're nearly dry. Or, Davina Ogilvie, founder of the custom window treatment company Wovn Home, says you can use a handheld steamer to remove any remaining wrinkles.

How to Keep Your Curtains or Drapes Cleaner, Longer

For cleaner-looking drapes, prevention is key. Ogilvie recommends keeping the floor around the drapes clean to prevent the bottoms from accumulating dust, dirt, and other debris. For small stains and marks, you can spot treat on occasion by patting the fabric with a damp cloth and water. "Be careful not to rub, as this may leave a water stain," she says.