Window treatments – love them or hate them, it’s hard to live without them. There’s a lot of variety to curtains, drapes, blinds and shades. Let ProLux’ experts help you figure out how to care for your drapery.

But before we can do that, we need to make sure you’re aware that curtains and drapes aren’t synonymous. Don’t worry if you weren’t, as most people think they are, and the distinction isn’t exactly taught in school. Anyway, let’s shed some light on the subject:

What is the difference between curtains and drapes?

Curtains are usually synthetic, light and thin material, commonly in bright colours. Their purpose is to shield your rooms from prying eyes of pesky neighbours, letting the sun shine on your cosy carpets. In most homes in the UK and worldwide, you’ll find curtains hanging in living rooms or from staircase windows.

Drapes are a thicker and heavier fabric, mostly natural-made or a mix of fabrics, and usually in a bigger variety of colours than curtains. Commonly, they’re in a middling to dark colour palette, as their goal is to block out the sun (hence the name blackout). Due to this, they’re almost always found in bedrooms.

Be honest, were you mixing up your curtains and drapes too? Before you start feeling bad, keep reading, so you can also find out:

Essential tips on how to wash curtains
Curtains and drapes

Are blinds and shades the same thing?

If you were asking us in terms of what role they fulfil, the answer is a definite yes. Both blinds and shades are made with the intent of having a window covered, but not blocking light fully.

Blinds come in many materials, such as vinyl, wood, plastic, bamboo or aluminium. They’re able to be adjusted to allow a different amount of light in varying directions. They can also be altogether rolled up for when you need to see even clearer, or want to warm up during winter.

Shades are exclusively fabric, and designed with your window’s shape and size in mind. They’re a bit more restrictive with light, as they either block it partially or are rolled or lifted away to let it in.

Right, so now you know how to tell apart your blinds, shades, curtains and drapes. But do you know how you should clean them all? Fear not, as we’ll tell you all about it right now.

What are some tips for cleaning curtains and drapes?

Before we lay out how to clean the many types of curtains, let’s give you some general tips:

Hoover your curtains

Hoover your curtains regularly

If you’ve read some of our other articles, you know carpets and sofas need regular hoovering to remain clean. Well, it’s much the same with curtains, as they also need frequent care to serve you for a long time. But do most people hoover their curtains, or clean them in any other way at all?

The answer is regrettably no, as curtains don’t really seem dirty until they’re stained, or have been hanging for years and absorbed a lot of dust. And in terms of dust collection, curtains are the vertical form of carpets. Therefore, it is very important to take care of your curtains and drapes by hoovering them at least twice a month.

A trick to reduce the hassle slightly is to gently shake up your curtains every week, which will make some dust fall on your floor instead. Bear in mind, this shortcut does not mean you can just get away with shaking them up. You still need to hoover them bi-weekly, or else they’ll have germs and dust in them. Bacteria build-up can also lead to fungus infestation, so don’t let your curtains become a germ breeding ground.

When hoovering your curtains or drapes, an easy way to do it is to take them down and place them flat on your mattress. It’s important to be delicate, as even the thicker drapes cannot withstand a lot of suction power. Use the brush attachment and hoover your curtains up to down, then left to right. This ensures getting rid of all dust, dirt and germs from your curtains.

If you have a pet and sets of long curtains, make sure you take the time to get rid of the hairs often. The easiest way is to use a lint roller brush – simply rubbing it on the surface makes the hairs stick to it. Did you know pet hairs contain some of the oil and grease of your pet’s fur coat, and can discolour your curtains if left unchecked for too long? Don’t overthink it, just grab a lint roller and get rid of them as soon as you can.

Patch test on curtains

Do patch tests before you use a cleaning product

Longtime followers of our blog know they should be careful with stain and smell treatments from the local shop. And even if you get your hands on professional cleaning products, they are not to be used lightly. At the end of the day, not every product is suitable for every material, and as mentioned before, curtains are tender.

When you buy anything, don’t rush to spray it all over the material before you know that’s safe to do. Instead, try it in a small area that’s hard to see, preferably on the back of the curtain. If your curtains are white sheer ones, you’re better off doing it near the rail, where people are less likely to look. Should the worst case scenario occur (colour bleeding), don’t treat it further and call a professional cleaning company.

