Thinking of making cheap budget DIY Drop Cloth Curtains? Don't do anything without reading about my drop cloth curtain experience first! #AButterflyHouse #DIY #DIYProjects #DropClothCurtains #HomeImprovement #WindowTreatments

7 Reasons Drop Cloths Make Terrible Curtains

Thinking of making cheap and easy DIY Drop Cloth curtains? Make sure you read about my drop cloth curtain experience first!​

So I have this room.

Thinking of making cheap budget DIY Drop Cloth Curtains? Don't do anything without reading about my drop cloth curtain experience first! #AButterflyHouse #DIY #DIYProjects #DropClothCurtains #HomeImprovement #WindowTreatments

It’s very sunny and pretty and dreamy. It’s kind of why I bought the house. Sitting in it makes me happy.

(Except there’s no furniture or anything interesting in the room at all at the moment, so sometimes I just go stand in there for a minute, staring out the windows and enjoying the sun. Is that weird?)

Regardless, in my attempt to make this room functional, I’ve decided to add curtains. However, do you see how many windows there are? So many windows = lots of curtains. 

Except I don’t have $300 to blow on curtains, so I’ve spent the past two weeks experimenting with cheap curtains options. Aka, sheets and drop cloths.

While I eventually came up with something both pretty and functional, there was a whole lot of failure first, primarily with the drop cloth curtains.

So I decided to write this post to share with you all the things the “Easy Drop Cloth DIY Curtains!!” Pinterest gurus don’t tell you.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive compensation (at no additional cost to you.)

7 Reasons Drop Cloths Make Terrible Curtains

1. They Shrink in the Wash

You’re probably thinking, “yeah, but not that much,” which is exactly what I thought before I started. No. They shrink an absurd amount.

Here is the exact same 9’ x 12’ drop cloth, cut in half to fit in comfortably in my washer. The left side has been bleached and washed, the right side was about to go in.

Thinking of making cheap budget DIY Drop Cloth Curtains? Don't do anything without reading about my drop cloth curtain experience first! #AButterflyHouse #DIY #DIYProjects #DropClothCurtains #HomeImprovement #WindowTreatments

10 inches. The left half shrunk almost 10 inches in the wash. That is a considerable amount, and will definitely make these curtains shorter then you wanted if you have tall ceilings.

Thinking of making cheap budget DIY Drop Cloth Curtains? Don't do anything without reading about my drop cloth curtain experience first! #AButterflyHouse #DIY #DIYProjects #DropClothCurtains #HomeImprovement #WindowTreatments
2. Drop Cloth Lengths Aren’t Uniform

Take a look a this drop cloth. It is supposed to be 9 feet long, aka 108 inches. We’re a good 3 inches short.

Thinking of making cheap budget DIY Drop Cloth Curtains? Don't do anything without reading about my drop cloth curtain experience first! #AButterflyHouse #DIY #DIYProjects #DropClothCurtains #HomeImprovement #WindowTreatments
Thinking of making cheap budget DIY Drop Cloth Curtains? Don't do anything without reading about my drop cloth curtain experience first! #AButterflyHouse #DIY #DIYProjects #DropClothCurtains #HomeImprovement #WindowTreatments

I could get mad at Harbor Freight (where I bought the drop cloths) about this, but some googling and review reading seems to show this is a pretty common complaint among drop cloth purchasers, no matter the brand. And of the three that I used, only one cloth was the full length of 108 inches.

3. They Don’t Function Well

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I will always, always pick function over pretty.

You can buy the prettiest desk, or drawer organizer, or curtain in the world, but if it doesn’t function well, you won’t use it, or you’ll try use it and end up with a giant ugly mess.

How an item functions is 100% the most important thing I consider before I buy or make something, and in my humble opinion, should be for everyone.

Drop cloths take effort to make look pretty. All those pretty pictures of drop cloth curtains you see on the internet were after a blogger spent 30 minutes arranging them *just so*.

