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How to Care for Stage Curtains

how to care for stage curtains

Your stage may be home to a variety of awe-inspiring shows, but your curtains provide a frame for the entire experience and say a lot about your stage. Rips, stains, marks and a loss of fire-retardant properties are all ways that curtains can lose their quality over time. Thankfully, taking care of your stage curtains isn’t too complicated, and it can keep them looking good for years to come.

Keep reading for more information on the total care process for stage curtains, fabric care, cleaning methods and storage options.

Material

A significant factor in taking care of your drapery involves the material they are made of. Some common curtain materials include:

  • Plastic
  • Vinyl
  • Canvas
  • Drop Cloth
  • Velour
  • Muslin
  • Satin

Some materials are harder to clean than others and may require specific steps, so you’ll need to know how the fabric of your curtain behaves.

  • Plastic and vinyl curtains: These materials are easy to clean, often just needing to be wiped down every so often to prevent any mold or mildew from forming. A non-abrasive cloth and a mild cleaner or detergent are excellent choices for cleaning plastic and vinyl curtains.
  • Canvas and drop cloth curtains: These types of curtains tend to attract dust, hair and mold. Water-resistant treatment spray can help control the latter, while a thorough brushing can help remove the other two problems. You may also want to remove your curtain hardware and clean it out, to ensure that everything moves smoothly.
  • Velour: Napped velour is one of the more common materials used in stage design. Velour is similar to velvet, but while velvet is made of silk, velour is usually made from cotton. Synthetic fibers like polyester can also be used. These materials make it much more affordable, which is one reason velour is often used in high-volume projects like stage curtains. If a curtain is “napped,” it has a raised surface that runs in one direction. Velour has a luxurious look and offers a classy sheen.
  • Muslin or satin: Muslin is a loosely-woven cotton fabric. It is lightweight and sheer. Satin curtains are usually made of silk with a weave that gives it luster and an even sheen.

Method of Cleaning

curtain cleaning methods

Different curtain types have different methods of cleaning. If you don’t follow correct cleaning procedures, you could stain your curtains, end up with severely wrinkled material or even ruin the fabric beyond repair. Below are some of the types of cleaning you will need to perform regularly with your curtains at different timeframes.

  • Dusting: Dusting your curtains is a straightforward task that you can frequently do. Simply brush or shake the dust and dirt off of any smooth fabrics. With a napped fabric, like velour, you can beat them like a rug to get the dust out of the naps. Many theaters also opt to use a vacuum to remove dust or an air compressor to blow it off.
  • Dry cleaning: Professional dry-cleaning is often the best option for non-synthetic curtains. Those with treatments can also benefit from the care of a dedicated dry cleaner. If you have flame-retardant curtains, be sure to let the cleaners know so they can use a solution that is safe for that treatment. Some solutions can strip the flame-retardant qualities from the curtains. For many public places, flame-retardant curtains are a necessity. This feature can diminish over time depending on the environment they are in and how well-kept they are. Always test the flame resistance of your curtains and retreat them as needed.
  • Hand washing: Some curtains, if they’re small enough, can be hand-washed. If they’re too large, you’re likely better off getting them professionally cleaned. You can wash synthetic fabrics in a tub with a mild detergent. Tumble dry the curtains on low and hang them afterward. Be careful not to hang them while wet.
  • Spot cleaning: Many synthetic fabrics are easy to spot clean as needed. Use a soft-bristled brush, warm water and mild detergent on the stain, but make sure to test your approach in a small, inconspicuous area first. Doing so can ensure that it works and keep you from damaging a more visible area. Limit your use of spot-cleaning on flame-retardant curtains as overuse could limit the effectiveness of the treatment, removing the retardant application in areas you’ve cleaned.

One way to keep your curtains in good shape is to implement a regular curtain cleaning schedule. You should perform some tasks as often as needed, while others can usually be done monthly or yearly. If you buy curtains with Illuminated Integration, we can help you identify appropriate maintenance tasks and how often you’ll need to perform them.

1. As-Needed Tasks

Most of the following tasks tend to be obvious when they appear and need to be addressed as they come up.

  • Clean any stains or markings. Remove them with mild soap and water or special spot-cleaning treatment. Remember to test these on an inconspicuous area first, such as the backside of the bottom hem.
  • Repair any tears or broken hardware. Inspect the curtains and fix any tears immediately, so they do not expand and create larger holes and damage more of the fabric. Any equipment such as rigging and motors also need regular inspection, and you should repair or replace damaged parts right away.
  • Ensure flame retardancy. Curtains with flame retardant treatments have a certificate on individual panels provided by the manufacturer. Be sure that the requirements are met and the curtains’ retardancy is up-to-date. They may need retreatment after a while, though the time can vary based on humidity and fabric. Test these curtains as specified and keep certificates up-to-date. Other materials are inherently flame retardant due to their fabrics. These curtains do not need treatment.

2. Monthly Tasks

You should do some checks monthly to make sure your setup is in working order.

  • Perform a visual inspection. Look closely at the components of your curtains and see if any stains or broken parts are present.
  • Check cord controls. Curtain track systems do wear out over time, especially if they have too much slack, which occurs as cord fibers stretch. Extra slack can cause the cord to slide off of tensioning wheels and rub up against the metal housing. Remove extra slack by first finding the knot in the center of the track. Pull any excess cording through and add a knot at the end. Cut and throw out the extra cording. If you spot fraying or dry rotting, immediately replace the whole cord.
  • Review the hems of the curtain. They are one of the first places on a curtain that show wear and tear. The hems should not drag on the floor, though their length can vary slightly due to a variety of factors like heat, humidity and fabric.

