Curtains and drapes make a big impact on your home, both aesthetically and practically. They serve important functions such as protecting your privacy and insulating drafts, and they’re also a vital ornamental aspect of your home’s decor. Keep them looking good by following these tips for care and maintenance.

Dust inevitably gathers on curtains. Keep them looking fresh by vacuuming them once a month with the upholstery attachment or a brush attachment. Be gentle so you don’t damage any stitching or hardware, and remember to vacuum along the top, where most dust is deposited.

Keep an eye out for any moisture issues. Condensation on windows, potted plants and leaks can stain and damage curtains. Luxurious floor-skimming draperies may absorb water from the floor during mopping.

Abrasion can damage curtains. If curtains must be tugged between furniture placed too close to the wall, they’ll eventually show local wear and tear. Be on the lookout for damage from rambunctious pets as well.

Light exposure is a universal condition for many draperies. To minimize damage from light, it’s important to select the right curtain for the location. Lined curtains are best at resisting UV damage, and light colored curtains will resist fading better than dark or bright curtains. Synthetics will generally be more fade-resistant than natural fabrics. Placing a protective awning over the exterior of the window, or lining the window with tinted film, will help protect your curtains and furnishings from UV damage. You can also combine draperies with blinds or shades to help prolong the life of your drapes.

Curtains hanging in different windows will fade at different rates. Likewise, the edge of the curtain hanging in the middle of the window will fade faster than the edge protected by the wall. Either stick to a program of rotating your curtains to ensure even fading among all the panels, or track which panel goes where so they look consistent when you re-hang them after cleaning.

Clean drapes once a year. Read the label and observe the instructions: throwing a “dry clean only” curtain in the washing machine is a risky proposition, and lined curtains are extremely likely to experience different shrinkage on the lining and the curtain itself, rendering them permanently damaged.  If they are machine washable, follow the instructions to the letter, and don’t over load the machine. Prevent rust stains by waiting until they are completely dry before replacing any metal hardware. Iron on the reverse side, if needed. Have the seams puckered? Spray them lightly with plain water, then gently pull the seams to stretch back to size, taking care not to break the stitching.

If they require professional cleaning, select a cleaner who is experienced in drapery cleaning and knowledgeable about drapery problems.

Smoke from wood stoves, fireplaces, and cigarettes will damage and soil curtains. If these are unavoidable, your curtains will need more frequent cleaning.

Curtains can be a big investment, and they’re a dominant element in your home’s decor. Get the most out of them by caring for them properly so they can continue to protect and beautify your home.