Trying to figure out the best way to clean a shower curtain? Just mentioning the topic swiftly reminds me of the occasional childhood Saturday when my dad would call me outside for an exciting chore (note the sarcasm). Neatly spread out on the grass would be our white shower curtain, along with a bucket of warm, soapy water and a scrub brush beside it.
My job was to scrub all of the mildew and scum off of the curtain until it was nice and clean again. Yay.
Believe it or not, this is NOT the best way to clean your shower curtain. Yes, it gets it clean enough – but who wants to be outside on their hands and knees, scrubbing a shower curtain in the hot summer sun? There are so many better ways to do it.
Here are some of my favorites.
1. Clean It With a Washing Machine
When I got married, moved out, and had my own shower curtain to clean, I decided that there must be a better way to clean the thing! To my absolute delight, I found a great method which didn’t include a bucket or scrub brush, and I’ve been doing it for the past 9 years. Here it is:
Place your shower curtain in the washing machine along with two or three white towels. Fill with warm water; add detergent and 1/2 c. baking soda and wash. When it comes to the rinse cycle, add 1 c. white vinegar. Hang dry on the curtain rod.
Works wonderfully. No more hand scrubbing for me!
One tip – make sure you NEVER throw your shower curtain or its liner into the dryer. This can damage it, especially if it’s plastic. Just let it air dry!
If you’re worried about a fragile shower curtain being damaged by the washer, just put it in a mesh laundry bag.
Don’t worry about creases forming in the shower curtain. If you’ve hung it up to dry, they should fall out on their own. You can always iron on low heat but this really isn’t necessary.
2. Cleaning a Shower Curtain Liner
You can easily clean your shower curtain liner by combining one part white vinegar with four parts water in a spray bottle. Spray the liner with the solution. The vinegar will help break down soap scum and mold while the water will dilute it so it’s not quite as “fragrant.”
You can use a brush or sponge on the lower part of your liner, if it’s super grimy, to get rid of the bacteria, mold, and mildew.
After you’ve scrubbed it down, go ahead and rinse the liner and curtain with a handheld shower head, or even a bottle filled with water.
One more tip – consider buying an second shower curtain liner and curtain. That Way, you can still take a shower when you’re washing the other two. Just rotate them out so they’ll both last longer!
3. How to Clean a Plastic Shower Curtain
You might be tempted to just try spraying a little bit of water on your plastic shower curtain to get it clean. While this might work for small amounts of build-up and grime, for heavier jobs, it’s not going to do the trick (even if you spray it with an all-purpose cleaner first).
You have a few other options.
Believe it or not, you can usually put a plastic shower curtain right in the washing machine just like you would a regular one!
Put it on the warm setting, and feel free to use laundry soap and bleach (as long as your shower curtain is white). Put it on the regular spin cycle, and you’ll find that your plastic shower curtain comes out looking brand-new.
The key here is to only use the warm cycle on your washing machine (for some minor stains and debris, the cold cycle will often do the trick). The hot cycle can cause your curtain to melt. If you’re worried about the integrity of your plastic shower curtain, feel free to use the delicate cycle.
If your plastic shower curtain is extremely grimy, use a sponge and wipe it down before putting it in the washer.
4. Cleaning Your Shower Curtain Rings
While your shower curtain or the liner is in the wash, take the time to also clean the shower curtain rings. This is an area of the bathroom that many people neglect – but they can get dirty. After all, they’re exposed to all kinds of dust, dirt, steam, and soap scum.
Fill up the bathroom sink (or the tub) with hot water and a cup of white vinegar. Soak the rings and use your fingers to scrape off any soap scum or limescale that remains after they’ve soaked for an hour or so.
Don’t forget to wash the shower curtain rod, either! This can get just as dirty and stained with dust, dirt, and water marks. Usually, a bit of all-purpose bathroom cleaner and some water is all you need to get the job done.
5. Make Sure There Aren’t Any Rips or Tears if Using the Washing Machine
…at least, not any big ones. This goes for both plastic as well as fabric shower curtains.
If you’re throwing these kinds of curtains in the washing machine, it’s not a good idea to include them if they have any serious damage.
The agitator in the washing machine can grab onto the rips and make them even worse. Stick to another cleaning method if you have shower curtains like these.
6. Soak It in the Tub
Ideally, with a glass of wine.
Oh wait, that’s after you get done cleaning your shower curtain.
However, you can clean your shower curtain in the tub, too, if the washing machine method doesn’t work for you.
To do this, you will want tos start by spraying an all-purpose cleaner on your shower curtain or shower liner. Wipe it down with a sponge or rag. Then, fill your bathtub or sink with warm water and bleach (if it’s a white curtain).
