Washing Instructions for 100% Polyester Curtains

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The clothes people wear take on all sorts of soil, stains, and odors and require washing or dry cleaning. Other fabrics in the home need cleaning too, including those 100 percent polyester curtains that you hung and then left untouched for perhaps a bit too long.

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Because curtains just hang there, they're unlikely to wind up sporting spaghetti sauce, but they can absorb lingering odors and collect airborne dust and dirt capable of turning once-impressive window dressings into an embarrassing display of dinginess. The good news is that 100 percent polyester curtains are easily washed and refreshed.

Difference Between Curtains and Drapes

If you're confused about the difference between curtains and drapes, you're not alone. The terms are commonly and pretty much acceptably used interchangeably. To nitpick a bit, though, if they're floor length, they're traditionally considered draperies. If they're lined and made of heavier fabric, you'll probably wind up professionally cleaning your polyester drapes rather than washing them — but not always. There are lots of drapery panels made of fabrics like cotton and polyester and various blends that can be tossed in the washing machine and dealt with easily.

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If the treatment at your windows involves shorter panels that end at the bottom of the windowsill, you have curtains. You may hear floor-length panels referred to as both drapes and curtains, but you'll rarely hear the shorties hanging at your kitchen window referred to as drapes.

One of the best things about shorter curtains is that they're often made of lighter fabrics that are easily cared for. Washing them at home is easy.

Washing 100 Percent Polyester Curtains

Polyester is easy to wash, but even if the care instructions on lined panels give the go-ahead for washing, the linings themselves can shrink. Follow care instructions carefully and send them for professional cleaning if you have doubts. If the label reads "dry clean only," don't try to wash the curtains yourself.

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Measure your curtains before washing them so you'll have a guide if it's necessary to pull them back into shape. Remove hooks or weights that may be sewn into the hems to prevent rips during the washing process.

Polyester's resistance to moisture creates stain resistance, but you can use commercial stain-treatment products on your curtains when necessary. If you suspect a stain may be particularly stubborn or something not mentioned on the stain treatment product label, you may be able to get help from "Removing Stains at Home," Cornell University's detailed, lab-tested advice on dealing with 250 types of stains.

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As a synthetic, petroleum-derived fabric, polyester is extremely durable, fast-drying, and wrinkle- and stain-resistant. However, because it's plastic-based, its fibers are susceptible to breakdown from heat damage, so you should always wash your 100 percent polyester curtains using mild laundry detergent in cool to warm water and dry them on a low setting or hang them to dry. If ironing touch-up is necessary, use a low setting and iron on the reverse side while damp. Polyester easily develops static cling, so always use either fabric softener in the washing machine or a dryer sheet.

How to Wash Polyester Sheers

Sheer polyester curtains need to be gently washed regularly to prevent permanent discoloration. Don't load the washer with them more than halfway. Presoak them in cold water for five minutes and wash with mild detergent on a gentle setting for no longer than two to three minutes. Dry polyester sheer curtains on a no-heat setting along with two terry-cloth towels. Hang and reshape them while still slightly damp.

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When You Can't Wash Them

Some curtains may be difficult to take down for washing, such as those that are hung too high for you to reach or if they are hung using rods and hardware that are difficult to deal with.

When your curtains need cleaning but machine washing isn't desirable or possible, simply vacuum them and spray them with a fabric deodorizing spray. Instead of using the vacuum attachment normally used on your floor that could transfer marks or actually leave dirt on the curtains, use the attachment intended for upholstered furniture. To avoid sucking the fabric into the nozzle of a vacuum that has no reduced-suction setting, place a nylon stocking over the end and secure it with a rubber band.

If pets hang around your floor-length drapes or visit windowsills and leave fur on the curtains, use a lint roller or strips of packing tape as removers.

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Indiana University graduate, writer and DIY enthusiast Kynnie Kerry creates and markets high-end home softgoods and painted furniture treatments and has hands-on experience with home maintenance and remodeling projects — floor to ceiling — concept to completion.