Drapery and Curtain Care

Consider the following cleaning and care tips for curtains, draperies, lace, and sheers.


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Both selection and care of window treatments are important for the protection of your home furnishings as well as for your privacy, comfort, and personal preference. Care depends on the construction and fabric of your window treatments.

Learn more below and on the following pages.

Sunlight Considerations

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Sun, as well as dust and grime, is destructive to fabrics. Light color fabrics generally reflect sunlight and resist fading. Dark colors absorb light and fade. Use lined window treatments, blinds, or shades to protect fabrics from the sun.

Acrylic and polyester stands up to sunlight better than other textile fibers and will retain color over time. Cotton, rayon, and acetate offer slightly less sun resistance. Acetate often is blended with silk or cotton to make it more sun-resistant.

Special Tip: If your windows face west or south, particularly if you live in a warm climate, consider professionally installed window film to diminish the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays.

Drape vs. Curtain

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When is a "drape" really a "curtain"? Although the terms drapery and curtain are often used interchangeably, there is a technical difference.

Curtains are made of lightweight fabrics and most often are unlined and operable. Draperies extend to the floor, tend to be lined, and are sewn of heavier fabric.

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Daily care of lined draperies or drapery panels is simple. Give them a gentle shaking as they are drawn closed at night; this will prevent dust and dirt from lodging in the fibers.

Every month or so, vacuum with a handheld vacuum and soft brush attachment. Use the low-section setting if your vacuum has one. Always check that trims, buttons, and other embellishments are secure before vacuuming.

Find tips for washing draperies below.

Tips for Washing

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- Wash plain-panel or simply constructed draperies only when they are labeled washable. - Hand or machine wash on gentle cycle, using cool water and mild detergent. - Don't overload the washing machine. - Rinse gently and thoroughly. - Tumble dry on the low or air setting, or line dry. - Press on the wrong side.

Do not wash draperies under the following circumstances: - The drapery or lining isn't washable. - The drapery and lining are made of different fibers. One may shrink, causing the other to pucker and hang poorly. - Sunlight has weakened the fabric. - The draperies are constructed with pleats, which may not hold their shape during machine washing. - The draperies are too voluminous (large) for the washing machine. - Trims and embellishments aren't washable or colorfast.

Fiberglass Draperies

Although fiberglass draperies are rarely sold anymore, they still exist in some homes and are sometimes available in stores that feature vintage or mid-20th century textiles.

Hand wash fiberglass draperies wearing rubber gloves: never machine wash or dry-clean. Glass fibers can be picked up in the next few laundry loads. Use a large laundry tub -- not a bath tub -- for soaking and washing in water and detergent. Rinse thoroughly and press out excess water without wringing. Line-dry without folding over the clothesline.

Washing Curtains

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Check the label before laundering ready-made curtains. If your curtains are washable, remove hooks, rings, and hardware.

Check that trims are tightly attached. Unless the directions instruct otherwise, machine wash on a short gentle cycle, using cool water and mild detergent. Tumble dry on low and remove immediately, or line-dry.

If necessary, iron on the reverse side. If seams have puckered, spritz lightly with plain water. Pull the seams to stretch back to size, taking care not to break the stitching. Reattach metal hardware only after the curtains are dry.

Caring for Lace

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Remove dust from lace curtains by tumbling in the dryer on the air cycle. Many new lace curtains are hand- or machine-washable. Follow the label directions or gently wash in cool water. Use detergent made for fine washables.

For extra body, dip freshly washed lace curtains in a light starch solution. For a soft look, re-hang the curtains without starching while they are slightly damp.

If you use metals hooks, temporarily place a piece of tissue paper under each hook where it comes in contact with the damp lace. This will prevent the hook from rusting onto the fabric.

Caring for Sheers

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Most sheers are washable synthetics; unless the label states otherwise, wash in the same manner as lace curtains.

Dry-clean organdy sheers, which are fragile and prone to sun damage.

Accessories Care

Blinds, Shutters, and Shades

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