White linen curtains surround a house plant sitting on a windowsill

Best Ways to Clean Curtains and Drapes

Air quality, allergies, the common cold … these seasonal nuisances often become worse in spring. You can vacuum your couch, deep clean the rugs, and dust every surface in your house, but spring irritants can continue to flourish in the areas that we neglected when the weather was cold.

With some Americans under stay-at-home orders and others simply experiencing that annual urge for spring cleaning, homeowners will begin devising plans for tackling those hard-to-reach places under sinks, in the back of closets, and in the attic. And while cleaning those difficult areas might feel like an accomplishment, if the idea of crawling under the sink feels like too much to take on at the moment, there is a much easier way to kick off spring cleaning: your drapes!

Window treatments — specifically those made of fabric — harbor dust, dander, and odor molecules and cleaning them is relatively simple when done correctly. 

Read on to discover the best way to clean curtains and drapes to keep allergens away, combat airborne irritants, and improve the overall air quality of your home.

Three Steps to Clean Curtains & Drapes

  1. Prepare cleaning supplies
  2. Clean curtains while hanging
  3. Or refresh drapes in washing machine

Prepare Supplies to Clean Drapes at Home

Cleaning drapes and curtains at home can get complicated, and part of the reason so many people struggle is the conflicting information on how it’s best done. Should you dry clean drapes? Put drapes in the washing machine? Hand wash? Don’t wash at all? It seems like everyone has opinions on the proper and best way to clean curtains and drapes. 

But it seems everyone agrees on one thing: prepping your window treatments and gathering your cleaning supplies beforehand is key. 

If your drapes are made of wool, cashmere, have a lining or stitched-in pleats, they will need to be dry cleaned, so it’s important to find a professional in your area you can trust. As for drapes made of cotton, synthetic fabrics, silk, or sheer material, they all require different cleaning materials and, therefore, different preparation. 

The best way to clean curtains and drapes made of cotton, synthetic fabric, sheer or silk is either to hand wash or machine wash in warm to tepid water with gentle detergent. To prep for this cleaning process, first, prepare a small bowl of warm water mixed with the detergent you plan to use as well as Fresh Wave odor absorbing Laundry Booster, and soak a discrete corner of your drapes in the mixture.

While you soak the fabric, pay attention to the color of the water; if you notice any dye miscoloring the water, this means the fabric is not colorfast and submerging them in the washing machine will damage their color. If the water remains clear, this indicates the dyes are washing machine safe.

How to Clean Curtains While Hanging

For curtains and drapes not safe for the washing machine or for residents or renters without a washing machine, there are other methods to clean drapes at home that don’t require taking them down.

If your cleaning method of choice — or rather, convenience — is to clean curtains while hanging, all you need is a broom with soft, synthetic bristles, a vacuum, and a good odor eliminating spray.

Unlike machine washing, cleaning curtains while hanging will require a little more frequency. For instance, instead of deep cleaning your curtains every couple of months with detergent and water, vacuuming them on a bi-weekly basis and intermittently brushing dust bunnies and dander off with a soft bristled brush will have a similar effect to a deep clean.

Once you’ve established the frequency and the best way to clean your curtains and drapes while hanging, follow up with an odor elimination spray to fight mildew odor between cleanings. Fresh Wave odor neutralizing Sprays and odor absorbing Gels use natural ingredients to fight common household odors like mildew, making them a safe and effective alternative to more harsh household cleaners.*

Spray your drapes with Fresh Wave odor eliminating spray and deodorize surrounding areas with odor absorbing Packs and Candles to improve air quality. Then, when you start to see visible dust or dander accumulate again, brush your curtains with a gentle brush or vacuum.

*Before thoroughly spraying curtains with Fresh Wave, try a spot test on a corner or less visible section and check for spotting or discoloration.

Clean and Freshen Drapes in the Washing Machine

If you’re able to do laundry at home, rest assured, it is possible to put drapes and curtains in the washing machine if the fabric allows. The best way to clean curtains and drapes is to wash them on a gentle cycle, in cool to warm water, with mild detergent.

Make sure not to overload your machine, washing one window treatment at a time for drapes that are on the long side, and making sure not to crowd too many curtains in a single load if they are on the shorter side. When cleaning drapes at home, it’s important to use mild detergent as well as a gentle odor eliminating laundry booster to effectively freshen drapes and neutralize odor molecules.

Once the drapes have finished washing in the machine, find a place to hang them up and allow them to air dry. If space is limited, try coordinating washing machine loads with air drying cycles. Periodically check the moisture level of the set of drapes that are currently air drying and once they are almost completely dry, begin the next set in the washer. That way, you won’t experience a pile up of wet curtains that will leave your window treatments wrinkly (and your home soggy).

When all of the curtains have sufficiently air-dried, replace them on their hanging rods, and fight any lingering odor with odor eliminating spray. With all natural ingredients and a neutral, fresh smell, Fresh Wave odor eliminators and sprays are a safe solution for families and pets.

Hold the spray bottle 12” away from the curtains, spraying evenly from top to bottom. This will help keep your drapes smelling fresh, improve air quality, and kick spring cleaning into high gear.