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How often should you wash your curtains?

Spacious modern living room with high yellow drapes

Curtains beautify our homes, but they also serve a number of functions. They allow us to control the amount of light we let in, provide privacy, and also prevent dust and other air pollutants from entering the home. Curtains essentially function as a massive filter for our windows. Because of this, however, they can become a dust trap, and harbor a number of allergens. Despite the large amount of space curtains take up, they are often forgotten in our cleaning routine. I’m sure that not many of us even knew that curtains should be cleaned at all. To maintain good air quality and freshness in our homes, it’s important that curtains are cleaned periodically. Keep reading to find out just how often you should be cleaning the curtains in your home.

Yellow curtains slightly open on white wall with screen door

Why you should clean your curtains

Our curtains act as a filter between our home and the outside world. They block out dust, air pollutants, and allergens like pollen. Because of this, they can become soiled with these particles, and eventually begin to do the opposite of their function, reducing the air quality in our homes. Our curtains can become a dust and allergy trap just sitting in our home. This can be especially harmful to allergy sufferers as our curtains can become covered in a layer of pollen, dust, and dust mites, which can all exacerbate allergic reactions and cause asthma attacks in asthma sufferers. Not only does neglecting to clean our curtains reduce the air quality in our home it can also cause damage to the fabrics and reduce their lifespan. If not cleaned regularly, the fabric fibers can rot and fall apart[2]. By periodically deep cleaning your curtains, and incorporating smaller cleaning tasks more often, you can improve the air quality of your home, and extend the lifespan of your curtains. 

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J-4000 Jiffy Garment Steamer with Plastic Steam Head, 120 Volt Gray 20 x 11 x 64

How often you should clean your curtains

It’s important if you want to keep your curtains in their best condition and prevent the need for replacement, to wash your curtains at least once a year. If your curtains are machine washable, this would entail first shaking your curtains to remove dust, and then washing your curtains on a short delicate cycle. To remove any excess water, run a second spin cycle once the wash cycle is complete. Your curtains should be ironed while damp on the wrong side, and then hung while still slightly damp[2]. This will allow your curtains to dry straight. If you decide to machine wash, choose a warm sunny day[1] to speed up the drying process. 

If your curtains are made of delicate fabrics, or you prefer to have them dry cleaned for other reasons, all of this work is luckily taken care of for you. The only extra work you will have to commit to is cleaning the window area. You should clean the windows, and dust the windows sills and trim every month to keep your curtains dust free. 

Should you machine wash or dry clean your curtains?

Whether or not you will need to machine wash or dry clean your curtains will depend on fabric type, the size of your curtains or drapes, and your personal preference. If your curtains are large and cumbersome, and you’re concerned your washing machine wont be able to handle the weight, you can of course have them dry cleaned. Always check the care tags on your curtains to make sure they are suitable for dry cleaning. If your curtains are made from “velvet, velour, chenille, tapestry, brocade, wool or silk they should be dry-cleaned”[2], as regular washing will damage these fabrics. Most other fabrics can be hand-washed, or machine washed, as long as this is permitted on the care instructions tag. If your curtains are made of delicate fabrics, or if you’re just not up to the task, send them out for professional washing, or dry cleaning. 

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How to keep your curtains looking and smelling fresh

There are a number of quick fixes you can utilize in order to keep your curtains looking and smelling fresh between deep cleans. While these methods can help deodorize, remove dust and kill some bacteria trapped in fabrics, they won’t replace a deep clean, but they can surely lengthen the time in between. 

1. Vacuum your curtains often: 

To keep your curtains dust-free between deep cleans you can use the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to regularly vacuum your curtains. If you don’t have a vacuum, you can gently beat your curtains with the handle of a broom to release any trapped dust. Make sure to clean up any fallen dust so it doesn’t get picked up again by the bottoms of your curtains. Regularly vacuuming your curtains will remove excess trapped dust, improving their appearance, and the air quality of your home. 

Hand steaming white curtain with upholstery steamer

2. Steam your curtains:

To keep your curtains wrinkle-free, remove dirt and dust, and make them smell fresher you can use a handheld steamer. Hot steam can kill bacteria, as well allergy-causing dust mites while simultaneously making your curtains appear smoother. Steam will also release any trapped odors. 

3. Use a deodorizing fabric spray:

To freshen up your curtains between deep cleans, use a deodorizing fabric spray. Find a fabric spray that not only eliminates odors, but also sanitizes and kills bacteria, and pests like dust mites. Febreze for example does all of these. 

Febreze Odor-eliminating Fabric Refresher Forest and Extra Strength Botanical Breeze, 27 Oz. Spray, 2 Count

4. Make sure your curtains are the correct length:

Your curtains should be long enough that they just hit the floor, but do not drag on them. They should also not be so short that they hit the mid-length of your wall making them appear shorter. Curtains hung high and long give the illusion of height and make your walls and windows appear taller. Curtains that are too long will drag on the floor collecting dusk, or getting trodden on. Have your curtains just barely hitting the floor so they do not collect dust, and so you are able to easily sweep or vacuum underneath them. 

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5. Keep the floor around your curtains clean:

Curtains that reach the length of the floor will naturally pick up the dust and debris collected on your floors. If your curtains are too long, this will occur even more so, making the bottoms of your curtains dusty and dirty. By hanging your curtains at the right height, as well as keeping the floor area around your curtains clean, you can keep them looking fresher for longer. Regularly vacuum or sweep your floors once a week, being sure to access the entire area around and behind your curtains. Lift your curtains and gently shake them to release any trapped dirt or hair, and vacuum or sweep up the fallen debris. 

Amazon Basics Room Darkening Blackout Window Curtains with Grommets - 42 x 84-Inch, Taupe, 2 Panels

To keep your curtains in their best condition, and extend their longevity, wash them at home if the fabric is suitable, or have them dry cleaned at least once a year. Not only will this make your curtains look better and last longer, but it will also improve the air quality in your home. Our curtains filter out pollution, dust, and allergens, preventing them from entering our home. Because of this, our curtains can collect all of this debris. By washing your curtains at least once a year, you remove any irritating dust, and dust mites, remove bacteria caused by pollution and remove allergy-causing pollens. To maintain your curtains between cleanings, vacuum or beat the dust out of them once a week, and keep the floor area around them clean. You can also go as far as steaming them to improve their appearance and kill extra bacteria. A fabric refresher like Febreze will also kill bacteria, and dust mites, and keep them smelling great year-round. If you live in a particularly dusty area, or in an urban center where air pollutants are more prevalent, consider cleaning your curtains more often

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Article Sources:

  1. AppleClean. “How often should you clean your curtains?
  2. Good Housekeeping. “5 steps to cleaner curtains