Allow the liner or curtain to soak in the tub for half an hour, then spot clean any areas that didn’t get clean.
7. Getting Hard Water Stains off a Shower Curtain
If you have hard water, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to clean your shower curtain or liner!
Fortunately, I have an easy tip for getting them clean:
Use white vinegar.
You can throw them in the washing machine with vinegar, or you can soak the shower curtain in your bathtub with a cup of laundry soap (no bleach please – it interacts with the vinegar) and a cup of undiluted white vinegar.
You’ll need to let both soak for about an hour, then rinse and drain to get rid of the smell. Just hang dry afterward!
8. Prevent Mildew
In most cases, mildew is inevitable – you’re just going to have to regularly clean your shower curtain and liner in order to stay on top of it.
However, you can help make your shower curtain a bit more resistant to mildew (giving you more time between washes) by treating the liner daily with a cup of water, a quarter cup each of hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol, two or three drops of liquid dish soap, and a few drops of the essential oil of your choosing (this masks the chemical-y smell).
9. Try a Weekly Scrub-a-Dub
Make it part of your weekly routine to spray the bottom of your shower curtain and liner with a vinegar and water mixture, followed by a quick scrub with a brush.
This will help prevent any build-up of mold, mildew, and bacteria – they tend to congregate most at the bottom of the curtain.
10. Keep it Clean in the Future
As I said earlier, there’s really no way around it – you’re just going to have to add cleaning the shower curtain to the list of cleaning tasks you already have to get through on a given cleaning day.
However, there are ways to prevent your shower curtain from becoming quite so grimy in the future.
For one, after you shower, be sure to keep the curtain closed (expanded out all the way) to let it dry completely. If it’s bunched up in the corner, it won’t dry as evenly, and this can lead to mildew or mold formation.
Rather than using bar soap, which can lead to scum forming on the curtain, consider using body wash. Use a brush or sponge on the curtain every day while you’re in the shower to help scrub away any buildup.
Finally, when you’re done in the shower, run the exhaust fan. This will lower humidity and help keep your bathroom looking and smelling fresh.
11. Cleaning a Shower Door
I know, I know – this is really a separate post in and of itself! However, a few quick tips if you’re trying to clean a shower door instead of curtain.
Just add a few drops of distilled white vinegar to a cup of baking soda and stir it up to make a thick paste. Apply it to the door and allow it to sit for an hour. Use a gentle microfiber cloth to rub it in, then rinse. Buff dry with a new cloth.
12. Know When to Skip the Fabric Curtain or Liner
Fabric shower curtains and liners can be great for most people. If you have a well-ventilated bathroom and don’t want to go the lses eco-friendly route wof the plastic liner, a fabric liner is the way to go. You can wash it regularly, even in cold water, and it will last indefinitely.
However, if your bathroom is poorly ventilated, you’re going to struggle to keep it clean. A PVC-free shower curtain and liner are the best options.
13. Always Check the Instructions
The tips I’ve given you above should work 9 times out of 10. However, it’s always important that you read the label on your shower curtain and liner before washing. That way, you can learn before it’s too late if there are any special care instructions that need to be heeded.
How Often Should You Clean a Shower Curtain?
The best tip for cleaning a shower curtain? Do it often. It’s far easier to keep a shower curtain clean than it is to have to do a serious overhaul-type cleaning. Scrubbing and harsh chemicals are NOT my friends – so stay on top of your shower curtain’s cleanliness and you won’t have to worry about an all-day affair.
So how often should you clean your shower curtain? The answer to that question will depend on a variety of factors, like whether your shower curtain is fabric or plastic, as well as how often your shower is used.
What you do need to know, regardless, is that your shower curtain must be cleaned. This thing takes a lot of abuse. The constant use of the shower, harsh tub-cleaning chemicals, and mold and mildew can really take their toll on a curtain!
A lot of people will just run to the store and replace their shower curtain every time it gets grimy. However, that’s a serious waste of money. Clean your shower curtain, and you’ll spend pennies compared to dozens of dollars.
Clean your shower curtain and shower curtain liner at least once per month. If you’re using a disposable liner, you can probably get three to six washes out of it before it needs to be replaced.
You’ll know it’s time to toss your shower curtain when visible mold is still present even after the curtain has been laundered. Any light brown or reddish stains after a wash cycle indicate that the shower curtain needs to be thrown away.
Add shower curtain cleaning to your monthly cleaning checklist. Your bathroom will automatically smell and look much fresher!
What about you? Have you found a better way to clean a shower curtain?
updated 07/02/2021 by Rebekah Pierce
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.