Tackle even the toughest soap scum with these smart cleaning tips for shower curtains and liners.

Until that telltale soap scum starts creeping farther and farther up your shower curtain, you might not immediately notice that it's dirty. While removing a shower curtain from its rings for cleaning can be a little cumbersome, it's well worth it. Germs love to lurk in showers, and orange mildew and black mold not only look unsightly but can even affect your home's air quality.

Fortunately, there are many easy tricks for cleaning a shower curtain; wrestling with the rings might be the hardest part of the process. To start, practice good habits post-shower.

"A little time spent after each shower can help keep shower curtain liners looking good for longer," says Jessica Ek, director of digital communications at the American Cleaning Institute. "One way is to make sure after showering you pull the curtain closed instead of leaving it bunched up on one side. This will help it dry out and keep mold and mildew from forming."

black accents white bathroom
Credit: Julie Soefer

How Often Should I Clean a Shower Curtain? 

Incorporate a quick shower curtain cleaning into your weekly chore routine, focusing on the curtain liner. Spray with a vinegar mixture (more details below), rinse, and wipe down. Regular cleaning helps keep mildew and mold at bay, as well as curb soap scum buildup on shower liners. 

Aim to do a more thorough wash (such as in the washing machine) of both the liner and the outer shower curtain once per month. 

How to Clean a Shower Curtain (Without Removing It!)

If you're pressed for time and don't want to take down your curtain, Lauren Bowen, director of franchise operations at Two Maids & A Mop, recommends a vinegar solution for cleaning a shower curtain. "The vinegar will help break down mold and soap scum that has gathered on the curtain," says Bowen.

  1. Mix one part vinegar to four parts water in a spray bottle.
  2. Extend the shower curtain all the way across the rod. 
  3. Spray the solution on the curtain, concentrating on the side that hangs in the tub, and completely saturate the curtain. 
  4. Rinse the shower curtain with warm water from top to bottom. 
  5. Let the curtain air dry. 

Can I Wash a Shower Curtain in a Washing Machine? 

Most shower curtains and liners can be run through a washing machine, says Ek. Check the tags for any special instructions before firing up your washing machine, though.

How to Machine-Wash a Shower Liner

Bowen advises adding some towels when you wash the liner. The towels will help absorb some of the water during the wash cycle. Run a cold water cycle and let the shower liner air-dry rather than putting it in the dryer. 

For extra protection against mildew, Bowen recommends adding 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup vinegar in the rinse cycle. 

How to Machine-Wash Fabric Shower Curtains

Most shower curtains made from fabric can be run through the washing machine like other linens. Read the tag and follow any instructions from the manufacturer. Bowen recommends choosing the highest water level and the gentlest cycle. Use warm water and a mild laundry detergent to avoid damage. As with a liner, skip the dryer and let the curtain air dry. 

How to Clean Plastic Shower Curtains

If you're wondering how to clean a plastic shower curtain, know that it, too, can go in the washing machine. Use cold water, and like with the plastic liner, throw in a few towels to help prevent wrinkles, says Bowen.

How to Clean Shower Curtain Rings

While your curtains are uninstalled, take a minute to wipe down the shower curtain rings and rod. A damp cloth is likely all you'll need, but an all-purpose cleaner that's formulated for the material of the rod or rings can help wipe away any hard-to-remove residue.

How to Clean a Shower Curtain By Hand

If you can't bear the thought of one more load of laundry, skip the washing machine and wash your shower curtain by hand. Bowen recommends this method:

  1. Remove the curtain and liner from the rod.
  2. Fill your tub or a large sink with warm water. 
  3. Add 1/4 cup baking soda and a splash of laundry detergent. Mix until suds form.
  4. Place the curtain in the water mixture and gently agitate by hand. 
  5. Rinse well with clean water.
  6. Let air dry. 

How to Clean Mold from Shower Curtains

Bathrooms are notoriously damp spaces, which means mold and mildew can thrive on surfaces like a shower curtain. Ek recommends soaking the curtain in a diluted bleach solution to help kill mold and mildew growth. 

A DIY spray solution can also help get rid of mold and mildew, says Bowen:

  1. Mix two parts hydrogen peroxide with one part water in a spray bottle. 
  2. Spray the solution onto the mold stain and let it sit for five-10 minutes.
  3. Rinse the curtain.
  4. Use a baking soda paste to lightly scrub at any remaining mold stains.
  5. Rinse with clean water and let the curtain air dry.


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