How to Remove Soot From Curtains


Soot is the black gritty material left from a coal- or wood-burning fire. Curtains can become sooty when they are kept too close to a fireplace. Address the soot and the smoke odor as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the fabric. Soot is also oily and can be ground into the fibers of the curtains, so handle the curtains with care.

Things You'll Need

  • Wet/dry vacuum
  • Bucket
  • Liquid fabric detergent, possibly with color-safe bleach added
  • Bleach
  • Trisodium phosphate
  • Determine if your curtains should be washed or dry cleaned. Some curtains have linings and interlinings that make dry cleaning the best option no matter where the grime came from. If this is the case, take your curtains to a professional dry cleaner.

  • Shake your curtains outside to remove any soot that may be loose. Use a wet/dry vacuum to remove additional soot from the curtains. Move the vacuum gently over the curtains to avoid grinding the soot into the fabric.

  • Soak the curtains in a bucket or sink using a liquid laundry detergent for at least 30 minutes. Use hot water for cotton fabrics and warm water for synthetics, such as polyester or rayon. If the curtains are white, add regular bleach to the water. If they are another color, use a color-safe bleach in the soak.

  • Wash the curtains in the washing machine, using liquid detergent and bleach. You may need to put them through the wash several times to remove the soot. Allow them to air dry, preferably outside.

  • Smell the curtains when they have dried. If they continue to smell like smoke, put them through the wash again and add two tablespoons of trisodium phosphate, or TSP.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have many soiled curtains, separate the ones that are heavily soiled from those with light soot. Heavily soiled curtains could transfer soot onto other curtains in the wash, so it's best to handle them separately.
  • Don't try to remove soot with vacuum cleaner attachments. This may grind the soot into the fabric.
  • If your curtains are made from a delicate fabric, such as silk or toille, you may be better off taking them to a professional dry cleaner right away.
  • Never use bleach on wool or silk as it will eat holes in the fibers.

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