That is not something you’re going to want to do every single time you open and close your curtains. So, if you plan on actually using your curtains for privacy and to block light, be aware they will look much less attractive with regular use.

4) Drop Cloths Don’t Bleach to White

Or at least, not reliably. I think I’ve read six or seven different blog posts about bleaching drop cloths. In every single one, there were mixed results in the comments section, with some people getting a perfectly white cloth, while others ended up with something even uglier than they started with.

Maybe this depends on the drop cloth makeup (100% cotton seems to help) or the bleach used, or maybe it’s based on whether you have a magic fairy waving her wand at your washing machine as you bleach your drop cloths.

I don’t know. What I do know, is that my drop cloths were supposedly 100% cotton, I used a ton of bleach, and left my drop cloths soaking in the washing machine overnight.

They got lighter, for sure. But not white. If I wanted a cream color, they’d be perfect. But when I tried hanging them in my space, they just seemed dingy compared to the white trim and blush walls.

Thinking of making cheap budget DIY Drop Cloth Curtains? Don't do anything without reading about my drop cloth curtain experience first! #AButterflyHouse #DIY #DIYProjects #DropClothCurtains #HomeImprovement #WindowTreatments

I’m not saying you can’t get your drop cloths white. I’m just saying it’s an unreliable process that depends on a bunch of different factors, so if you were hoping to get 6 uniformly white panels to make into curtains, start praying.

5. Drop Cloths Don’t Work Well Outside

Drop cloths are intended to soak up moisture. That’s the point. So if you intend for your drop cloth curtains to live outdoors, know that they will mildew. 

Washing them frequently could help, and there may be products that help the drop cloths resist this, but it will not be the simple “hang up and be done” project you were hoping for.

6. They’re Thin

You can see right through drop cloths – even the heavy duty ones. If you were hoping for curtains that darken your room or block people from seeing shadows in your house at night, these are not it. You’ll need to layer the drop cloth with another fabric to make them opaque enough for privacy or room-darkening.

7. There Are Equally Affordable Better Options

So, lets say you’ve decided to go through with drop cloth curtains. You’ll plan on one 9’ x 12’ drop cloth per panel, either to account for shrinkage when washed, or to fold in half to have a thicker 9’ x 6’ panel.

Harbor Freight, a discount tool supply store with bargain prices, sells 9’ x 12’ drop cloths for $15.99. Even with the 20% off coupon that Harbor Freight distributes, you’re looking at $30 for a pair of curtains.

And Ikea has a variety of styles that are cheaper.

As a result, if you’re going with drop cloth curtains to save money, know that you’re not saving much if there’s an Ikea style that suits your room.

But Maybe…

Maybe, if you were using your curtains in an indoor area with 8 foots ceilings, where they won’t be regularly opened and closed, don’t really need to block much light, and you don’t mind hemming the curtains so they’re all the same length, drop cloth curtains could be an easy, economical choice.

Alternatively, I used drop cloths as liners for the curtains in my office – they actually turned out pretty nice, adding volume and privacy to the budget sheets I ended up going with.

I don’t want to imply that drop cloths should never be used as curtains – I just wanted to make you aware of some of difficulties they come with them. Just remember the issues above, and make sure your plan will work despite those things. 

You don’t want to get home, wash your drop cloths, and then find that they’re too short to use but can’t be returned!

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  1. Honestly, I was convinced that DIY bleached drop cloth curtains were Pinterest’s gift from God. Until I spent eleven hours bleaching said drop cloths only to end up with a slightly lighter version of cream, no where near the pristine white so many other bloggers showed.

    Thank you for this dose of reality after a horrible Pinterest fail.

  2. I’ve spent the day looking for just the size of drop cloths I need and by chance came across your posting. You’ve given us a lot of useful info about using them as curtains. I was thinking of not bleaching them but getting that Rite de-coloring stuff they sell. I thought that might be better and safer than bleach. In your research did you happen to try that stuff? I don’t know it’s exact name but it’s something that removes color before you change the color using Rite Dye.

