Curtains don't just keep out light and provide thermal qualities - they also bring style in to your home. As an important detail in your home, your drapery can add a luxury, colour, pattern and fun to a room. However, they can quickly collect dust and stains, so to keep them looking fresh you'll need to clean them regularly.

It's not as easy as taking them down and bundling them into the washing machine, though. There are a few things you should keep in mind before you tackle the big curtain clean.

General curtain cleaning tips

The following advice applies to most curtains, but some will have specific cleaning instructions, so you should always follow those first. It's also important to note that almost all fabrics will have some shrinkage upon washing.

Before Cleaning

Curtains have different care requirements depending on their fabric. If the care instructions say you can go for a machine wash, the safest option is to put them on a cold cycle using a mild detergent.

It's usually better to hand-wash your curtains - sometimes there are details or embellishments that could be damaged by a machine, even if the fabric itself is machine-washable. If in doubt, always opt to wash them by hand. This will protect any delicate fabrics and pleats.

Start by taking your curtains down and carefully removing all hooks, rings and trims. Leaving in any hooks could tear the fabric while you're washing your curtains.

It's a good idea to check for colour fastness before washing. To do this, test a small area on the reverse side of the hem. You should also note that washing your curtains could cause them to shrink up to five per cent in size.

During Cleaning

For hand-washing, a bathtub is easier than a laundry basin as you'll have more space.

Don't use bleach, even on the most stubborn stains. You also shouldn't soak, rub, or wring your curtains - gentle treatment is the best way to keep the fabrics in top condition.

After Cleaning

To dry your curtains, best practice is to hang them by their hooks in the shade. Note that wet curtains can be very heavy - make sure you hang them from a sturdy line. Avoid putting them in the dryer, hanging them over your clotheslines or using pegs, as this could give you unsightly folds or marks.

Once dry (and if the fabric allows), you can warm iron your curtains on the fabric side, or simply hang them back in place. The weight of the curtains will help any creases to naturally fall out.

In between cleaning, you can use a vacuum cleaner attachment to keep your curtains free of dust.

Cleaning different curtain types

Different types of curtains have specific cleaning requirements. Follow these guidelines according to the drapery you have in your home.

Unlined curtains

  • Unlined curtains are typically low-maintenance and can be easily washed at home.
  • The best approach is to wash them by hand in cold water.

Lined curtains

  • As they are difficult to wash, we recommend dry-cleaning (P30) lined curtains with a dry-cleaner who specialises in curtain fabrics.
  • If you do wash your lined curtains yourself, be sure to check if the curtain and lining are different materials. When there are different fabrics involved, washing your curtains can cause one side to shrink, making your curtains pucker. Where possible, remove the lining and wash it separately.
  • Wash in cold water with a mild detergent.

Voile curtains

  • Voile curtains are often made of lighter fabrics than other types, so they are easier to take down and hand-wash in cold water.
  • Once dry, you can give voile curtains a warm iron.

Thermal Curtains

  • Hand-wash thermal backed curtains in cold water, taking care not to let the thermal coating stick to itself.
  • Don't rub or wring the curtains as you wash them.


If in doubt, err on the side of caution. For professional care we recommend Curtain Clinic, in Auckland, as they are very professional and are set up just for curtains – they also test prior to cleaning.