If you're like some people (ahem) who put up window treatments and never give them a second thought, even as dust accumulates, this might just be the season to pay them a little respect.
No need to stress out about adding another task to your spring-cleaning to-do list: You don't have to clean curtains, shades and the windows themselves that often. And many times, it's not that difficult.
"In our experience, the windows and window treatments are something that people avoid cleaning because they're not entirely sure the best way to do it," said Betsy Goldberg, home director of Real Simple magazine.
"It's not hard," she added. "It just takes a little bit of time."
If simply removing dirt isn't reason enough to clean, consider that dust can dull the fabric of curtains and shades. Household odors can linger. And washing helps preserve the fabric, especially for window treatments that get a daily dose of sunshine, says Tammy Kupernik of retailer Country Curtains.
"If you don't wash them, the sun will break down the threads," she said. "Washing them keeps the colors bright, it keeps the threads soft and it does add to the life of the curtain."
Curtains and drapes
Window treatments should be cleaned once or twice a year, experts say, and the best method varies by material. Some can be refreshed in the washer or cleaned with a vacuum, while others might require a professional.
Start by reading the care tag or directions that came with the product: Some items are dry clean only. If the instructions are unavailable, experts offer general guidelines:
Most curtains that are lined or made of silk likely require dry cleaning, Kupernik said.
Curtains that are not lined or insulated usually can be washed by machine, in a short, gentle cycle with cool water, she said. Those made of a poly-cotton blend can usually go in a medium-heat dryer, but 100 percent cotton curtains should be line-dried to prevent shrinkage.
Curtains and roller shades insulated with a bonded layer that keeps out the cold can be machine washed in a short, gentle cycle in cool water and line dried, Kupernik said. If the insulated sides touch each other while drying, they can peel off and ruin the curtain.
Sheer and lace curtains should be washed by machine in a short, gentle cycle with cold water and line dried, Kupernik said, adding that both can be touched up with light ironing. Once sheers get in the high heat of a dryer, wrinkles become permanent, she said.
After curtains come down for cleaning, dust the rod before hanging them back up.
If you don't want to take them down, Goldberg offers this method for cleaning unlined curtains made from lightweight, sheer or semisheer fabric: Close the windows and the curtains, and spray the curtains with a wrinkle releaser/odor eliminator product. Use a handheld fabric steamer, working from bottom to top in 1-foot sections, holding the steamer nozzle about an inch from the fabric.
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For drapes, which are generally made of heavier fabrics like brocade, suede or velvet and are often lined and pleated, vacuum each panel on a low setting with the brush attachment, holding the vacuum about an inch away from the fabric, Goldberg said.
Fabric curtains and shades, except silk ones, can usually be spot cleaned with warm water and a mild laundry detergent like Woolite, Kupernik said.
Other blinds and shades
Clean Roman shades with a vacuum or a roller brush, Kupernik said. Vinyl shades can be cleaned as needed with a sponge.
Goldberg suggests vacuuming wood blinds and wiping each slat with a cloth dampened with a mix of water and a few drops of dish soap, wiping off excess moisture with a dry cloth. First, angle the slats down and wipe each one, then angle them up and repeat.
To clean the cord, pull the shade all the way up and run the damp cloth up and down it, followed by the dry cloth. If you have a wand, follow the same steps with the cloth.
For window panes, if the glass gets dirty enough, you might want to clean them every few weeks. "Realistically, if people get around to it every few months, that's fine," Goldberg said.
Before cleaning, sweep dirt from the screen and window frame with a brush like the one that comes with your dustpan or the vacuum with the dusting attachment. Spray glass cleaner or a mix of water and a squirt of dishwashing soap, and wipe with a microfiber cloth, starting with the outside and then the inside the panes, moving in an "S" motion — rather than back and forth — to avoid redepositing dirt.
Goldberg suggests wiping in a horizontal motion on the inside, vertically on the outside so you can more easily find streaks and wipe those areas again. Clean on a cloudy day because direct sun makes the glass cleaner dry too quickly, leaving streaks.