Sustainability made simple

How to Wash Curtains Step-By-Step

How to wash curtains
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Pexels

Wondering how to wash curtains properly? We've put together some eco-friendly tips to keep your home and the environment nice and clean. Read on to learn more.

Curtains are an ideal and eco-friendly way to keep your rooms warm on a cold winter night. Heavy-lined curtains can add great insulation to your home, allowing you to cut down on your heating bills and energy waste. That being said, it’s important to know how to wash curtains properly, as simple mistakes can result in you having to replace your curtains completely or causing more damage to the environment with unsustainable washing practices.

Curtains are available in all shapes and sizes — with pleats, and ringlets, and can be hung from tracks, rails, or poles. Regardless of which type of curtain you have, it is advisable to wash your curtains every 3 to 6 months. This is to help maintain their quality and to avoid dust and allergen build-up, especially if you have pets or smokers in the home. It also helps to clear out aromas from cooking that can linger on curtains when a door has been left open while cooking or eating. A good wash can help to clear strong odors and give your home a breath of fresh air. Learn how to wash curtains the eco-friendly way with our detailed guide below. 

What You Need to Know About Washing Curtains

When it comes to washing curtains, the key is to never tumble-dry them.
When it comes to washing curtains, the key is to never tumble-dry them.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / stevepb)

Before we get started, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Washing: A gentle hand wash or wool setting with a slow spin is the best washing machine setting to wash your curtains. Consider using a DIY laundry detergent, or a a mild, eco-friendly detergent to wash your curtains. These detergents are usually free from harsh chemicals and harmful ingredients. 
  • Pre-cleaning: For harsh stains or shower curtains, consider pre-cleaning with some baking soda and a damp cloth. Mix a little baking soda and vinegar in a bowl to make a paste. Then dab it onto any stained areas and leave to set for 30 minutes. After, wipe off with a damp cloth. If you’re worried about bleaching, you can put the baking soda directly into the washing machine for an extra kick. You can also try using a DIY stain cleaner to get those stubborn stains out. 
  • Drying: When drying your curtains, it is best to dry them naturally on an outdoor clothesline. If this is not possible, you can rehang them directly on the frame to allow them to dry. Tumble dryers can damage your curtains, and are also energy intensive. 

As for the detergents, it will depend on whether you’re planning to use the washing machine or wash them by hand. We’ll provide options for both below.

Detergents for Washing Curtains

Wondering how to clean curtains? Use an eco-friendly laundry detergent.
Wondering how to clean curtains? Use an eco-friendly laundry detergent.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / habelfrank)

When thinking about how to clean curtains, it’s easy to get swept up in greenwashed products that do little for cleaning and even less for the environment. When looking for detergents, there are a few points to search for to make this job easier:

  • Phosphate-free: Phosphates, when dissolved in water, can cause eutrophication – otherwise known as the growth in algae. According to the EPA, algae such as this siphons oxygen from the water which can kill plant life and animals.
  • Biodegradable: Non-biodegradable products cannot be naturally broken down. Instead, they become a source of pollution, and may not degrade for thousands of years.
  • Natural colors and fragrances: Artificial colors and fragrances are made from inorganic compounds. Studies note they can have harmful effects on the human body. As well as being very difficult to remove from the environment. 
  • Cruelty-free: Animal testing is common practice with household products. By advocating cruelty-free, you can prevent animals from being harmed when cleaning. 

By looking out for these ingredients and additives, you can ensure an eco-friendly wash for your curtains. Just throw in some recyclable packaging and you’re ready to start cleaning. Here are a few brands you could consider to do just that:

  • Nellie’s All-Natural Laundry Soap – available on Amazon**: This powder is phosphate-free and fragrance-free. It’s biodegradable and leaping bunny certified (cruelty-free). What’s more, it comes in retro metal packing to avoid plastic waste.
  • Ethique Laundry Bar – available on Amazon **: This vegan and plant-based bar is perfect for handwashing. It’s plastic-free, 100% compostable, and certified cruelty-free. 
  • Tide Liquid Detergent – available on Amazon **: This is an EPA-approved heavy-duty detergent. It’s plant-based, phosphate-free, and biodegradable. It comes in cardboard packaging with 50% less plastic than regular detergent. Plus, it’s cruelty-free. It does however have added fragrances, so keep that in mind if you have sensitive skin.

How to Wash Curtains 

Hanging curtains on the line is the best way to dry them.
Hanging curtains on the line is the best way to dry them.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / wilhei)

Curtains come in a variety of materials, so check before you wash and always follow the manufacturer’s guidance on how to wash curtains. Curtains can have a blackout lining to keep the lights out, especially bedroom curtains. Or, they can be lined with cotton or other materials to give them an extra layer and this improves insulation. A few examples of curtain materials are:

  • Velvet 
  • Tapestry
  • Velour 
  • Brocade
  • Wool
  • Silk
  • Cotton
  • Polyester 
  • Mixed fabric

With such curtains, you may need to remove the lining or hand-wash them. Once you know what kind of curtains you have, you can follow these steps:


    1. Remove curtains from their tracks or poles. Remove the hooks and open the string to unfold the pleats if it is a pleated curtain. 
    2. If hand washing, soak the curtains for an hour before washing in warm soapy water. Do not ring out, just allow it to drip dry or gently squeeze.
    3. If machine washing, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
    4. Do not spin and use the lowest available setting, otherwise, you may cause excessive creasing.
    5. Hang on an outdoor clothesline or back in place on the rail to allow it to dry. 

Please note: it is not advisable to tumble-dry curtains.

Washing Curtains: Tips and Takeaways 

Before rehanging your curtains, wipe and clean the tracks, poles, and windowsills. In between washes, you should also gently vacuum your curtains to remove dust. These steps help to keep your curtains fresh for longer.

Lastly, it is worth noting that some curtains should not be washed at all and must be dry cleaned only. For instance, blackout curtains are delicate and easily damaged. This means they can be badly damaged when washed incorrectly. So, always check the label before washing. With that said, happy washing.

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