Thread Number: 84841  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
Fabric washability?
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Post# 1093069   10/13/2020 at 14:19 by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

Any tips on determining if a fabric can be washed? I'm debating if the draperies in my familyroom could be laundered vs going to the cleaners. They are large and there is a lot of them, last time I sent them out it was $300 - that was 10 years ago. They are semi sheer and unlined and feeling the material there could be a fair amount of polyester. These were custom made so obviously no care tag. They just look a little dingy but not terrible. I hang them out in the sun and fall breezes every year when I do fall cleaning, just not sure I want to risk tossing them in my FL.

Post# 1093071 , Reply# 1   10/13/2020 at 14:57 by dermacie (my forever home (Glenshaw, PA))        

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I have polyester sheers in every room of my house and I always wash them. I never dry them, I hang them right back up. I wouldn't wash lined curtains. I use the gentle cycle.

Post# 1093072 , Reply# 2   10/13/2020 at 15:08 by mrboilwash (Munich,Germany)        

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No intention to sound cynical but if it`s been about 10 years ago last time you`ve sent them out one could assume they might be about 20 years old by now.
(That is assuming a 10 years care interval.)
I`d ask myself what I paid for them initially and what is their present value.
Do you think it exceeds $300 by far?

If not I`d risk it. A FL is a great start, I wouldn`t do more than a half load at a time use a mild liquid detergent and a low water temperature, low spin.
Polyester usually doesn`t shrink much if at all and if you`re lucky you don`t have to iron your drapes. Just put them back in place right out of the washer. No tumble dryer!
If they turn out too wrinkled to put them straight back on the windows I`d line dry and then iron at a low temp.

Post# 1093075 , Reply# 3   10/13/2020 at 15:47 by Maytag85 (Sean A806)        

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I’d just wash them on the delicate cycle with a 2, 4, or 6 minute wash time on warm if you have a traditional top load washer. If I had to wash curtains I’d use the wash n wear cycle on my ‘63 RCA Whirlpool Imperial Mark XII washer since it does a cool-down on that cycle.

Post# 1093077 , Reply# 4   10/13/2020 at 15:49 by ea56 (Cotati, Calif.)        

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I have polyester sheers on all the living room windows and I’ve washed them several times using the gentle cycle with cool water and Gain liquid.  Then I dry them on low and hang them right back on the curtain rods.  They come out clean and wrinkle free.


But Matt yours sound like they are pinch pleated since you refer to them as draperies.  In this case I’d recommend washing on gentle in cool water, no Fabric Softener and only a very brief time in the dryer on low, so that they are still damp when you we hang them back on the traverse rods with the hooks put back in place.  Pay particular attention to realigning the pinch pleats at the top of the drapes so that they are nice and straight.  It would also be a good idea to pull them open and make sure the pleats are all uniformly facing out words and then align all the pleats down to the bottom of the drapes and then loosely tie them in place in two or three evenly spaced places so the pleats will dry wrinkle free, straight and in place.  Leave them loosely tied this way until they are completely dry.  I’ve done this before with washable pinch pleat drapes and they looked like they were sent to the dry cleaners.



Post# 1093087 , Reply# 5   10/13/2020 at 18:13 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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If we're speaking of drapery (not curtains), that are lined, trimmed and all of it with unknown materials you're probably best off sending them out to be dry cleaned.

If you don't know the materials (including inter lining, blackout lining) there is a great risk of adverse reactions to water including shrinkage, color loss/runs etc....

Other worry would be the buckram or whatever lining used at header to support where hooks or rings used to hang drapes are inserted.

Drapes are normally far heavier than curtains, this even when dry. Again it would vary by textile composition but once wet those drapes could hold quite a bit of water and thus become very heavy. A commercial front loader might be able to handle things, but average domestic washer may not.

Post# 1093096 , Reply# 6   10/13/2020 at 18:52 by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

Well they are 25+ years old, new they were $4k+ and are in excellent shape. They are draperies not sheers, but are not lined as they are a cream color. I learned from my mother at a young age never to have unlind draperies, but the designer felt that lining these would deter from the look plus they are the color of a lining from any exterior view.

