How to Steam-Clean Curtains

Updated February 21, 2017

Curtains can be made of fine, sheer and sensitive material. Therefore, cleaning curtains requires special mild methods that differ from methods for cleaning other types of fabric. Upholstery materials can be stretched and can sustain shrinkage and warping but curtains need to be cleaned with more sophisticated methods. If your curtains are dusty, dirty or smell of smoke, you may want to learn how to properly steam-clean them and keep them wrinkle free at the same time.

Check the label on your curtains so you are absolutely sure that the steam won't hurt or damage them. On the curtain's label, the manufacturer always indicates what kind of a cleaning method is the best, depending on the curtain material or combination of materials. Note that if the label says that the curtains can be washed in a washing machine that is usually a good indication that they can be steam-cleaned, too.

Turn on the steam cleaner and set the length of its extendable arm to suit the height of your curtains. Before you start the cleaning process, hold the steamer 10 to 12 inches from the curtain to test its effect.

Start steam cleaning the top of your curtains first because that will drag the dust and dirt down. Starting from the bottom isn't a good idea since the dirt is likely to fall on the bottom again while you are cleaning the top. Run the steam cleaner from the top of the curtain to the bottom, slowly and carefully, in straight lines. Do the same for both sides of the curtains.

Check if the wrinkles on your curtains are releasing. If they are still visible, move the steamer closer than 10 inches to the curtain.

Notice if there are wet spots on the curtain: if there are, you are holding the steamer too close. Try different distances to test what is the optimal position.

Leave your curtains to fully dry and do not engage in dusting or cleaning in the room for a few hours or even a whole day. Also, do not open the windows since the curtains might attract and pick up dust particles from the outside while they're moist.


Maintain your curtains by cleaning them regularly. If you allow the dust and dirt to build up in the curtains, the cleaning will be much less effective.


Be careful if your curtains are high and you need to stand on a chair. Working and balancing at a height at the same time can be dangerous.

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About the Author

Based in New York, Mary Gonzales has been writing computer- and technology-related articles since 1995. Her work has appeared in “Tech Trends” and “Mac Tips” magazines. Gonzales received the Lilly M. Fuchs Literary Award in 1999. She holds a Bachelor of Science in computer programming from New York University.