Much like fine wine, silk curtains and similar draperies require special handling and care. You need not be an expert, but simply have the desire to put in the time and effort necessary to protect your delicate possessions.
Silk curtains are certainly a luxury item and are thus not common among the masses, but the care and cleaning methods for them can also be utilized for other delicate items such as scarves and summer dresses. Much as with a newborn baby, silk draperies must be dealt with in a very gentle manner, with as little agitation as possible.
You may wring your hands somewhat when considering the care of your sheer glass fiber curtains, but absolutely do not wring or twist the fabric. Using hot soapy water, they should be washed by hand and, like all glass fiber curtains, they can not be ironed. Handle the cloth very gently as any rough treatment will result in a warping of the weave and could also cause threads to break. Running roughshod over the curtains is unnecessary anyway, as glass fibers repel dirt very easily in the first place. After washing the draperies, just rinse and rehang them. There is no bluing or starch application needed. Simply roll them in towel, or allow them to drip dry. After rehanging, use your fingers to straighten out the seams and hems.
When laundering your washable silks, water temperature is crucial. Using a mild soap, wash the fabrics in cool water, pressing the suds through the curtains very gently. After rinsing, you can use turkish towels to sop up any stray liquid and then hang the draperies indoors, being careful to avoid any heat source.
Unlike glass fibers, silk can be ironed. Naturally, special care must be applied when doing this. Make sure your iron has a delicate setting for silks and check the curtains for an unvarying dampness throughout. If the fabric has dried thoroughly and then you sprinkle water on it, then you run a high chance of watermarks appearing during the ironing process. Be especially careful with pongee, which is pressed only when it is totally dry or with a consistent dampness. Always iron silk on the reverse side, placing cheesecloth over it to prevent any scorching. Do not press if the fabric is too moist, as it will lead to a rigid and very thin result. Also, pay attention to the heat of your iron, since too much heat will cause white silk to yellow.
Much like silk, sheer washable rayon curtains require a mild soap, but also need warm water as opposed to cool.
Since the fabric fibers tend to weaken when wet, do not soak them thoroughly while washing and avoid hanging the curtains with clothespins. As with silk, once again use turkish towels to dry up excess wetness. When ironing rayon, begin with a warm iron and put it on the rayon setting. Raise the temperature as needed, but be aware that rayon fibers are notoriously touchy as to how much heat they will take. If you have the curtain manufacturer’s requirements for ironing, follow them to the letter. Start with the hems at the top and bottom, then using the reverse side, press the curtains along the threads lengthwise.
Dry cleaning is often used for cleaning lace and net curtains, but there is a method for cleaning them at home. Treating them as you would cotton curtains or other very delicate fabrics, use either a muslin or nylon mesh bag. First, though, you need to measure the draperies so that you will know the correct size to stretch them to after cleaning. Not surprisingly, lace curtain threads can be easily pulled apart or broken entirely. This can be avoided, however, by using gum arabic or gelatin to firm up the fabrics.
Either gum arabic (powdered form is fine, available at drugstores) or grocery store gelatin will better results than starch. It is a simple process to create a cleaning solution that is also good for silks and rayons. Just add one ounce of gum arabic or gelatin to a pint of cold water, then warm the combination until all the powder fades. Knowing how much stiffness you seek for the curtains, use between five to ten parts of hot water to the gum arabic solution or eight to fifteen parts for that of the gelatin combination.
With all these tips in hand, you should feel comfortable and secure in the knowledge that you can wash your delicate draperies at home and keep them looking fresh and new.