If I were to toss them in the FL I'd do 1 at a time since they are large.In my dining room I have a 10' windows with sheers on sheers. They cost a fortune to clean also but a couple of years ago I tossed them in the FL and they came out fine. They are a totally different material and I was a bit tired of them and could make something new up if need be, I sew draperies semi professionally. These are a different story they are designed around the rest of the decor and would not want to replace.

I'm not too worried about the buckram, I've washed many draperies over the years and find it holds up well if washed infrequently. I guess I was wondering if there was a test I could do on a corner that would tell me if they were washable.

Post# 1093102 , Reply# 7   10/13/2020 at 19:11 by ea56 (Cotati, Calif.)        

ea56's profile picture

If you paid $4000.00 for these drapes and they are 10 feet long if I were you I’d save the money and have them dry cleaned professionally.  You may also find a dry cleaner that will give you a good deal.  Let your fingers do the walking and call a few of them, you may be surprised.


When I gave my original advice I thought that being unlined and semi sheer possibly polyester that they could be carefully washed as I suggested.  They latest info changes my opinion on this.


If you like these drapes and want to keep them let a professional clean them.



Post# 1093109 , Reply# 8   10/13/2020 at 20:49 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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wet versus dry cleaning means considering many different factors. One of them will be finishing. Meaning while article in question may survive cleaning in water reasonably well; then comes process of restoration to original look/size/dimensions/finish etc....

Testing an inconspicuous area with water may give an idea as to colour fastness, and what fabric might look like after drying, but this isn't a total guarantee.

Thing about curtains and drapes is they often hold incredible amounts of dust/dirt/much by nature. What doesn't alight upon them via air circulation in room, is strained through them thanks to open windows. Less often things are cleaned more involved eventual laundering (wet or dry) will have to be.

Last bit is usually why most just elect to have their drapes (and often curtains as well) just sent out.

If these are expensive items that cannot be replaced,and or you want to insure they remain exactly same after cleaning, then I'd opt to send them out for dry cleaning.

Other option is to contact whoever made the things and find out about obtaining a swatch of fabric of decent size to run a test.

Post# 1093152 , Reply# 9   10/14/2020 at 10:56 by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

I guess I was hoping for a different answer.  My budget is not what it once was and was hoping to avoid the expense.  Living in a smaller area there are not too many options for cleaners. Had some bad experiences with cleaners and drapes in the past.  Will have to check if the reputable cleaner I used in the past is still around and under same management. Sort of feel like I live in a suburban wasteland with all the closed businesses.  I trust myself more than some inexperienced worker at a cleaners.


Update: Called Jan's Professional Cleaners who've always done a good job.  Still under same ownership.  They charge $4 per pleat with free pick up and delivery, 2-3 weeks turn around time.  Problem is I have 98 pleats...


Here is a blurb from their website:


About Jan’s Professional Dry Cleaners


For over 30 years, Jan’s has served the fabric cleaning and restoration needs of the Mid-Michigan area including Genesee and Oakland counties. We are proudly woman-owned and operated by our namesake, Jan Barlow, a certified garment care professional and one of only 22 people in the world to have earned three certifications from the National Fabricare Institute. If you have any questions about the services we offer, please feel free to contact us! Simply fill out the form below and our team will be in touch shortly.


This post was last edited 10/14/2020 at 11:16
Post# 1093156 , Reply# 10   10/14/2020 at 11:25 by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

On a semi related topic...  I am planning on painting my living room  and wanted to replace the draperies in there.  Went to Jo Ann's to look for fabric samples- the wall of fabric samples was gone.  Inquired and was told it's all online now - that is a worthless way to choose a fabric.  Ended up online and had to order cuts of 6 or 7 fabrics at a cost of $35+- used to just check out samples at no charge.

