There's something about spring cleaning that makes us want to scrub everything in the house, and curtain cleaning is no different. Fresh curtains throughout the house just seem to make the place brighter and smell great, and can inspire us to take on other cleaning tasks.
The best way to attack curtain cleaning is to take a sunny day and do them all at once. I like to take them all down and throw them in the washer on delicate. While they are washing, I use that time to clean the windows. Most curtain fabric will hold up in the washer if you use the delicate cycle, but if you are talking about drapes, you may need to purchase a commercial cleaner which you can spray on and then vacuum off using the attachments. Do not try to force drapes into the washer unless you take the time to remove each metal hanger individually and have a new washer which can stand the load capacity. When in doubt, the homemade dry cleaning method is best to freshen heavy drapery material. (You don't have to take them down if you use this method as well, you can clean 'em where you stand!)
The sworn enemy of curtains is cigarette smoke. If you smoke in your house, you will want to do your curtain cleaning approximately every three months. The nicotine in cigarettes can break down the soft fabric on curtains, and the house can smell like smoke even if you've just washed them, so use a gentle fabric softener during the rinse cycle. This will keep them smelling nice in between washings.
Water stains are another concern during the curtain cleaning season, especially kitchen curtains that hang above the sink. For hard water stains, soak the curtains in a full strength bath of vinegar before throwing them into the washer separate from other curtains (or else you may end up doing the load over again to remove the vinegar smell from other curtain fabrics.)
Now for the worst type of curtain cleaning-the Venetian blind. Some years ago a product came out on the market that was made up of fluffy bristles that you inserted between the slats in your blinds and was supposed to remove the dust. They didn't work so well. The best way to clean blinds is to take a deep breath and take them down. Soak them in a bathtub filled with hot water and a little bleach, swirling the water around them gently so as not to tangle the running cords, then hang them up to dry in the shower stall. The trick to this type of curtain cleaning is to not move them too much, because we all know that re-hanging twisted blinds can be frustrating!
A last thought about curtain cleaning concerns shower curtains. Mildew will rot the fabric, so clean this type of curtain once a week when you are doing other laundry. If your shower curtain is cloth, toss is in with the whites and a little bleach, if it's plastic, try soaking it in a mild solution of bleach and laundry detergent right in the tub. This should take care of all your curtain cleaning needs!