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How To Wash Burlap: Washing Instructions For Clean Curtains

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Today I am sharing how to wash burlap, specifically the DIY curtains in my living room. When it comes to washing burlap, there are several methods to choose from. However, for the best results and to preserve the delicate fabric, I initially opted for the traditional hand washing process. Unfortunately, this approach didn’t work out as expected due to the shedding and fabric material of the specific burlap I had purchased at the fabric store. 

how to wash burlap +  how to eliminate burlap curtain odor
How to wash burlap

What is burlap?

Burlap and jute fabric is a coarse, woven fabric made from natural fibers, typically derived from the jute plant. Its rough texture and sturdy durability make it ideal for various DIY projects and home decor. I have made several Christmas jute tote bags, burlap sacks and burlap tree garland in the past and never had to wash the burlap.

Burlap fabric is made from jute fibers, which is a natural material that has an odor to it. This fabric does not do well in excessive water and a gentle cycle (if using a washing machine) is a must as well as a low spin cycle. 

how to wash burlap +  living room with burlap curtains
My burlap curtains after I sprayed them clean with cold water and lemon

When I made the burlap curtains for our living room below, the smell was not as overwhelming as some had described but none-the-less, it was there.

I am sure there are many ways to eliminate the odor of burlap but for me, it wasn’t that simple.

Why Burlap Develops Odors

Burlap’s porous nature makes it susceptible to absorbing odors from its surroundings.

This can lead to an unpleasant smell in your burlap products, such as DIY burlap curtains, burlap bags, burlap table runners or other Christmas burlap projects.

how to wash burlap +  how to make burlap curtains / No Sew
DIY living room burlap curtains

Personally, I don’t have the odor issue when I buy already made burlap products, it’s only when I buy burlap fabric and get creative! 

The Best Method for Washing Burlap: A Lesson Learned

One of the biggest challenges of DIY burlap curtains is not only the direct sunlight fading the them but knowing how to clean burlap.

If you can get away with shaking your burlap curtains outside to eliminate the dust and laying them outside to catch some fresh air that is really the best solution.

In my experience, burlap does not wash well. I honestly didn’t think I would be wondering how to wash burlap when I bought the fabric but that is definitely a consideration moving forward when working with burlap.

how to wash burlap +  how to eliminate burlap curtain odor
I love my white burlap curtains I made for our foyer

Can I Wash Burlap?

When it comes to washing burlap, there are several methods to choose from. However, for the best results and to preserve the delicate fabric, I initially opted for the traditional hand washing process. Unfortunately, this approach didn’t work out as expected due to the shedding and fabric material of the specific burlap I had purchased.

If you are making burlap curtains like I did, I would suggest washing a section of the fabric first, to see how the fabric handles the cold water. For whatever reason, the burlap fabric I purchased for this project, did not like a lot of water and I ended up trashing that piece of burlap.

The HandWashing Process

A very common question when it comes to burlap is, how do you clean burlap fabric?

The burlap I had chosen for my DIY curtain project was different from what I had used in past projects. It shed fibers easily and the traditional hand washing method seemed to exacerbate the problem. Despite my efforts to be gentle, the shedding and unraveling continued, and I was completely annoyed! ha. 

With that said, I know many who have either hand washed or have found that machine washing on a delicate cycle with mild detergent, in cold water and dried on a flat surface.

how to wash burlap + living room
this burlap fabric did not wash well in the washing machine

An Alternative Approach

Recognizing that the traditional hand wash method wasn’t suitable for my particular burlap, I decided to explore alternative ways to address the unpleasant odors and freshen up my curtains. The best way in my opinion is to use a vacuum cleaner while the curtains are hung to periodically clean them. 

Related: Want to know how I made these burlap curtains for under $7 a panel? Click through this post, how to make burlap curtains for a step by step tutorial.

how to wash burlap + how to make curtains using burlap 2

If you feel like odor is an issue, remove them from the rod and lay the curtain panel on a flat surface. Once I removed, I opted to spot clean with a wet sponge and spray cold water on the burlap curtains using a spray bottle. Excessive water will not do your burlap items any favors in my opinion but that is just my experience.

Spraying and Light Ironing

Lay your burlap curtain panel on a flat surface. Using a spray bottle filled with clean water and a hint of lemon juice, lightly mist the burlap to dampen it. 

how to wash burlap +  how to eliminate burlap curtain odor
lay burlap curtain panel on a flat surface

Then, use a steam iron on a high heat setting to gently iron the burlap curtains. 

how to wash burlap + how to eliminate burlap curtain odor
ironing with hot steam cleaned my burlap

This not only helped to remove wrinkles but also contributed to eliminating the remaining odors. The steam from the iron essentially cleaned the curtain panels.

The type of burlap you choose may vary in texture, shedding tendencies, and overall durability. If you encounter challenges like excessive shedding or fabric material that doesn’t respond well to hand or machine washing even on a gentle cycle, try the spraying with water and iron approach like I did!

Overall I love my DIY burlap curtains and even though they require special care, the amount of money I saved by purchasing burlap fabric and making my own curtains is well worth it.

More Burlap Posts You Will Love

how to eliminate odor from burlap

Meet Jessica

What started as a hobby, Jessica’s blog now has millions of people visit yearly and while many of the projects and posts look and sound perfect, life hasn’t always been easy. Read Jessica’s story and how overcoming death, divorce and dementia was one of her biggest life lessons to date.

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9 Comments

  1. Hi Jessica, I was wondering what the odor comes from? Could it be pesticides? Or flame retardants. I have a quilt I purchased that I love & can not get rid if the odor. It smells very strong like a chemical. I put it in the sun for many weeks in addition to washing numerous times. I am ready to give it away. Items coming from overseas especially China are very problematic with odor! You are talented beyond belief!

  2. I hate to say this, but the odor is formaldehyde. Google formaldehyde free burlap and you can find great burlap (yes, it costs more, but your not breathing formaldehyde) to make curtains with and not risk your long term health. :/

  3. Hi! Your decorating style is impeccable. Would like to know where I could purchase the rug and the television console. Hoping my room comes close to your lovely design ! I will be following you from now on πŸ™‚

  4. I have burlap runners for my granddaughters wedding tables .. I have them hanging outside with wind and sun.. is this going to help at all with the odor…I can’t wash them because they have lace sewed down the middle of each one. I have 9.. Please give me quick suggestions to elemanate the smell if you can. Thanks

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