How to Clean Your Shower Curtain and Liner

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Don’t throw out those stained and mildewy items just yet! It’s easier than you think to clean a shower curtain and liner and make them look brand new.

We’ve all been there: You get into the shower to get clean … only to notice that your shower curtain or liner is dirty. Yuck. When you see mildew, mold or other stains on either of them, your first thought may be to toss the whole thing, but don’t! Once you know how to clean a shower curtain and liner, it’s easy to get them back in great shape in no time.

Plus, it’s an eco-friendly and cheap alternative to having to shop for new ones every time they get grimy. With a little elbow grease (and the right products), you can extend the life of your shower curtain and liner for months—or even years—especially if you include this task as part of your regular cleaning schedule. Once you’re up to speed, learn how to clean a shower head and your entire bathroom quickly and easily.

How to clean a shower curtain

Just like with your clothing, a fabric shower curtain will have instructions for washing on the care label. Check that before you do anything. But generally speaking, says Melissa Maker of Clean My Space, you can pop a shower curtain in the washing machine on a low spin cycle, with cold water and a little regular laundry detergent. FYI, these instructions also apply to fabric shower curtain liners.

How to machine-wash a cloth shower curtain

  1. Check the label. If the instructions say it can be machine-washed, you’re good to go.
  2. Remove the rings from the shower curtain.
  3. Toss the shower curtain into your washing machine with only like items (similar weight or color), and start a gentle cycle with warm water and a few drops of mild detergent. If the curtain is especially stained or mildewy, add a cup of white vinegar directly to the load.
  4. Once the curtain is out, check the label again to make sure you can put it in the dryer. Follow the instructions on the label for tumbling dry, and if you can’t put it in there, air-dry it on the rod.
  5. If you’re dealing with wrinkles post-drying, Maker suggests running a steamy shower. Or you can use a handheld steamer to smooth things out.

How to hand-wash a cloth shower curtain

  1. If your shower curtain needs to be hand-washed, April Sargies of Cloth + Bristle suggests filling a basin with cold water, then adding 1/4 cup gentle detergent, like Dawn Dish Soap, or 1/4 cup baking soda. Mix the ingredient of your choice in the water.
  2. Check for stuck-on stains. If you find any, apply a mixture of 1 Tbsp. baking soda and 1 tsp. water directly on the stain, and scrub using a toothbrush or small-bristle brush.
  3. Agitate it in the sink for 20 minutes, using a circular back-and-forth motion. Apply additional detergent to clean resistant spots.
  4. Let the shower curtain sit in the mixture for 30 minutes, then rinse with cold water.
  5. Shake it to get off excess liquid.
  6. Hang it back on the rod in the shower to dry.

How to spot-clean a cloth shower curtain

  1. Add 1 Tbsp. baking soda to a damp microfiber cloth.
  2. Scrub the stained area on the shower curtain.
  3. Blot the spot with a clean, damp microfiber cloth.
  4. If the stain is still there, repeat the steps above.

How to clean a plastic shower liner

Plastic liners (and curtains), many of which are now eco-friendly, require a slightly different process when cleaning. Here’s how to handle this material.

How to machine-wash a plastic liner

  1. Remove any hooks from your liner.
  2. Throw it in the washing machine with two to three towels, which will help scrub the liner clean, plus prevent any color from bleeding, says Maker.
  3. Add gentle laundry detergent.
  4. Add 1 cup baking soda directly into the washing machine drum. “Baking soda is a great deodorizer,” Maker says. For mildew stains, she recommends adding 10 drops of tea tree essential oil as well.
  5. Start a low spin cycle on cold. “This will ensure that the liner won’t be damaged by heat or pulling,” Maker says.
  6. Hang the liner or curtain back in the shower to air-dry. Never put plastic in the dryer!

How to hand-wash a plastic liner

  1. Fill a basin or your sink with cold water and 1/2 cup vinegar or bleach.
  2. Soak the liner for an hour.
  3. Use a non-abrasive sponge to scrub any resistant stains.

How to spot-clean a plastic liner

FYI, you can follow the same process for cleaning a fabric liner.

  1. Add 1 Tbsp. baking soda to a damp microfiber cloth.
  2. Scrub the stained area.
  3. Blot the spot with a clean, damp microfiber cloth.
  4. If the stains are still there, repeat steps 1 and 2.

How often to clean a shower curtain and liner

There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to how often you should clean your shower curtains or liners, but experts generally recommend two to three times a year. If your bathroom is a high-traffic area and lots of people share it, you may want to clean it once a month. The best way to tell yours needs a wash? Take a look. If it looks dingy or stained, it’s time to give it a refresh.

The best products to clean a shower curtain

To clean a shower curtain, you can use products you already have. Maker suggests a gentle detergent and stain remover. Her favorite detergent is Tide Free & Gentle, and her go-to stain remover is from Puracy. Sargies likes Cloth + Bristle’s All the Things household cleaner, which is chemical-free and made with essential oils and citric acid.

If you’re interested in cleaning a shower curtain with more natural cleaning products, Sargies suggests adding this mixture to your spray bottle: 1 Tbsp. white vinegar to 3 cups water. Shake well, then spray all over the curtain. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse with cold water. Whether they’re fabric or plastic, most curtains and liners can tolerate this solution.

How to clean shower curtain rings

“When choosing rings for a shower, it’s a balance of aesthetic and functionality,” Sargies says. Metal rings hold up better, but plastic rings are more resistant to mildew. Either way, this is how to clean your shower curtain rings: Maker suggests sliding them off and soaking them in a mixture of equal parts vinegar, water and dish soap solution for 20 minutes. Wipe them down with a clean microfiber cloth, then rinse and hand-dry.

How to keep your shower curtain clean

There are a few ways to keep mildew at bay. Using a liner will help, but that can get mildewy too, of course. For both curtains and liners, keep a spray bottle with distilled white vinegar or spray cleaner nearby, and coat the curtain after you shower each day. Shaking out your shower curtain and pulling it wide after each use will also help moisture and mildew from accumulating in the folds. Plus, it’s a smart idea to air out your bathroom during and after your shower, using a ventilator fan or an open window. The bottom line is that you want to keep as much moisture away from the curtains as possible, so let them dry completely between uses.

You may also want to look for antibacterial and mildew-resistant liners and water-repellent shower curtains if you’re buying new. And a good dehumidifier can also cut down on moisture and keep mildew to a minimum.

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Erica Finamore
Home and decor enthusiast with work published in Real Simple, InStyle, Food Network Magazine and others. I love Parks & Rec-- my dog's name is Leslie Knope.