Curtains look their best when they are well-maintained and keeping them looking good includes periodic cleaning to remove accumulated dust, dirt and odors that cling to fabric fibers. While some curtains are okay to toss in the washer and others require dry cleaning, you may want to use a third cleaning method: steam. Most curtains hold up well under steam cleaning. However, if your curtains are made of dralon or velvet, do not use steam because it can damage them.

One of the main benefits of steam cleaning curtains is not having to deal with chemical cleaners of any kind. Heat from the steam also serves as a natural disinfectant, which helps keep rooms free of germs and allergens.

All that's needed for this task is a good quality steam cleaner, water and a heating source. The cleaner should have one or two attachments such as a tool brush for cleaning curtains and upholstery.

How to Steam Clean Curtains

Before doing anything, take a moment to check the care label of your curtains. If curtains are sensitive to heat, steaming may harm the fabric, which means you're better off using another cleaning method. If there's no issue, go ahead with the following steps.

Step 1: Fill the Tank

Leave the curtains hanging on the curtain rod. Fill the tank of the steam cleaner according to instructions. Do not overfill. Plug the steamer into the nearest wall outlet and let the water get hot enough to produce steam. You may have to wait several minutes for this to happen. When ready, attach the jet nozzle to the hose. Using this nozzle first can help loosen dirt and debris thanks to a forceful blast of heat.

Step 2: Test

Begin by steaming a small section of the curtain in an area that's not easily noticed. Perhaps you can test a bottom corner. Allow the area to dry and check the fabric for discoloration or damage. If it looks good, you can continue with the full cleaning. The steam can be very hot, so be careful when holding the nozzle to avoid skin burns.

Step 3: Spray Curtain Surface

Hold the nozzle tool at least six inches away from the curtain surface and begin steaming one section at a time. Start at the very top and steadily move the nozzle straight down to the bottom. If you notice the curtain getting soaked through with water, move the nozzle further away from the surface. When steaming seam lines, you can position the nozzle two inches away from the curtain. Remove the jet nozzle and set it aside.

Step 4: Use the Fabric or Drape Tool

Attach the fabric or drape tool to the steamer hose. Holding the hose in an upright position (avoiding dirty water from dripping into the machine), steam the curtain in sections just like you did with the jet nozzle. The brush tool should gently touch the fabric and all you need is a light touch for cleaning curtains top to bottom. If the tool touches the window, you're pressing too hard. Move the tool slowly so that the steam has a chance to work its magic on fabric.

Clean the entire front of the curtain panel, then clean the back of the panel using the same method if you can easily reach the back. If the curtains are not as clean as you would like, you may need to turn up the heat setting and start again.

Step 5: Air Dry

Allow the curtains to air dry on their own. They should look clean and be free of any bad odors.

Removing Curtain Wrinkles with a Portable Steamer

Steam is also a great way to remove creases and wrinkles from curtains, which can be an issue for recently unpackaged curtains. For this task, you can use a portable handheld garment steam iron. These steamers typically have a sleek design consisting of a water tank, nozzle and handle. Alternatively, you can use a standard household steam iron that can generate a minimum of 1400 watts of energy, which produces clouds of steam hot enough to get rid of those wrinkles.

Step 1: Leave Curtains on Rod

Curtains are easier to steam in a hanging position, so you should hang them over whatever window you've chosen to decorate. Wrinkles and creases are also easier to see while applying heat. Close the curtains so that you see nothing but fabric and arrange panels so that the fabric is distributed evenly along the entire width of the rod.

Step 2: Prepare the Steamer

Get your steamer ready by opening the water tank and filling it with water according to the manufacturer's instructions. Let the steamer complete its heating process before using it. This avoids frustration over there not being enough steam to get the job done.

Step 3: Apply Steam

Position the steamer nozzle or the iron near the fabric surface, or follow manufacturer's recommendations, and begin applying steam from top to bottom of wrinkled areas. Move the tool slowly and deliberately down, then back up the panel. Repeat this process until you've eliminated all creases and wrinkles. Let curtains cool and completely dry before opening them again.