Post# 1093179 , Reply# 11   10/14/2020 at 15:49 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        
I Feel Your Pain!

launderess's profile picture
When it comes to big expenses such as this one weighs costs of delaying versus going ahead. Then often look to one of my credit cards that has no or nil balance, special offers, etc.. Something to make doing things a bit less pain full...

Sadly yes, free fabric swatches are less and less seen nowadays. Unless one has access to showrooms or similar places, and or perhaps do enough volume business with places to warrant special customer status...

One can see why places have moved to this model on the one hand; things are tough all over and even "free" samples cost them money. This and the horrible trend these days of people going into shops for free samples, information and so forth, then turning around and ordering merchandise online.

Back to draperies....

If you break things down by how long since last time those drapes were sent out it likely may not be so much on a cost per day basis. That is if you get drapes cleaned every three or four years, then spending nearly $400 at a go isn't *that* bad. Yes I know my methods of accounting aren't for everyone, but hey it works for Mrs. Clarence Day..

Post# 1093180 , Reply# 12   10/14/2020 at 15:57 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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If these draperies aren't badly soiled you may freshen and clean them up a bit by arranging an intensive date with vacuum cleaner.

Was once a fairly common household chore (which is why vacuum cleaners come with attachments for the job), but many today just don't bother due to effort involved.

Consumer Reports says....

Post# 1093191 , Reply# 13   10/14/2020 at 18:29 by aamassther (Hendersonville, NC )        

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One of my favourite fabric stores is Haberman’s in Royal Oak. I haven’t been, there under the new owner, but it used to be the place to buy decorator fabric. People would travel there from all over SE/SC Michigan. Prices were higher-ish ( it is Oakland County, after all) though I could find bargains there. It’s worth the hour drive.
The other is Vogue fabrics in Evanston, Il, they used to mail samples. Their selection is extensive.
I used to use and trust Stadium Cleaners in Ann Arbor- they were good and inexpensive. There’s also Gold Bond, not cheap though. I know it’s a hike but thought I would let you know of my experience.

Post# 1093194 , Reply# 14   10/14/2020 at 19:31 by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

Launderess, I do my heavy cleaning in the fall. As I do each room I hang the draperies out in the sun and fall winds for the better part of the day, seems to really freshen things up. Don't know if vac'ing them would do any better.

Funny, reading the CR article, they mentioned stretching the fabric back into shape. Odds are I'm one of the very few who have a stretcher tucked away. The old wooden one with thousands of nails to grab the fabric and your fingers. Had not thought of that in years.

At this point it's a toss up, cleaning the draperies or making new ones for the living room. 10 yards of some of the fabrics I'm looking at plus lining material will be well over $400. Leaning toward the new living room drapes as I absolutely hate the stuff that's there now.

Todd, thanks for the suggestion.If none of the samples work out I'll make a trip to Haberman's. Heading to Chicago in a few weeks, might check out Vogue too.

Post# 1093197 , Reply# 15   10/14/2020 at 19:45 by jamiel (Detroit, Michigan)        

Matt, make sure you know that Haberman's has moved from DT Royal Oak to Clawson...

Post# 1093217 , Reply# 16   10/15/2020 at 00:46 by MattL (Flushing, MI)        


Post# 1093262 , Reply# 17   10/15/2020 at 12:28 by Mickeyd (Hamburg NY)        

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I had the same delimma a few years ago with the four sets of drapes in the master bedroom. I laundered the least visible drape from the corner window wall, just as a test, knowing that I could survive a less than desirable outcome on the drape with lowest visibility.

Matt, it came out fabulously! I washed the rest of them two at a time with low, light spinning and outdoor drying.

My Mother was a whiz at laundry and espoused the theory that most things can be washed successfully at home, and regarded dry cleaning as icky. I won't go into it, but this was long before the advent of chemical fears prevalent today. Like you, I have had unsatisfactory results with dry cleaners. Personally I find the constant reuse of the solutions unsavory. H2O for me, please!

I hope you try washing them yourself; I think you want to and know exactly what you're doing, but just need a word of encouragement from someone who has done it.

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