6 Ways to Clean Outdoor Curtains

by balconyboss
Published: Updated:
curtains on an outdoor deck
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Despite outdoor curtains often being waterproof, they still need cleaning. This is to remove the build-up of grime that can happen from weather, or even from mold if you’ve left them out over winter.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to clean outdoor curtains that don’t take too much effort. That’s what we’ll discuss below.

Considerations Before Cleaning Your Curtains

There isn’t much to think about before cleaning outdoor curtains. Ideally, they should have a care label, which removes much of the thought. Even so, be sure to think about the following before starting.

Curtain Material

Generally, outdoor curtains will be a plastic-based material, although some might be cotton, linen or canvas. In theory, all these materials can go in the washing machine, although the cycle you use will depend on the fabric.

For example, plastic materials are best washed at a lower temperature setting, whereas natural fibers can tolerate hotter temperatures.

Curtain Installation Method

If your outdoor curtains are on a standard rail, taking them down should be pretty easy. But if you’ve installed them in a more permanent way, such as nailing them to a ceiling, you’ll be more restricted in how you clean them.

Your Home Washing Equipment

If you’ve got a washing machine in your home, this’ll often be the best option. But if you have a shared washer in an apartment building, you might not be able to clean dirty curtains in it. Always check with your building supervisor.

Failing that, a bath will be helpful. Again, if you don’t have a bath, a shower will be the next best thing. If you can’t use your shower, make sure you buy a big bucket!

You should generally avoid putting curtains – both indoor and outdoor – in the tumble dryer. Most curtain weaves are more susceptible to shrinkage and warping when exposed to heat. Drip-drying them also helps them retain shape, even if it takes longer.

How to Clean Outdoor Curtains

1. Spot Cleaning

Spot cleaning is best for small marks or curtains you can’t easily take down. Simply mix a solution of laundry detergent with warm water in a spray bottle and spritz onto the affected areas.

Then wipe down with a damp cloth, and it should lift stains. This method is suitable for all materials.

2. Washing Machine

This is a bit of a no-brainer, but the washing machine is usually the easiest option. Use a mild detergent and low spin cycle. Ideally, wash plastic materials on a cold cycle, but natural fibers can tolerate higher temperatures.

But bear in mind that hot (anything over 90F) could set stains such as mold or mildew.

3. Soak the Curtains

Most synthetic and natural outdoor curtains should be fine to be soaked in water, which is the best way to remove stains. You might be able to use a mild oxy bleach to remove stains, but do a patch test in a hidden area first.

If your curtains can’t be bleached, mix a strong solution of laundry detergent and water. This should be a 1:4 mix of detergent to water, and leave the curtains to soak for at least an hour. Scrub with a sponge or by rubbing the fabric together and then rinse with warm water.

4. Wipe them Down

Sometimes, a wipe down will be enough to remove most of the dirt. This’ll be more effective on plastic and synthetic materials, as they should ideally be waterproof. Just use any old cloth, although a microfiber cloth will be best.

This is an ideal option for curtains you can’t take down. Provided you do it regularly, there shouldn’t be a need for more thorough cleaning.

5. Removing Mold

Mold and mildew require more cleaning than standard dirt or grime. It’ll be best to use a dedicated mold spray (such as this), although you should be careful using it on lighter colors.

There’s not much else to say about these products – just follow the instructions on the pack and do a patch test on your outdoor curtains first.

6. Vacuum Cleaner

A vacuum cleaner can do a surprisingly good job of removing loose grime from your outdoor curtains. If you have a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner, it’ll also properly remove pollutants and pollen.

Of course, this won’t usually be enough on its own, but will work on all fabrics. After vacuuming the curtains, either spray down with white vinegar and water to remove odors, or follow one of the tips above.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, one of these options will work for your outdoor curtains. Make sure you know what material you’re working with and the limitations of colors or weaves. Knowing this, you should be able to properly clean your outdoor curtains in no time.