    Because so much now comes from China, it doesn’t surprise me that there is such a discrepancy in the lengths, colors, etc. I’ve found this to also be true of clothing coming from Asia.

    Did you use a dryer to dry your drop cloths? I don’t use a dryer and line dry everything so I was wondering if perhaps a dryer might have caused such a drastic shrinkage for yo??

    1. I know what you’re talking about, but I haven’t tried the Rit de-coloring stuff. If you use it, will you let me know how it goes? To be honest, I don’t think it’ll work; I think that stuff is intended to remove dyes from fabric, and most drop cloths aren’t dyed (they’re just naturally a beige-y color.) BUT, it’s worth a try, and if it does work, then you’ve made a huge step forward for drop cloth DIY-ers everywhere!

      I did use a dryer, and although I had it on the lowest temperature setting, I’m sure it did impact my shrinkage at least a little. I’d be curious (hello, future science experiment) to learn how much shrinkage is caused by the bleach, how much is caused by the dryer, and how much is caused by just washing it in general.

      1. Hi,
        I line dried my drop cloths & although I had some shrinkage from the washing I actually gained a little length when I hung them on the line to dry. Sadly my first step of curtains I dried in the dryer so now the 2nd set doesn’t match the 1st. For me the beigey off white was exactly what I was looking for & I didn’t want a curtain so heavy it blacked out light. I wanted some light to filter through. Like you I’ve learned never to completely trust the measurements the manufacturers give. The drop cloths were, for me, always smaller. I have learned to go with the Tuff Boy brand I found on Amazon though. They are reliably seamless & always pretty darn close to the size quoted. More importantly I find the grain to be straight which isn’t always the case with drop cloths. They also dye beautifully unlike most other brands I’ve tried. The sides are usually not hemmed but I find the top & bottom are. In washing with warm water & bleach I’ve concluded about 5% shrinkage will occur. I don’t try with hot water because combined with the bleach it weakens the cotton fabric fiber.

  3. So I made drop cloth curtains for pretty much my whole house. I love the color and texture of the fabric, so bleaching, etc. was not an issue for me. I DID wash and dry them all first because I think they just hang and smell better after washing. So it, sewed, I hemmed them all to the appropriate lengths, hung them up and all was good with the world. UNTIL I noticed this summer that our bedroom curtains that I used a thicker weight drop cloth to block more sun, were suddenly too long. They were puddling on the ground. I know some people like this, but I do not. I think it just looks messy. Anyway, I thought I was going crazy, because I HAD hemmed them correctly. But it has just occurred to me that they possibly could be STRETCHING. When I washed and dried them originally, they shrank up. Now that I have had them hanging in my sunny window they are stretching back out. And are now too long. My other, lighter weight ones are fine, but these are heavy weight and in a hot, sunny window, so I’m thinking that’s what did it. Anyway, So that’s my theory. Either that, or they are growing, lol. I still love them and would do them again. Just something to be aware of. 🙂

  4. Sorry but I don’t agree. You need to make sure you buy the right material drop cloth (because there are many different fabrics) and when it comes to bleaching, it only works for certain fabrics. And drying in the dryer will shrink the cloth. Air dry or delicate air dry setting in the dryer- iron it out and it’s perfect.

    Also a bit dramatic saying Pinterest users spend forever making their curtains nice. I open and close them all the time and it literally takes 10 seconds per panel to get back into the perfect spot.

    Drop cloths are perfect for affordable solutions needing privacy or decor for your windows. To each their own but I wouldn’t try to convince people to not use them. Just like with anything- just do some research and decide if it’s worth it to you or not! Totally respect the side of the argument saying no to these type of curtains though!

    1. I’m glad you like your drop cloth curtains! My goal here isn’t to tell people to never use drop cloths as curtains, just to make sure they know some of the difficulties that come along with them, so that if they choose to go for it they can plan around those things.

