Safe & Frugal Shower Curtain Options

Have you ever sensed that stench from a new shower curtain liner that invades your bathroom? This smell is PVC plastic (#3 plastic) that out gases toxic odors that you really want to avoid if all possible. Studies have shown that these vinyl curtains contain high concentrations of chemicals that are linked to liver damage as well as damage to the central nervous, respiratory and reproductive systems, some of which can remain around for up to a month after installing.

I used plastic vinyl shower curtain liners for several years and just knew inwardly that those smells were probably not good for our family, especially because it regularly caused headaches. This last year, I made the effort to find an alternative when the time came to replace it. I wanted something that would not contain this toxin, but also wouldn’t be wasteful. Plastic shower curtains liners get quite disgusting in a short time and then disposed of and replaced.

There are several alternatives on the market. Choose fabric! Hemp, bamboo, organic cotton, or recycled materials are all available. They are excellent options but rather expensive (ranging in price from $85-195 dollars).

The best option I have found is the simple 100% polyester fabric shower curtain liners. They are available online or at your local Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $10 in an array of solid colors. The polyester repels the water and dries quickly. They last forever and can hide any water stains very nicely, especially if you get a chocolate colored one (like us!). When it comes time, you can throw it in the wash on a gentle cold cycle and then hang to dry back in its home. Mine just received its first washing after 9 months of use and it looks practically brand new again. These liners can actually be used completely on their own in replacement of any shower curtain. They function perfectly well in keeping all the droplets in the shower.

There are also other PVC free plastic curtains made from EVA vinyl, which is a non-chlorinated, odor free, environmentally friendly vinyl, on the market. They are safer but just as disposable and thus a fabric choice would be more sustainable due to its washability.

I think $10 is a worthwhile frugal investment to keeping those toxic smells out of your home, what say you?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

48 Responses to Safe & Frugal Shower Curtain Options

  1. aquis towel October 3, 2010 at 2:36 am #

    I really enjoyed this post. You describe this topic very well. I really like your blog and I will definetly bookmark it! Keep up the super posts! :)

  2. amy manning September 24, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Actually, I’ve just been going without. I found out recently that I am allergic to dustmites and mold, so need to do away upholstery whenever possible. I was about to wash my plastic curtains but then decided to go without for awhile. I just point the shower head toward the wall. There’s no more water on the floor than if I were using a curtain. I always wipe the floor when I was done anyway. Much easier to clean the bathroom too.

  3. Jo September 23, 2010 at 7:57 am #

    I just went to Ross and found some 100% Polyester fabric shower curtains for $5. One brown and one sage green. And they weren’t on sale either. :o ) So if you don’t have a Bed Bath and Beyond, then check out your Ross or even TJ max might have them too. :o )

  4. Kristina @ Crunchy Soup September 20, 2010 at 11:19 am #

    Before everyone goes the throws away their PVC liners. Give them one last use as a drop cloth for a messy craft project, or painting. We invested in a polyester liner! I made the mistake of drying it in the dryer and it shrunk. Still works, just a tad shorter.

    • Lindsay September 21, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

      Old PVC liners are great for painting tarps or to line a bed with for a homebirth. ;)

  5. Leslie September 15, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    I’m so glad I found this site – I was researching shower liners because my old one – a clear PVC – ugh – is very old and is starting to fall apart. I didn’t know WalMart and Target had the PEVA ones, but I like the cloth ones even better. Did you know that when you have old stained clothes or curtains, you can send them to some thrift stores – like GoodWill or Salvation Army (you have to research which ones do this) – and they will just give anything that’s stained to companies that recycle materials to make throw rugs, etc. So the stuff doesn’t end up in the landfill. I’m so happy to have found out about these cheaper fabric shower liners. I do hate to use anything not organic but I need a shower curtain pronto and it has to be dark because I have well water – can anyone say rust stains? I can’t seem to find a dark one that looks right with my natural/country home. Well, a fabric liner at $10 will work for now…

    • Becki March 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

      Thanks for the tip! I always threw away stained things thinking that they could not be resold…

  6. Geanna September 11, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    I layer a beautiful white organza shower curtain over an inexpensive polyester liner ($10-15) at Target, Walmart, etc. I bought two liners and alternate them. Once a week I pull down the1st liner and throw it into the machine with the towels, and then put up the second one. Takes about one minute.

  7. Melissa September 9, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    I have been wanting to change to hemp for so long but just can’t justify the 80 to 120 dollars!! I like the idea to use just the fabric liner. I think I will try that. What do I have to lose, I’m already buying about 4 shower curtains a year. Dirty shower curtains freak me out especially now with an eight month old wanting to touch everything. Thanks for posting this as it has been in the back of my mind for a while and I needed the refreasher to do something about it.
    I also use the PEVA ones from Walmart but like I said I go through so many a year and they just end up in a landfill. My apartment is too small to save old shower curtain for repurpose. I also like the idea of wrapping the mattress, I haven’t had to worry about bedding for the lil guy yet but I have started to look at organic mattress, pricy but worth it.

