Plastic shower curtains and liners may be affordable and easy to replace when they get dirty, but the cost adds up over time. Instead of tossing them when they start to look a little worse for wear, try cleaning your shower curtains and liners—doing so is actually fairly simple and will save you time and money in the long run. "Cleaning your shower curtain can be a very quick and easy task, so it's a much more cost-effective choice than buying a new one every time any stain appears," says Lauren Bowen, director of franchise operations at Two Maids and a Mop. "Instead of spending money replacing the curtain every month, you can just spend a little extra time in your bathroom cleaning routine and, as a result, can extend the life of your curtain for months to years longer."
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How to Clean a Cloth Shower Curtain
Since your cloth shower curtain doesn't hang directly next to the water, says Bowen, it doesn't need a weekly clean. "Washing your curtain once every three months is usually enough to keep it in good shape." The simplest way to launder your shower curtain is in the washing machine, but check the tag to ensure this method is safe first. Take the shower curtain off the rings or hooks—this will be the most time-intensive part of the job—and set your washer to a gentle cycle, using warm water, the highest water setting and, "a couple of drops of detergent and a cup of white vinegar," says Vera Peterson, president of Molly Maid. "Once the cycle is complete, hang your curtain back on the rod to air dry."
How to Clean a Plastic Shower Curtain or Liner
A plastic curtain or liner, which takes the brunt of the spray during your shower, should be cleaned more often: "The ideal frequency for your liner [to be cleaned] is once a month to stay ahead of any mold growth, as it is the closest to all of the moisture," says Bowen. "If your curtain is made of plastic, you can still use your washer, but switch up the settings to cool water, and add a bath towel or two in the load to prevent the curtains from wrinkling too much."
As an extra mold- and mildew-fighting step, you can add detergent or a more powerful cleaner: Bowen recommends adding one-half cup of baking soda and one-quarter cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle, while Paterson typically adds bleach. "Make sure not to mix any of these cleaning items, as they could cause a reaction to each other," says Paterson. "If you are specifically looking to kill mold spores or remove mildew, we highly recommend bleach as your washing product choice. This method helps remove any built-up mold or mildew, which is very common on plastic shower curtains that are constantly exposed to moisture and warmth." After washing, remember to let your plastic curtain hang to dry, as it will melt in the dryer.
How to Make a DIY Cleaning Solution for Non-Machine Washable Shower Curtains and Liners
If you don't have access to a washing machine large enough for your curtain or liner, or if the material does not allow for machine washing, Bowen suggests a DIY option. "For a fast, easy fix, mix one-part vinegar to four parts water in a spray bottle," she says. "On the side that hangs in the tub, which will be especially prone to mold growth, spray the solution and saturate the curtain completely. The vinegar will help break down mold and soap scum that has gathered on the curtain." Do the same for any other parts of the curtain that look dirty, and then rinse with warm water. "For a more thorough, deeper clean, you can hand-wash the curtain in the tub," says Bowen. "Remove it from the rod and fill your tub or a large sink with water. Mix one-quarter cup of baking soda and a splash of laundry detergent into the water, and then hand wash your curtain. Air dry by hanging it back up on the rod."