How to Clean Curtains and Drapes in Under 30 Minutes

Lauren Murphy
Written by Lauren Murphy
Updated March 23, 2022
A woman admiring a view from a window
Photo: GCShutter / E+ / Getty Images

Refresh your space with clean drapes

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Adding curtains or drapes to your windows pulls all of your home decor together. It’s safe to say that window treatments are must-have accent pieces, whether they make a bold statement or not. Like anything in your home, window treatments collect dirt and dust over time, which can exacerbate allergies and make your home look drab. Refresh your dirty curtains and drapes by cleaning them at least once a year.

Difficulty: 1/5 - You’ve got this!

Time to complete: 20 minutes

What You’ll Need:


  • Washing machine

  • Dryer or clothesline

  • Iron

  • Ironing board


  • Stain remover

  • Mild laundry detergent

6 Steps to Cleaning Curtains and Drapes

1. Shake Off the Dust

Curtains get first-row access to the best views, but they can accumulate quite a bit of dust. Once you remove them from your curtain rods, make sure to take your curtains outside and shake them like a Polaroid picture before you start the washing process. 

2. Check the Label for Cleaning Instructions

Before you wash anything, check the tag on the inside of the item to find cleaning instructions specific to your curtains or drapes. The manufacturer may recommend dry cleaning, hand-washing, steaming, or tossing in the washer at home. It’s always best to follow these instructions to keep your curtains and drapes in good shape. 

Also, some materials like silk get damaged when wet, while others can stand up to moisture without a problem. Ignoring the care instructions on your curtains or drapes is like throwing money out the window.

3. Spot-Treat Stains

Dirty fingers, greasy food, and accidental juice spills tend to leave visible stains on curtains and drapes. Before washing them, spot-treat each individual mark using these stain removal tips to get rid of it once and for all. Or consider taking delicates to a drapery cleaner near you

4. Wash on the Gentle Setting in Cool Water

A woman putting drapes in the washing machine
Photo: LaylaBird / E+ / Getty Images

Once you’ve treated stains, it’s time to wash your window treatments. Again, follow the care instructions on your item. The most common curtain and drape materials are cotton, polyester, linen, rayon, and silk. Cotton, polyester, linen, and rayon can likely be machine-washed. However, you may need to dry clean or hand-wash silk and other delicates.

If your curtains or drapes are suitable for machine washing, wash them on a gentle cycle and only use cool water. Use mild laundry detergent and wash your window treatments by themselves, not with the rest of your laundry. You want to give them plenty of room to tumble and agitate in the washing machine and get thoroughly clean.

5. Tumble-Dry on Low

Depending on what fabric they’re made from, you may need to hang your curtains to dry after cleaning them. But if the item’s care instructions say they can handle a machine dryer, toss them in on low heat. Take them out when they’re mostly (but not completely dry) to prevent wrinkles. 

6. Iron and Hang

It’s almost impossible to completely avoid wrinkles when cleaning your curtains and drapes. Set an iron to the appropriate setting for the type of fabric you’re ironing, and carefully slide it along the window treatment to smooth out any wrinkles. They’ll still likely be slightly damp at this stage, which is what you want.

Then, hang the curtains or drapes up and allow them to dry completely. You’ll be left with fresh, wrinkle-free window treatments.

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro to Clean Curtains and Drapes

Ultimately, the difficulty of cleaning your window treatments depends on their material. Cotton and synthetic curtains are generally easy to clean because they can stand up to machine washers and dryers in most cases, meaning little effort is required on your part.

On the other hand, curtains or drapes made from silk, chenille, or velvet need some extra attention and may require hand-washing or dry cleaning. In that case, hiring a top-rated cleaning service near you to take care of it will save you time in the long run. If your schedule is already jam-packed, a local house cleaner is the way to go.

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