And in terms of cleaning products, do you know what you should never use on your curtains, carpets or sofas? Bleach, or anything bleach is a component of – don’t even think about it. Bleach is a harsh chemical, which may get rid of the occasional stain, but at what cost? If not rinsed properly (and it’s hard to rinse, trust us), bleach can ruin your curtains forever by leaving them patchy.

All proper ways to clean curtains are eco-friendly and safe to the gentle material. Of course, you should make your own research before you decide on a method. Now, let’s run you through the basic curtain and drape materials, and how to clean each:

What is the right way to clean curtains?

The truth is, there is not a straight answer to this, because there are many types of window treatment fabric. All of them require their own way of care, and it greatly varies from one to another. Therefore, it is very crucial to read the cleaning instructions by the manufacturer before you attempt to clean. With that said, let’s look at the basic types of curtains, and the care for each:

How to clean cotton curtains?

Cotton is a natural material, and it’s fairly durable for being one. However, these are still window treatments we’re speaking of, so they’re not exactly mark-proof. In fact, they get stained easier than synthetics, and the worst part is, the stains show up clearer than on other materials.

When cleaning your curtains, spot clean the stains with a suitable mild cleaning product before you put them down and into the laundromat. To wash cotton curtains the right way, you need to set it to cold water, and the gentle setting. Re-hang the curtains while they are not fully dry, as this will let them dry out without wrinkling. If you want to iron them, use a pressing cloth or towel, as cotton is weak to heat.

Cotton can be cleaned with water extraction, provided the specialists have equipment that allows for many temperature settings. In this case, they’ll leave the water cold, and lightly spray and extract from the curtains. The advantage of ordering professional curtain cleaning is that you don’t have to detach your curtains, as they can be cleaned where they are.

Silk curtains

What are some tips for silk curtain cleaning?

Silk curtains are slightly more delicate than cotton, meaning you can’t put them in the washing machine. Only contact a professional cleaning company, or take the drapery down and gently hand wash them. If you want to apply cleaning products, be very careful, and use eco-friendly solutions.

The best way to hand wash them is to pour some dish soap in a basin full of cold water. Then, place the curtains inside, and very gently rinse and scrub them. To dry them out, re-hang them, and make sure there is no source of heat near them, as silk is prone to shrink when heated while wet.

Should you need to iron silk curtains, this should only be done while they’re damp all over. Ironing dry silk curtains only leads to one thing, and that’s water marks. If your iron has a silk setting, use that, otherwise go with the lowest possible one. It’s important to note that all curtain fabric needs to be ironed on the back side with a pressing cloth.

How can I clean synthetic curtains?

Unlike natural curtains, it is ill advised to dry clean synthetics, as that may wear out or ruin the material. However, artificial curtains and drapes are machine washable in almost all cases, and professionals can use slightly higher water temperature to clean them. Most blackout curtains, even lined ones, are made with light care in mind, so it shouldn’t be too troublesome.

When hand washing your synthetic window treatments, avoid cleaning the blackout and lining together if they’re different colours. This goes without saying, but don’t ever use bleach to clean your synthetic (or natural) curtains and drapes. And unlike naturals, you should hang synthetics only when they’re fully dry, otherwise they may wrinkle.

How to clean sheer curtains?

Fair warning, sheers are the thinnest curtains and drapes, meaning they require the tenderest approach. On top of that, they also need cleaning more than any others, which is a tad bit annoying, isn’t it? But don’t let their highly demanding care put you off, as sheer curtains are very helpful. There’s no better answer for when you want to have privacy and daylight all at once.

If you want to machine clean your sheer curtains, do not try anything before consulting with the cleaning label. If the fabric allows it, switch the machine on to the most delicate option, and use less laundry detergent than you would on other types of curtains. And should you want to dry them with a machine, use a no-heat air-only setting, and take them out while slightly damp. Like with other curtain materials, letting them air dry allows you to avoid wrinkling.

As a bonus tip, make sure you dust all pelmets, rails and other curtain elements when you do your home cleaning. If you skim on doing that, there is a chance dust will keep falling onto your curtains after you clean them. To avoid walking after yourself on a loop, dust thoroughly from top to bottom.

And finally, here’s our table of most commonly seen cleaning labels:

washing symbols guide