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Refreshing Curtains: Removing Stains And Smells

March 4, 2024

Refreshing Curtains: Removing Stains And Smells

I know how frustrating it can be to have curtains that look dingy or smell musty. Curtains get a lot of exposure to sunlight, cooking odors, and everyday dirt and dust. Fortunately, with some simple cleaning methods, you can get your curtains looking and smelling fresh again.

Inspecting Curtains for Stains

Before washing curtains, it’s important to inspect them closely for any visible stains. Some common curtain stains include:

  • Food stains like grease, wine, coffee, etc. Food stains can leave oily residues or discolor fabrics.

  • Dirt and dust buildup along the bottom or folds. This leads to dingy, greyish curtains over time.

  • Mold or mildew which can leave dark spots or fuzzy residue. This is common in moist, humid areas.

  • Sun fading which makes curtain fabrics look bleached or discolored.

Make note of any tough stains that may need extra attention. Also, check the fabric care label to see if the curtains are machine washable or need dry cleaning.

Pre-Treating Stains

For most curtain fabrics, you can pre-treat stains before washing to help lift them out. Here are some effective pre-treatments:

  • Dish soap – Mix a few drops of dish soap with warm water and apply it to the stain. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before washing. The soap helps break up oils.

  • White vinegar – Vinegar is great for removing alkaline stains like coffee and tea. Use undiluted vinegar on the stain.

  • Hydrogen peroxide – This helps lift out organic stains like wine, coffee, grass, etc. Apply it directly and let it fizz on the stain.

  • Baking soda – Make a paste with water and rub it into greasy, oily stains. Let it sit before washing.

  • Laundry pre-treatment sprays – Check the cleaning aisle for commercial pre-wash sprays. They often contain stain-fighting enzymes.

Test pre-treatments on inconspicuous areas first to ensure they don’t damage or discolor the fabric.

Washing Machine Methods

If your curtains are machine washable, the washing machine can help release embedded odors and restore brightness. Here are some tips:

  • Wash curtains separately from other laundry to prevent transfer of stains. Use the gentle or delicate cycle.

  • Add white vinegar to the rinse cycle – about 1⁄2 to 1 cup. Vinegar helps kill bacteria that cause odors.

  • Use odor-fighting detergent. Look for ones containing febreze or oxy-cleaning ingredients to combat smells.

  • Hang curtains to air dry instead of the dryer. This prevents heat-setting odors.

For Severe Odors

For curtains with stubborn, embedded odors like smoke or pet smells try this:

  • Soak curtains overnight in a bathtub with 2 cups baking soda. This helps draw out odors from the fabric.

  • Rinse and wash as usual with vinegar in the rinse cycle. Air dry thoroughly.

Hand Washing Methods

For delicate curtains that are dry clean only, hand washing is gentler than commercial cleaning. Here are some tips:

  • Fill a tub or sink with cool water and add a small amount of mild liquid detergent. Avoid powder detergents.

  • Submerge curtains to loosen dirt and stains. Let them soak for 15-20 minutes.

  • Gently swish the curtains around. Don’t aggressively twist or scrub.

  • Rinse thoroughly. Drain the wash water and refill the tub with cool clean water to get rid of detergent residue.

  • Roll up curtains in a towel to absorb moisture. Lay flat to air dry.

For Smells

  • Add 1/2 cup white vinegar or 2 tablespoons baking soda to the wash water to help remove odors.

  • For stronger smells, soak curtains overnight in a diluted vinegar solution before hand washing.

Ironing and Steaming

As a final step, consider pressing your curtains with an iron or steamer. This helps:

  • Smooth out wrinkles from washing and drying.

  • Flatten creases that form at fold lines.

  • Rejuvenate fabric by lifting fibers.

If ironing, use the appropriate heat setting for the fabric. With steaming, hold the steamer 6 inches away and steam in long motions instead of pressing down.

When To Discard Curtains

While cleaning can restore dingy curtains, sometimes stains and odors are too engrained in the fabric. Signs it’s time to replace curtains include:

  • Stains that remain after multiple washings

  • Pervasive pet or smoke odors you can’t eliminate

  • Thin, worn out sections or tears

  • Sun damage like fading or brittleness

  • Curtains that are over 5 years old

With the right methods, it’s often possible to save curtains and keep them looking fresh. But if stains and smells persist, don’t hesitate to replace them with new window dressings. Your windows are an important part of your home’s aesthetics, after all.

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