So I have this room.
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 cloths. So I decided to write this post to share with you all things the “Easy Drop Cloth DIY Curtains!!” Pinterest gurus don’t tell you.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
Ikea curtains come in two, longer-than-normal lengths: 98” and 118.” They have a pretty robust selection of 98” curtains for under $30, with at least one of those being blackout curtains. If you need longer, you can get 118” curtains for $40. 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.
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!