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What's the best way to clean dull and dust-covered curtains?

It’s not just about the windows – your curtains need some TLC too. Laura de Barra shares some tips.

Image: Shutterstock/Christin Lola

CURTAINS MIGHT NOT be the first thing you think of when it comes to deep cleaning your home, but washing, drying and re-hanging them can make a massive difference to the feeling of your space. 

Each fortnight, Laura de Barra brings her lifestyle and home maintenance expertise to the Glenveagh Home Magazine on TheJournal.ie – and this week she’s sharing her advice for getting your home into tip top shape in the new year.

This week: washing and reviving curtains.

First things first… always be super careful taking down curtains and putting them back up. It’s best to have a helping hand. And if you’re using a ladder, practice common sense.

1. Removing dust and dirt

Before you even think of washing curtains, you’ll need to remove dirt and dust. It will make a huge difference straight off – in fact, you may find they don’t even need a wash after this step.

This is best done by laying your curtains out on the floor or bed, and hoovering them using the upholstery attachment (on a low setting first, only gearing up if the fabric is heavy). If you don’t know what this attachment is, it’s the one with the lint strips by its opening to help catch lint or dust – the strips are usually red in colour.

2. Figuring out the best washing setting

Before you start you need to assess what kind of washing your curtains can take. Most curtains will have a tag somewhere to indicate how best they should be washed. These tags will include guidelines for the prevention of fading, ripping, shrinking and anything else that can alter the appearance of your curtains. Should you have ripped this tag off, most stores will have the details online, so don’t fret.

As a general rule, put your curtains on a gentle or delicate wash setting. This limits the amount of agitation the fabric will incur and the reduced spin speed will be a lot kinder to fabric, stitching and tape.

Once you’ve figured out the setting and temperature for your machine, keep the below in mind:

- Prior to washing, take off all hooks, weights and any other attachments that could break during a wash or cause damage to your machine.

- Fabrics are much heavier when wet, so be aware of this and don’t overload your washing machine drum. Your manual will tell you the weight your machine can handle best, so be prepared to wash one curtain at a time or head to a launderette for a larger drum.

- After washing, iron your curtains when still slightly damp, to avoid water marks or patching. If there are some dry areas, you can lightly spray these with water to dampen. Iron on the unseen side – not the side that faces into your room.

3. How to tackle dry clean only curtains

A ‘dry clean only’ note on the washing label is an indication that a regular wash will change the appearance of your curtains in some way. This could mean that the dyes used can’t hack a lot of water, that the fabric may shrink, or that workmanship such as pleating or stitch detailing may not survive the agitation of a machine wash. Don’t ignore!

Even if the label doesn’t mention dry cleaning, most high-quality, lined curtains will need to be professionally cleaned to be on the safe side. A note: always confirm the length of the curtains before washing with the company doing it, in case they shrink and you need to prove it after.

4. Brightening up dull net curtains

Sheer and net curtains always, always look better and brighter after they are washed and pressed correctly but also after a curtain brightener has been used. These brighteners can be bought at most large supermarkets and are added to a gentle washing machine cycle.

If you want to go a more natural route, a cup of vinegar added in at the rinse stage can help. Again, wash these types of curtains as per the tag and on a gentle/delicate setting to avoid them getting damaged.

Want more tips and hacks on caring for your home? Laura de Barra’s book, Gaff Goddess, will be published on February 6 by Transworld Ireland. Pre-order it here – and follow her on Instagram for even more cleaning and lifestyle tips.

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About the author:

Laura de Barra

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