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How to Clean Drapery to Keep It Looking Its Best

Drapes are delicate, decorative and defiantly stylish in almost any room of your home. They also can get deceptively dirty. Aside from a splatter stain or sun damage, it can be hard to tell when it’s time to drop the drapes and clean them. Naturally, you let this chore go by the wayside, waiting for a weekend to free up on your calendar. Before you know it, weeks have turned into months and maybe even months into years. All the while, those reams of filthy fabric are hanging over your head – literally.

Check out this quick guide on how to clean drapery. These steps will keep your home healthy and your window treatments looking as good as new.

How to Clean Drapery for Decades of Enjoyment

You are right to assume that this isn’t the most simple project. Cleaning drapes the right way is really a three-phase process: 1) deep cleaning, 2) daily dusting and 3) maintenance.

The good news is that you don’t have to tackle it all at once. These phases are meant to be carried out at different times. Not only does this make the chore of cleaning a lot more manageable, but it actually helps your drapes maintain their shape, color, and form. 

A bedroom with white drapes tied open | Everhem

Phase 1: Deep Cleaning

If it’s been a while since you’ve tended to your window treatments, you’ll want to start with a nice, deep cleaning. Typically, you should schedule a deep cleaning session every six months, if not once per quarter.

Step 1

Remove the drapes from their respective rods or hardware.

Step 2

Lay them out on a flat surface, such as your hardwood floor or a long kitchen island.  

Step 3

Vacuum the drapes before washing 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. You can also cover the attachment hose with a nylon sock to lessen the power of the suction.

Side note: Sheer, delicate fabrics may get caught in a vacuum cleaner. For these drapes, simply take them outside and shake.

Step 4

Wash per the manufacturer’s directions. If your curtains have lost their tags, dry-cleaning is usually a safe option. Otherwise, follow the general guidelines below for proper care based on the type of fabric you have.

  • Linen-Based - At Everhem, this is the fabric we choose to use for our custom drapes. Linen drapes should never be washed but can be dry-cleaned. Some companies offer services for cleaning your drapes such as COIT. It is always a good idea to have the professionals step in for the deep cleaning here. Your drapes are a beautiful investment and you will want to protect that investment with proper care.
  • Cotton - As long as your cotton drapes are free of fragile liners, they are machine-washable. 
  • Silk - This is a very fine and finicky fabric, which means it is better suited for gentle hand washing. Use mild soap, lukewarm or cool water and hang dry. Be careful not to forcibly twist silk, or it will crinkle.  
  • Sheer Fabric - Sheer fabrics 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 terrycloth towels that serve as fabric softeners.
  • Synthetic Fiber - 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. Instead, hand-wash or machine-wash these drapes at home.  
  • Wool and Cashmere - On the other hand, wool and cashmere must always be dry cleaned.
  • Velvet - Though not the most common fabric for drapery, velvet or velvet-blended window coverings should be brushed instead of washed. Simply dip a chamois cloth in hot water and wring out any excess before using it to gently wipe off any dust bunnies.

Side note: If machine-washing, be careful not to overload the drum. In most cases, washing one panel at a time is your best bet. Remember that fabric weighs more when it’s wet. If there’s too much weight in the drum, it can knock your washing machine out of balance.

Step 5

Dry your drapes either on a clothesline outside or by lying flat on your floors over a layer of towels and plastic garbage bags. The towels will absorb the water, while the plastic protects your floors. Keep in mind that it can take a couple of days for your heavy drapes to dry completely.

Step 6

If you want crisp, tailored drapes, iron them while they are still a little damp. You’ll want to iron them along the vertical length on the side of the fabric that does not face out.

Step 7

Use your favorite multi-surface cleaning solution (nothing harsh) to wipe off the window treatment hardware. This includes curtain rods, finials, and brackets. 

A bedroom with white drapes opening to a balcony door | Everhem

Phase 2: Daily Cleaning

Yes, daily cleaning is necessary. The same way you wash dishes after dinner or water your plants before leaving for work, you’ll want to give some attention to your window treatments every single day. Just add these quick-and-easy steps to your regular routine, and it will soon become second nature.

Step 1

Whenever you go to close the drapes, give them a little shake. You’ll knock off unwanted dust and debris, which will make deep cleaning that much easier.

*Step 2

If Step 1 didn’t do the trick you may try spot cleaning your curtains and drapes with a damp chamois cloth. Similar to how you’d clean velvet drapery, you’ll wet the cloth in warm water, wring it out and then gently wipe from top to bottom in the areas of concern.

Side note: Depending on the type of fabric and any special instructions, you may need to use a terrycloth or paper towel instead of a chamois.

A baby bedroom with open curtains looking to the yard | Everhem

Phase 3: Maintenance 

In between those daily efforts and deep cleanings is your maintenance routine. These serve as intermittent check-ups, which you can perform on a weekly, monthly or even as-needed basis. Don’t take this phase lightly. Just like an annual physical exam or regular oil change, drapery maintenance matters.

Weekly

Bust out the vacuum cleaner once a week. You’re going to do it anyway to clean your floors and carpets. Why not run the brush-tipped wand along your drapes while you’re at it? Vacuuming your drapes on a weekly basis not only keeps them clean and sheen but can also help ease allergy symptoms.

Monthly

Unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise, you can toss your drapery in the dryer on the “no heat” setting. Run it for about five minute – just enough time to remove any dust particles. Immediately pull them out of the dryer and rehang on their rods, so as not to wrinkle.

Bi-Monthly

For machine-washable curtains and drapes, you are welcome to use a steamer. Simply use the upholstery attachment for your steamer and follow the device’s instructions.

As Needed

Adjust your cleaning methods based on the wear and tear of your drapes. If you notice they are sun damaged, make sure you switch to a hand-washing method or take them to the dry cleaners for professional treatment. Or, if your cotton drapes are shrinking with each wash, this is another sign that they should be taken to the cleaners.  

As interior design professionals, we at Everhem understand the investment you’ve made in window treatments. You want these beautiful fabrics and textures to last as long as live in your home, which is exactly why it pays to take care of them. If you have any questions about how to clean drapery you’ve custom made with us, we’re always happy to help.

And if you have any additional tips for how to clean drapery, leave them in the comments below or share with other homeowners on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you!