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How to Clean Window Treatments

Updated: Oct 15, 2018

Blinds in Living Room
How to Clean Your Favorite Window Treatments

The question asked more often than any other by a potential customer is, "Is it easy to clean?" The answer to this question largely depends on what the window fashion material is made of. As an example, faux wood blinds are much easier to care for than custom, lined drapes, which generally require taking them down and hauling them off to the dry cleaner, which can be taxing and expensive.

Every window treatment has both positives and negatives when it comes to their maintenance, like most anything. Think of it in a similar capacity to vacuuming your carpet and having it professionally cleaned a couple of times a year. While few enjoy vacuuming, you do appreciate the way it looks once it is done.

There’s more to consider than cleaning alone. Sometimes the easiest to clean may not be the ideal solution for the space. If you have lifestyle concerns like room darkening, a faux wood blind may not be the best solution, even though it’s likely one of the easiest to clean.

Faux wood and wood type blinds can be wiped down with an almost dry clean cloth, folding often to ensure you’re always using a clean side of the cloth to avoid getting dust or dirt on the string holding it together. People often ask about cleaning the string components or the pull cord if it becomes soiled over time. While the blinds themselves are pretty easy to maintain, once the string darkens with oils and dirt from your hands, it may be time to consider new window treatments.

Most blinds and shades come with cordless options, which help to minimize the need to touch the blind or shade directly. Before you buy, you may want to inquire as to the availability of cordless functionality or beaded continuous loop technology. Most continuous loops can be made of a chain material over a corded option, offering the ability to wipe the chain down if necessary.

Roller shades fall into the easier to clean group, depending on the material of construction. Always check the manufacturer specifications before attempting to clean any of your window treatments. I’ve found that roller shades are pretty user friendly and one of the easiest to maintain, depending on the type of material, you may be able to wipe them down with an almost dry cloth. If that doesn’t feel comfortable to you, or the manufacture warns against it, a light vacuuming with a soft brush attachment should to the trick. You never want to use the hose directly on the shades as the suction could damage the shade. You can also try a Swiffer or similar type dirt lifting duster to maintain your shades. If you add regular maintenance routine to cleaning your shades, like wiping them down once a month, you will not have to “deep clean” once a year, or worse pay a professional to clean them for you.

Cellular shades are a popular option for many reasons. They offer an energy efficient way to filter the light, block the light, and have a variety of lift options. Cellular shades are delicate and shouldn’t be cleaned with any type of liquid. Due to the way they are manufactured, anything wet is likely to stain the material, alternatively, vacuuming may be too aggressive and could damage them. If you want to vacuum them, use a very soft brush and lightly brush the shades, use only a single motion, avoid going back and forth in the same movement. There are professional cellular shade cleaners. Typically, they will pick up and drop off for you. Depending on the cleaning methods used, the cellular shades are dipped in a large vat to remove the build up of dust. The process takes time and can be costly. In most cases, I have seen the process effective in restoring the shades to near new beauty. Check with the manufacturer of your shades to ensure they can be completely submerged in a wet solution.

Since window treatments hang directly in windows, they are prone to different and more direct dust than other areas of your home. You’ll notice it more when they go up or down, especially after longer periods where they were in the same position; the looming dust cloud might make you cringe.

Most of the questions I get about window treatment cleaning comes from people who own shutters. These days shutters come in a variety of materials. Back in the day, shutters were made of real wood, and still are. Depending on where you live, your shutters may be exposed to high levels of humidity, like in a bathroom or laundry room, or in a west facing window where they get intense afternoon heat. Caring for your shutters is an investment in time, just as the initial purchase was an investment financially.

There are shutter manufactures that make plastic shutters, that can be taken down and hosed off. While I would never want a plastic shutter in my house, there must be an application where they work. Running the gamut from real wood to plastic, there’s a host of options in between. Vinyl and composite shutters are very popular these days. They look great, can withstand higher levels of humidity and direct sunlight and are generally a little less to purchase than the real wood counterpart.

If you have shutters and have resigned you’re not going to be able to take outside and hose them off, what’s the best way to care for them? The truth, take a mid-week evening, a decent glass of Cab and about a dozen very soft cloths, and painstakingly, one by one, wipe each louver. You never want to wipe too harshly as they are one of the more delicate window fashions around.

Draperies are a commitment. They collect dust and odors from surrounding rooms. If you have custom silk dupioni drapes in the dining room, which is a neighbor to the kitchen, the chicken curry you cooked last week is still lingering in the drapes.

There are drapery cleaners in many larger cities. They charge a premium to come out and take down your draperies. The cost of dry cleaning will vary depending on the size and materials of construction.

Whatever your window treatment, there are solutions, albeit time consuming but worth the effort to preserve your investment.

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