How to Wash Drapes

Cleaning the draperies in your home can extend their life and free your home of unwanted dust, dirt, pet hair and other allergens.

Weekly Maintenance

Remove dust from your drapes with your vacuum. Most vacuums have a soft brush attachment which is perfect for the drapes. Simply place the brush attachment on the end of the accessory hose and sweep in an up and down motion across the fabric. A hand-held vacuum also works well for this task.

Washing the Drapes

IMPORTANT: Before attempting to wash your draperies, CHECK THE TAGS. Some draperies should ONLY BE CLEANED PROFESSIONALLY. NEVER wash your draperies if:

  • They are not specifically labeled as washable (if they are lined, make sure BOTH the drapery fabric and the lining are listed as machine washable).
  • The fabric is damaged, frayed or faded (i.e. by sunlight)
  • The draperies are pleated
  • Trim or other embellishments are not listed as color-fast
  • The draperies contain an indication for “dry clean only.”

If the draperies indicate “dry clean only,” you should take them to a dry cleaner that specializes in draperies and window treatments. For one in your area, check your local yellow pages. If your draperies are machine washable, take heed of the label and follow these simple steps:

  1. Carefully remove the draperies from the rods (it is best to have someone help you with this as you will most likely need a step stool or small ladder to reach the rods). NEVER pull or tug on the draperies to get them down as this may damage the fabric, the rods or the walls.
  2. If the draperies are hung with pins or hooks, carefully remove these and set them aside.
  3. Hand wash each panel in cool water and a gentle detergent such as Woolite. For large drapes, it may be easier to use the bathtub rather than the sink.
  4. In the alternative, the draperies can be placed in your washer on the GENTLE cycle, using cold or warm water, as indicated on the tag. If the tag does not indicate a temperature setting, opt for cold. Use a mild detergent without bleach. DO NOT overload your washer. If your draperies are large or bulky, consider doing the panels one at a time or taking them to a Laundromat where you can use oversized washers.
  5. Place draperies in your dryer on the setting indicated on the tag (most likely low heat). If no dryer setting is indicated, place on “no heat” (fluff) setting. Be careful not to overload your dryer as well. Consider doing one panel at a time or taking them to a Laundromat with oversized dryers. The most common cause of damage to draperies during the cleaning process is heat; when in doubt (especially if using a commercial dryer not familiar to you), use the “no heat” setting. TIP: If you are lucky enough to have an old fashioned clothesline, instead of the dryer, hang your draperies out to dry on the clothesline. You won’t have to worry about overheating, and your draperies will have a natural fresh scent. To keep fabric from fading, avoid hanging in direct sun..
  6. Remove draperies from your dryer promptly and press lightly if needed. Again, check your tag for temperature settings. If no indication is given, use a cool iron. To avoid damage, use the iron only on the REVERSE side of the draperies.
  7. Replace the pins or hooks (if any) and re-hang the draperies on the rods. Again, it is best to do this with another person assisting.

Cleaning in a Rush

Need to spruce up your draperies in a hurry? Try this quick-clean tip:

Remove the draperies from the rods, as indicated above, being sure to remove all pins and/or hooks. Place them in your dryer on the “no heat” setting (air-dry or fluff) along with two or three scented dryer sheets. Run them for about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the draperies, replace pins/hooks and re-hang. This process will remove excess dust, fluff up your drapes, and give them a fresh scent. This process is only a quick-fix and should not be used in place of regular cleaning.

Removing Stains from Your Drapes

If you have a stain on your draperies it is best to consult a professional. However, if your draperies ARE WASHABLE you can try the following:

For fabrics OTHER than wool, silk or acetate, blot with a wet sponge, then dab with rubbing alcohol, blot again with a wet sponge and repeat until stain fades. When finished use a hair dryer on lowest setting to dry the spot. For draperies that are wool, silk or acetate, FIRST, check the tag to make sure they are washable (if not, consult a professional). If they are, use the same procedure indicated above, but instead of rubbing alcohol use WHITE vinegar. ALWAYS test a small, hidden area first as fabrics and colors react differently.

Other Tips

While some draperies may be washable, it may still be to your advantage to hire a drapery cleaning service. In many instances, these services will steam or dry clean your draperies where they hang! You will likely find several listed in your local yellow pages (under “draperies” or “carpet/upholstery cleaners”) or by contacting your local area Chamber of Commerce.

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