You may have had them hanging out for a dozen years or only one (and just not like the look of them), but curtains don’t have to be trashed.

curtains.jpg Every house needs curtains or blinds. These useful items provide privacy, make your house look nice, and can even block hot and cold air. When it comes time to recycle your old curtains, what are your options? Curtains can be difficult to recycle if your sole definition of recycling is tossing items in your curbside bin. It is very rare (but not unheard of) for curbside recycling programs to take most textiles, including curtains. But if you are willing to put a little more time and effort into recycling or reusing curtains, you have some good options. We have several tips for disposing of curtains (and shower curtains) in an eco-friendly manner.

How to recycle curtains

Curtains can be made from a wide variety of textiles including cotton, polyester, upholstery fabric, drapery fabric, silk, brocade, chenille, suede and filmy materials such as organza. Fabric of all kinds is difficult to recycle, especially if it has been used in your house for a dozen (or more) years. We mentioned that it is nearly impossible to recycle curtains curbside. The exception is communities that offer some kind of curbside textile recycling program. For example, several cities in King County (including Bellevue and Issaquah) have special programs for picking up people’s unwanted clothing, shoes and other items. If you live in a community with a program like this, it is worth checking to see if they can take curtains and linens. That way you can also recycle sheets, pillow cases, towels and related items through the program.

How to recycle curtain rods

If you have metal curtain rods, plan to place them in the metal recycling bin at your local recycling center. It is a good idea to remove the cord and any plastic parts from the curtain rods first. Your local building material reuse center might be interested in curtain rods in good shape. Get in touch with your Habitat for Humanity Rebuilding Center to see if they can take them. Or inquire at a similar organizations in your community.

How to recycle shower curtains

Shower curtains are also quite difficult to recycle. Most are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is among the hardest plastics to recycle. It is also one of the most toxic plastics, so it is not the greatest item to have in your house. The next time you buy a shower curtain or shower curtain liner, look for one that is PVC-free. If you would like to reuse your old shower curtain, wash it well and let it dry completely. After that is will be good for all kinds of things. We have used shower curtains to cover piles of wood or bark mulch, move piles of leaves around the yard, hold dirt that was temporarily removed from the garden, serve as a drop cloth for painting and staining projects, as a temporary roof covering for a leaky chicken coop, and under picnic blankets when the ground is still wet.

How to upcycle and reuse curtains

If you have a faded, ugly set of cloth curtains in your house, you may be able to do much more than recycle them. Some of these fabrics are considered delightfully retro. They may be perfect for people looking to sew home décor items or even clothing. Check out Pinterest or Etsy for a sampling of pillows, skirts, bags and other items made from old curtains. If you have curtains you want to get rid of, check with local antique shops to see if they are interested in vintage fabrics. If your curtains are in really good shape, they might be willing to buy them. You can try selling old curtains on eBay, Craigslist, or at a garage sale or flea market. If nothing else, donate them to a thrift store or shop that specializes in selling arts and crafts materials. If you try crafting something from your old curtains and get completely hooked on the process, here is an article with great sources for buying more secondhand curtain fabric. It was published on a British blog, but several of the ideas are relevant to American and Canadian consumers as well. If your curtains are still in good shape, but you are tired of them, think about where else in the house you can use them. Put them up to keep prying eyes from peeking in the window in your garden shed or garage. Store them away and pull them out when you have painting or automotive projects and need a drop cloth.

Look for eco-curtains

Curtains no longer have to be plain lengths of fabric. There are all kinds of curtains designed to help your home maintain a more consistent temperature, which can result in lower energy bills for you and fewer greenhouse emissions for the planet. Most of these new energy-saving curtains have extra layers of lining that can help block cold drafts or warm air from entering your home. They may also be blackout curtains that keep the sun’s rays from beaming into your home and heating it up during the winter (the added benefit of black-out curtains is that, if you like to sleep in, they keep the sun from waking you up in the morning). This article has a decent description of how energy-saving curtains work and why they make so much sense. You can buy energy-saving curtains at discount and department stores. However, you might want to work with a professional curtain installer to get the best quality products that fit well in your home.