  8. b. September 7, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    I also just washed my liner from Target (PEVA I think) in the washing machine. It even has the magnets on the bottom. No problem! Before I washed it, I used to use the tub cleaner on it w/ no problem. I’vw had this liner at least since the beginning of the year. However, I think I may eventually switch to fabric to lessen the plastic in the house.

  9. Robin September 6, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Love this post! I have two white 100% cotton liners from Bed Bath and Beyond and going on year three they still looks great! I wash them about once a month or so when they start to look a bit dirty along the hem edge from mildew, HOT water/”heavy soil” wash gets them good as new. If you have stubborn mildew you can soak the hem in hydrogen peroxide – it’s much safer than using bleach and works great! I read that even if your plastic shower curtain no longer smells like plastic the chemicals can be released into the air during a hot steamy shower. So even if you don’t smell the plastic, the dangerous chemicals are there.

  10. Joy September 6, 2010 at 12:05 am #

    Just figured I’d ask, we live in Scotland, any suggestions for where to purchase this as a frugal option in the UK? If not, I completely understand. Thanks for this blogpost!

    • Kristina September 20, 2010 at 11:12 am #

      maybe you could make one?

  11. Megan September 4, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

    I bought one at Walmart for under $10 and we use it by itself. It makes the bathroom feel lighter and more airy. I wash it about once a month and hang it in the sun to dry to kill off any mildew or stains that might have developed. When I bring it back inside the whole bathroom smells fresh from the sun-dried curtain!

  12. Sheri September 3, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    For some reason the clear plastic ‘wowed’ me when I was first married 4 years ago after growing up with fabric. We just moved last week and each time we move I buy a new shower curtain liner. Last week I saw the machine-washable fabric liners at Target and decided to give it a try. The plastic PVC smell was really getting to me, so I am glad not to have that this time.

  13. Dionne September 3, 2010 at 6:46 pm #

    I have been using a fabric shower curtains for more then 10 years with no problems and we are a very large family with many showers taking over day. I wash our shower curtains once a week in the washing machine and they look good for a few years.

  14. Amy September 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    I agree! I always worried that a fabric liner wouldn’t keep the water out well, and would be a pain to wash since our plastic liners always got super gross from mildew and our (VERY) hard water. But since we switched, the shower has seemed much cleaner. And I don’t miss that vinyl-y smell, either!

  15. Shawn September 3, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    This is a fantastic idea Lindsay! The next time we replace ours this is what I’m going to do too.

  16. Meghan September 3, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    I’ve been using fabric liners for the past two years now and love it! I saw some at Marshalls (TJ Maxx) for only $5!

  17. Jaime September 3, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    Does it concern anyone about the leaded beads at the bottom
    of the fabric liner? Can you find ones without the leaded beads…
    I don’t know something about leaded beads makes me nervous.

    • Danielle September 3, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

      What leaded beads?

  18. Sarah September 3, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    One trick that I learned from my mom about keeping shower curtains clean longer is to cut them shorter. If you have a bathtub, you can cut them somewhere between the floor of the tub and rim. If you just have a shower, cut the curtain to that it just grazes the inside of the shower floor. If you use a plastic curtain, you can cut it while it’s still folded when you pull it out of the bag (that helps keep the cut straight). If you buy a fabric curtian, you’ll have to hem it. Either way, if you don’t have that extra material hanging around, the curtain dries faster and doesn’t discolor nearly as quickly. I have found that a curtain that is the right length can go 2 or 3 times as long between washes and makes your shower look much cleaner without the extra work!

    • Amanda September 3, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

      I had that trouble with the bottom of my fabric liner – even after a washing, the very hard water we have was leaving mildew stains at the bottom. So I’ve just been trimming it, and realized a bit ago that after trimming, it’s not getting the stains nearly as bad….so it must be because of the curtain drying faster! That is a great tip :-)

  19. Jennifer Lavender September 3, 2010 at 8:27 am #

    I had heard about the off-gassing about the same time we moved into our new apartment last year, so when we went shopping for new shower curtains I chose the fabric ones as well. I don’t even wash mine by hand. Just throw it in the washing machine and then hang it back up in the shower to dry. It’s so much nicer than the plastic variety and I may actually move the ones we have instead of buying new ones like I usually do.

  20. Emily September 3, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    We bought ours at Target a year ago. It is white but has picked up some stains. Thankfully we can just throw it in the wash! (Or just keep the cotton outer curtain covering it! ;) )

  21. Pam Howard September 3, 2010 at 6:39 am #

    Thanks for this post. I was just thinking the other day (in the shower) that I needed to replace our liner, and was wondering about a better choice than what I have!

  22. Shannon Hazleton September 3, 2010 at 6:30 am #

    Oh yay! I’m so happy that making this change is so affordable! I thought it would be too expensive to look into switching. Now I can do it this month! Thanks.

  23. Jude September 3, 2010 at 6:09 am #

    I agree! We made this swich a year ago.

    A tip – Our local bed and bath store sends out 20% of coupons in the mail. A way to be even more frugal!