  5. I do appreciate the feedback. I think cream will work for us, and our curtains need to be 132” with at least eight in the front parlors. (We recently got a great deal on an 1842 home, but we can’t afford enough curtains and the Ikea ones are too short for all but our son’s room.)

  6. What a great post! You sound very much like me except after reading endless posts about bleaching them I decided that was too much bleach and too much time. So many people talked about how stinky it makes your house. Did you find that? I wish I would have found this article first. I agree with most of your findings.
    I posted a tutorial for making thme, but this post is such a unique perspective.

  7. Thank you for your review. I was thinking of doing drop cloth curtains in the Mother in law suite above our garage mainly for the cost savings and your reminder that Ikea makes drapes that are finished and nice looking for about the same price without any of the headaches is timely. WIth all of the other decisions and issues with a remodel, curtains can be crossed off the list. I enjoyed the comments from your readers as well.

  8. I tried an experiment with finding an inexpensive fabric for 108 inch long windows in a bank building where I live. I made them out of tulle because the only sewing I would have to do is the pocket for the rod. I used a lot of tulle because I didn’t want anyone to be able to see through it. It was 2.00 a yard for 108″ wide. I’m not saying this would be for everyone but it is something to think about using for a living room or bedroom. The windows couldn’t take screens because they pivot and the tulle acted like a screen. I often heard people comment from down on the street using saying something like, “I could live there.” The reason that they made these comment is that the tulle gently moved in the breeze. It slowly floats out and in. There are all sorts of tulle but I bought run-of-mille tulle someplace on-line. I think it was Originally, I purchase Pottery Barn Silk Drapes for the two windows and they last 10 years before the silk shreded. They were 3,000.00. I wasn’t going to ever do that again, hence, the tulle idea.
    The tulle drapes lasted for ten years and I washed them gently for just a minute on the delicate cycle and hung them right back up immediately every year. Next time, I’ll buy a better made tulle because they lost their body after ten years. I probably could have sprayed stiffner on them. I didn’t think of that until right now. They were really beautiful and I’ll “make” them again.

    1. Oh gosh. I think there’s a part of me that’s passed out on the floor at the idea of $3000 drapes.

      The tulle is such an interesting idea. I’ve never thought about using that, but I could see how it’d be great at letting in light but still providing privacy!

  9. I appreciate you sharing your real-life experience with drop cloths! Is it OK if I share my experience, which is a little off-topic, because it has to do with making drop cloth table cloths? I made one for my kitchen/all purpose/every day table, and initially loved it (actually I still do) BUT because it is so absorbent, stains (like everyday grease stains) are very difficult to remove… unless you are willing to spend lots of time scrubbing on it (which I’m really not always willing to do). I still use it stains and all, and just chalk it up to that “functional farmhouse” look – but I might have thought twice about it had I ever heard anyone mention that particular quality of drop cloths.

  10. Eight years ago, I made drop cloth drapes for my oversize living room, bedroom and office windows. I would recommend doing so to anyone who knows who is willing to do a few extra steps. First, all drop cloths can vary from dye lots. Check that the colours match before purchase. Second, as with all fabrics you intend to wash in the future, to preshrink in hot water and a hot dryer. No surprises later. Third, add a cup of vinegar to the wash to soften the fabric and remove any odour caused by fabric sizing.
    I would use drop cloths in the future because I like the natural linen look, at a bargain price. I am currently sewing a drop cloth roman shade with blackout liner. All my drapes are French pleated at the top and hemmed with a generous hem. They look very expensive.

  11. I bought Drop cloths to use outside on my porch but I read That they will mildew I was thinking I wonder if I spray them with Scotchgard would that help ?

  12. I just made drop cloth curtains. I did not bleach them as there was no need. After doing so, I completely disagree with your article in almost every way! If you are reading this article because you want to make drop cloth curtains….just go for it!!

  13. I used RIT DYE to dye mine and let them line dry and iron and they came out just like I wanted. No complaints

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