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Curtains in home
Research report

Renter's guide - Curtains in rentals

Curtains are essential for a warm, healthy home. Here's what to know as a renter to get the most out of your curtains.

Whether a green paisley swirl or a modern muted linen, curtains are essential for a healthy home. More important than the material is the way they’re installed.

When warm air hits cold glass, two things happen: the warm air escapes and the newly cooled air forms condensation on the window pane.

The best way of dealing with this is by keeping warm air away from the window with curtains and blinds, which creates a pocket of air between the window and the window covering.

Relative heat retention

Getting the most out of curtains

  • Ideally, they should touch the floor and the track and curtain should be wider than the window frame. The most important part is to cover the whole window and create a seal against the cold air.
  • They should fit tightly against the wall or window frame. Sometimes changing the type of track they’re hung on can close a gap between the window and the curtain. For example, rods and rails are often installed a few centimetres out from the window, which means there can be big gaps and no seal created.
  • Pelmets can help to decrease heat loss, but won’t stop it completely.
  • Curtains with two layers can increase heat retention, but how they’re fitted is most important.
  • Net curtains, installed very close to the window and in contact with the window frame, can be effective.
  • Blinds need to be installed snugly inside the window frame to be effective. If they sit out from the window, or if there are gaps between the blind and the frame, they’re not going to keep the heat in.
  • Remember to open curtains every morning to make the most of the sun’s heat, and close them at sundown to keep that heat in.

What if I don’t have tracks?

Hanging curtain

If you can’t hang curtains because you don’t have tracks, talk to your landlord. You can’t install tracks without the landlord’s permission, they’re not legally obliged to supply them.

How do I clean curtains?

Cleaning curtains regularly reduces mould and dust mites. Unhook them, give them a good shake and if they’re made of light material you can run them through a wash on a delicate cycle. If they’re made of heavier fabric, handwashing may be a better option. You can also simply sponge them down with hot water. Hang them in the sun to dry.

Strapped for cash?

Second-hand curtains: Most op shops sell cheap curtains. Before you buy, check for mould – it can be brown, black or yellow.

Cheap, ready-made curtains: Stores such as The Warehouse, Spotlight and Briscoes often sell ready-made curtains, or ready-made detachable lining, for less than $100. Measure your windows before you go shopping to make sure you get a good fit.

Free, upcycled curtains: Curtain banks upcycle donated curtains and give them out for free to low-income households.

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A renter's guide to a warmer home

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Why is this free?

This report is free thanks to funding from the Ministry of Health.

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