    • Lindsay September 3, 2010 at 7:03 am #

      Yes, I used that 20% off coupon as well! Definitely even more frugal. I just assume everyone is aware of that coupon, but probably not, so thanks of the reminder.

      • Danielle September 3, 2010 at 7:45 am #

        But if I’m not mistaken you have to spend at least $15. (maybe that’s just the $5 off coupon)

  24. amanda September 3, 2010 at 5:18 am #

    Thank you so much for the great alternative. I’ve wanted to get an alternative for years but didn’t want to spend the $80-$100. Thanks again! I”ll be going out today!!!! Woot!

  25. Angela September 3, 2010 at 5:03 am #

    I got our fabric liner at Lowes. It felt like such a luxury because that is what they always have at the high end hotels. My favorite things are the ease of cleaning and how much nicer it feels if you accidentally brush up against it.

  26. amber September 2, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

    Plastic/vinyl shower curtains can be washed. Stick one in the washer with a cup of vinegar and all mild, mold, and water stains will vanish. Hang back in shower to dry.

  27. Kim Kauffman September 2, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    I just replaced mine with a fabric liner from Target this last weekend. I like it so much better and I love that it can just be washed.

  28. Jessica September 2, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    I just bought one at Target, like yesterday. The stinky ones were about $2 but they had non PVC for $7. I felt silly for spending so much more for a liner and wondered why I needed to by the more expensive one, but figured the stink cant be good for the family.

  29. Carol J. Alexander September 2, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    Hi Lindsay,
    Many, many years ago this is what I did. Got a flat, double sheet. Put button holes in the wide hem. Hung it up and wala…a shower curtain. Didn’t even have to hem it. Worked like a charm. We now have doors.
    Blessings,
    Carol

  30. Holland Saltsman September 2, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/90099501

    Ikea carries PVC free ones for $1.99 – however available “in store” only. I picked up 10 last year when I was in Chicago and gifted them to friends and family.

    • Lindsay September 3, 2010 at 7:15 am #

      I have used the IKEA plastic curtain liner as well and they did not last long at all. It is also hard to know if they are really PVC free since it doesn’t say it on the bag, unless that has been changed. They got strained, discolored in a matter of a month.

  31. Bethany September 2, 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    I got some liners made of PEVA from Walmart for under $3 each, which is all we use. Haven’t felt the need to get any shower curtains in addition. I’m hoping to switch to fabric ones eventually, but until the ones we have completely wear out I just can’t justify it.

    Also, we wrap our babies’ beds under the sheets with thick, PVC-free plastic due to the PVC in mattresses. Sleeping on toxins that long can’t be good, especially for little babies! I would buy organic, PVC-free mattresses, but just wrapping normal ones is so much less expensive! Someday, when we can afford it, we’ll invest in some better ones. =) Thanks for the post!

    • Jessica September 2, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

      That a really good idea!

    • Lindsay September 3, 2010 at 7:17 am #

      Great idea about wrapping the mattress with the PVC-free plastic liner. That’s smart and creative thinking!

  32. Lindsey@ PiecefullyHome September 2, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    Now you tell me!!! :) I just bought a new liner last month, a plastic one, and didn’t like the smell either. But I didn’t dawn on me that chemicals could be so harmful.

    I love the polyester fabric liners and at $10 it’s such a good deal (esp. with a bed, bath, and beyond coupon to add to that!) I’m going to have to switch to those, but I still keep my pretty shower curtains in front of it. ;)

  33. Carrie September 2, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    I never even thought twice about plastic shower curtains until I went to Target a couple weeks ago to buy a new one and noticed that they had “PVC free” plastic liners. I bought just the regular one, to save money, but when I got home I did some quick google research and pretty soon I returned the PVC liner and bought a cheap fabric one! I think it only about $10, and I love that it’s reusable, no throwing it away every 6 months-year. :)

  34. Laryssa @ Heaven In The Home September 2, 2010 at 5:06 pm #

    That’s what we use too. I just double hang it with a decorative shower curtain on the outside. It works great, can be washed and no nasty off gassing!

  35. Yama September 2, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Oh THANK you. I had seen these, but for some reason it didn’t dawn on me to BUY ONE and use it in our home LOL

    I REALLY don’t like that plastic smell … and, since we’re trying to eliminate as much plastic as we can from our home, it really makes sense to get a fabric one.

  36. Katie September 2, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    I just bought a 100% polyester shower curtain liner on Monday from Wal-Mart! You’re right, no need for anything else!

  37. shana September 2, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    to be perfectly honest, i love that smell . . . i can’t place my finger on why. i think it might remind me of childhood and a new doll or something. but anyway, even though i know it’s bad i sure do enjoy that “new shower curtain” smell. i have been hoping for a good alternative, though, and will have to check these two out. thanks for the links!
    blessings,
    shana

  38. Danielle September 2, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    I switched over 4 yrs ago or so. I bought ours at Kmart! I stick to white, it matched our shower curtains, and if I buy a new shower curtain I don’t have to worry about matching the liner!

    I wash our liner in the washing machine, and hang it back up.