Even If You Clean Your Shower Curtain, It Can Still Get Moldy Without This Simple Step

Photo: Twenty20/@sstodola
I like to think I'm pretty clean when it comes to my apartment. Putting away laundry is no problemo for me. I wipe down counters like a fiend, and I even clean the kitchen as I cook so that there's no mess after I'm done eating (genius, I know). But then in the bathroom one recent morning, I noticed a... funky scent. It was emanating from the shower, which is how I discovered my A+ hygienic habits had overlooked one oft-forgotten part of the cleaning process. Whoops. That smell? Yeah, it was mold forming on my shower curtain.

Here's the thing about shower curtains: "It's less about cleaning and more about letting them dry properly," says Maeve Richmond, organization expert and the founder and coach of Maeve's Method. Personally, I only realized that stretching out your shower curtain is a thing when I got new roommates and they always spread it out after they showered. (Up to this point, I'd just left it scrunched to the side after turning off the taps.) Richmond, though, helped me see the error of my ways.

"If you think about it, if a wet curtain is smushed, then there's just water sitting in there all day long," she explains. "So mold can grow." And since plenty of people are allergic to mold and because of its potential impact on your breathing, it's key to keep an eye on the condition of your shower curtain. Below are four best practices to follow if you want to avoid a similar smelly situation to the one I found myself confronted with.

Keep things dry

The most important thing is to avoid moisture. Of course, your shower curtain is going to get wet—that's it's job, to prevent water from getting all over your bathroom. But the key is to make sure it can dry out on its own after that. "Think of the shower curtain as part of your morning experience," says Richmond. "They're designed to stay splayed out. When you're done showering, restore your shower curtain by opening it up and letting it dry properly." If you have a shower liner, she says to keep that inside the tub and the outer curtain outside it, so that air can flow in between the two. Windows can also help—"if a window is open nearby, fresh air and perhaps a breeze will help speed that drying process up," she says.

Choose the right material

The simplest material to work with is plastic. "It's the easiest to clean, it's durable, and it won't wrinkle," says Richmond. But if you want a more eco-friendly product, you can go with canvas. "Canvas does well around water and will keep its shape," she says. "It's not completely waterproof, so use a shower liner to keep it as dry as possible." Sometimes canvas options can even be coated in the back to protect it from moisture. You'll also see silk or satin shower curtains on the shelves, but Richmond advises to avoid these. "They're glamorous but not water-resistant, so stay away unless your curtain liner is sturdy and large," she says.

Clean it (It's possible)

When I ponder how to actually clean a shower curtain, my brain hurts. It seems difficult. But Richmond says all you really have to do is spritz it once in a while. "Hit it with a store-bought cleanser, or a homemade solution of baking soda, vinegar, and water," she says, which can take care of any mold that's formed, too. "If it washes while hanging, great—if the stains or mold are tough, take the curtain down and machine wash it (if you can) or just soak the yucky parts in a bucket or your sink in a cleaning solution of your choice." And if it doesn't come out, hit up the next step.


When all else fails, replace it. "A good curtain could last you a year to five, no problem...with cleanings in between, of course, but if it is not well maintained, or it rips to stains or is subject to heavy use, you may find yourself needing to swap it out once a year," says Richmond. But it's not necessarily a bad thing—think of it as the easiest way to spruce up your bathroom. "Shower curtains are fun, and an easy, inexpensive way to shake up your home decor," she says. "It's a way to give your space a friendly makeover." Maybe you'll finally find an opportunity to try out the turmeric yellow home trend.

You can also refresh the look of things by trying the wabi-sabi home decluttering method. Or invest in a convertible dining table/bookcase. (Yes, it exists.) 

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