When was the last time you washed your curtains? If you’re like most people, it’s been a while; you might not even know the answer. But while your curtains may seem harmless when a bit dusty, if you aren’t washing them regularly, they could actually be making you sick.
From dust and mold to colonies of bacteria, your curtains can act like a petri dish, providing a pleasant home for creatures we generally try to eradicate from our homes, but you can stop them in their tracks. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your curtains clean and your family healthy.
If anyone in your household has asthma or allergies, dust and pet dander could be aggravating those conditions, and your curtains provide these particulates with the perfect place to hide. Don’t start cleaning just yet, though. When you take down your curtains to clean them, you could actually release more of these particles into the air, making the situation worse. Instead, before taking down any curtains haven’t been cleaned in a while, set up a HEPA filter and be prepared to vacuum when you’re done. This will help remove additional particles from the air so that you don’t breathe them back in.
Another concern for those with asthma and allergies is that, particularly during the spring, your window treatments are likely to collect pollen. This can mean there’s less pollen floating through your home, but also that your curtains and blinds are imbued with these particles. With that in mind, be sure to wash your window treatments even more frequently during allergy season to reduce irritation and keep the rest of your home pollen-free.
While it may be obvious when curtains are dusty or dirty, it’s far less noticeable when they’re colonized by bacteria – in fact, you’re unlikely to realize at all, and it’s a particularly serious problem in dark rooms. That’s because exposure to UV light can kill some of the bacteria making its home amongst your curtains’ folds. Greater exposure to UV light can also minimize mold growth, another major respiratory irritant that can take up residence in your curtains, especially if they’re damp from humidity or rain.
In addition to acting as a reminder to let in the sun more often, studies of bacteria living on curtains are also a reminder that it’s important to launder window dressings after anyone in the home has been sick. This lesson is also underscored by hospital privacy curtains, which, though obviously exposed to more serious bacteria than curtains in your home, were found to harbor antibiotic-resistant infections. Next time someone catches a cold or the flu, then, don’t just strip the bed – strip the windows, too.
Be On Pet Patrol
As noted above, curtains make an ideal home for pet dander, which can irritate allergies and asthma, but that’s not all pets add to a household. Families with pets are also more likely to provide a home for antibiotic-resistant bacteria – the same kind known to live on hospital curtains. Now, this is not to say that everyone should get rid of their pets if they want to stay healthy, but it is a reminder that there’s a lot more bacterial life in your home than you may realize, and you can never be too clean. Furthermore, our pets’ ability to carry and transmit antibiotic-resistant bacteria underscores the importance of completing prescribed antibiotics, but not pushing for medication that isn’t offered, because antibiotic resistance is nothing to sneeze at.
If you’re concerned that your curtains present an excessive health risk, there are several steps you can take beyond regular laundering. First, make sure to get your HVAC system thoroughly cleaned and install a filtration system to remove particulates from the air; this can help minimize the amount of dust, dander, and pollen circulating in your home. This is a good idea for all homes, since poorly maintained HVAC systems can also house mold and other respiratory irritants.
Second, if you want to be able to sanitize your window treatment better, consider switching to shutters or blinds that can be cleaned more easily. Hard, minimally porous surfaces are less likely to provide a home for dust and bacteria, and you’ll be more likely to wipe them down as you go through your normal cleaning routine.
Taking care of your curtains is easy, yet most of us aren’t in the practice of doing so. Once you realize how much better you feel with clean window treatments, though, you’ll never go back to dingy, dusty curtains again.