3. Annual Tasks

Annual tasks are more focused on cleaning and ensuring the continued upkeep of the appearance of your curtains.

  • Perform surface cleaning. Use a soft-bristled brush and brush down both sides of the curtain from top-left to bottom-right. This brushing can smooth out the fabric and remove surface-level dust and dirt. For pleated curtains, be sure to reach the inside of the folds. On napped curtains, brush once against the nap and a second time with the nap.
  • Vacuum curtains and hardware. As another dust-removing method, you can vacuum the curtains with an industrial wet/dry vacuum. Vacuum hardware such as tracks, chains and cables regularly as well, to remove any buildup of dust and debris.

Regular Curtain Care Steps

curtain care steps

Whether you have stage curtains, acoustical curtains or curtain room dividers, you can keep all types in good condition with a few regular tasks.

1. Inspect Curtains

The first step to curtain care is to inspect them visually. Look for any tears, rips or other physical damage, all of which can lead to more substantial issues later on. Repair any problems straight away. This visual inspection applies to all components of the curtain track and hardware, such as S-hooks and grommets. Make sure they are in good condition, with proper structure and shape, free of rust or corrosion and the cords are moving freely but without slack. Check that the curtain does not touch the floor.

2. Treat Stains

If the curtain is physically in good condition, look for stains and marks as well. Grease stains from a stray cherry-picker, paint from set-pieces and a wide variety of other harsh substances can land on your curtains and require removal. If you find a stain right away, try to prevent it from setting. Once it sets, it is much more difficult to remove. Don’t press the stain in or add heat to it. Immediately remove as much of the substance as possible, and find the appropriate technique for the material you’re working with.

Remember that many stains become worse if you treat them as you would another substance. If you find any stains, be sure to follow appropriate cleaning procedures for your materials. Some common ones you may find in a theater environment include:

Paint

For latex-based paint, use mild laundry detergent and warm water if it’s still wet. Then rinse the spot with clean water. Oil-based paint should come out with the solvent listed on the can or turpentine. Dried paint may come out with a water-soluble paint remover, but this is difficult.

  • Grease: Use a little laundry detergent and let it stand. Scrub the spot with a brush and wipe away residue.
  • Tape residue: Apply ice in a plastic bag to harden the surface and allow you to scrape the residue off. Then blot the spot with acetone nail polish remover.

Once a stain has set, removal may be more difficult. Enlisting the help of a professional dry-cleaner may be the most effective route. Otherwise, pretreat the stain, so it comes off more easily during cleaning. Take steps to remove as much of it as you can.

3. Clean Curtains

clean curtains regularly

Even if no stains are present, you’ll want to clean the curtains regularly. Professionals should clean non-synthetic curtains, like cotton velours, and flame-retardant fabrics. Don’t forget that they should use the right cleaning solutions to keep the flame retardant treatment in place. If this is not possible, you’ll need to retreat them for flame retardance. For synthetic fabrics, you can clean smaller sections at home, but most people won’t have the capacity for more substantial parts. You can wash them in the delicate cycle, with cold water and a gentle detergent. Do not completely fill the washer or use any bleach. To dry the curtains, hang them or tumble dry them on low heat. Hang the drapes immediately after cleaning to avoid wrinkling.

4. Test Flame Retardance and Retreat

Commercial drapes need to be resistant to flames for added safety in public places. Many stages are build from fast-burning wood, and cotton or plastic-based fabrics add to the risks surrounding a stage. At Illuminated Integration, we can help you find the right options for flame retardance on your curtains.

Be sure to test your curtains’ flame retardance regularly and check with local codes as to how often you should renew your certificates. Many treatments are water-soluble, so humidity can affect how long your flame retardant treatment lasts. Fire safety is another reason to keep dust off of curtains, as dust creates a layer of combustible material.

To ensure you keep your certification up-to-date, you can retreat the curtains in a few ways.

  1. Get a certificate after you have it retreated at a commercial cleaner.
  2. Have a professional service retreat the curtains on-site and certify them.
  3. Perform your own topical treatment, which will require separate certification by a licensed tester.

5. Remove Dust

For some cleaning efforts, thorough dust removal is enough to keep curtains looking nice. Shake them out or beat them like a rug to get some of the dust out. After that, use a soft-bristled brush to remove more dust. A clean broom will work for large areas. You can do this with a ladder or lift while the curtains are hanging or lay them down. If laying them down, clean the stage or place a layer like plastic or paper between the stage and the curtains.

6. Carefully Store

Once you’ve restored your curtains to tip-top shape, make sure you store them correctly to keep wrinkles and mold at bay. Ideally, you should leave them hanging, but if you must take them down, fold your curtains along the width until they are a few feet wide and roll them up. Don’t store them in plastic bags, but in a special drapery or canvas bag or a canvas hamper that can breathe. The area it is stored in should be well-ventilated.

When it’s time to use them again, try to let them hang for a day or two so the wrinkles go away. Misting the curtains with warm water can help this process, as well.

Illuminated Integration Is Your Source for Stage Curtains

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As you can see, looking after theatrical curtains doesn’t need to be a complicated task, but it may also require some specialized care. Removing stains, dust and damage can help your curtains look good and remain structurally sound, while testing and retreating them as needed helps you to stay compliant and improve the safety of your stage.

Whether it’s time for entirely new curtains or you’d like to revitalize your existing setup, Illuminated Integration can answer the call. We can help to modernize your stage with our creative curtain design and advise on proper maintenance procedures for the years to come. Read up on our work with curtains to learn what a partnership with Illuminated Integration means for your stage.