How to clean a shower curtain – and its liner

Asking how to clean a shower curtain and its liner? Our guide has all the details

How to clean a shower curtain and its liner – roll top bath in red with red and white striped shower curtain
(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd Photograph: Polly Wreford)

The answer to how to clean a shower curtain and its liner is an important one. It’s a hard-working feature of a bathroom and residue from soap and shampoo can accumulate, making regular cleaning important.

Unfortunately, it’s also the case that mold can grow on a shower curtain because the moisture and warmth of the room provide the conditions in which it thrives. Cleaning this off is a must as mold can cause health problems.

But both issues can be solved with the right kit as part of your laundry room ideas, plus the knowhow we’ve put together on cleaning a shower curtain and its liner.

How to clean a shower curtain and its liner

Shower curtains and liners tend to be the germiest areas in bathrooms as they are not usually cleaned with any regularity,’ says Tricia Holderman, expert on cleaning and author of Germinator: The Germ Girl’s Guide To Simple Solutions In A Germ-Filled World.

Often a shower curtain can be put into a washing machine, although cleaning in place is also feasible. This is the inside track on how to clean a shower curtain and its liner.

How to clean a cloth shower curtain

A cloth shower curtain can generally be cleaned in the washing machine, but check the laundry symbols on the tag first. If it is machine washable, remove it from the rings and put the shower curtain into the appliance on its own – don’t include any other laundry in the load.

Use warm water, a gentle cycle, and the largest load setting, advises Vera Peterson, president of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company. ‘Add three to four drops of detergent and a cup of white vinegar,’ she says. ‘Hang your curtain back on the rod to air dry once the washing cycle has finished.’

How to clean a plastic shower curtain or liner

Whether you have a plastic curtain or a shower curtain liner made from plastic, frequent cleaning is necessary.

‘Washing a shower curtain liner once a month is an important part of keeping your whole bathroom clean,’ says Clorox spokesperson and cleaning expert Mary Gagliardi, aka Dr Laundry. 

‘The liner (or the curtain if you have one that is waterproof) is basically the fourth wall of your shower, and the shower should be cleaned more than once a month, so don’t neglect the shower liner or curtain.’

A plastic shower curtain or liner can be cleaned in the washing machine, but ‘be sure to keep the washer on a cool setting, and add in a bath towel or two’, says Vera Peterson, who also recommends a gentle cycle to avoid damage. 

Remove the plastic curtain or liner from the rod, and ‘add either a half cup of color-safe bleach, detergent, vinegar or baking soda to your washing cycle’, Vera recommends. ‘Make sure not to mix any of these cleaning items, as they could cause a reaction to each other.’

Hang the liner or plastic shower curtain to air dry; you shouldn’t use the dryer for one of these. 

Let it dry fully. ‘Don’t re-install a decorative shower curtain over the liner until the liner is completely dry,’ cautions Mary.

How to clean a shower curtain in place

If you need to clean a plastic shower curtain or liner in place, pantry ingredients can be the answer. One alternative is to make a solution with one part white vinegar to four parts water in a spray bottle and apply to the fully extended curtain on the side that’s exposed to water. Rinse, and then leave to dry thoroughly.

Cleaning with baking soda is another possible solution. Sprinkle it on to a damp microfiber cloth and use to clean the side of the plastic shower curtain or liner exposed to water all over. Rinse with warm water. If any stains remain, repeat the application of baking soda and rinse again. Leave to dry.

Are you supposed to wash your shower curtain?

You are supposed to wash your shower curtain but check the tag to see how this should be done. ‘If the shower curtain is labeled washable, we use cold water with a small amount of bleach if white, or a bleach substitute if colored,’ recommends Tricia Holderman. ‘I always add sanitizer to prevent the shower curtain mold from surviving the wash cycle as well as preventing quick rebuilding.’

How often should you clean a shower curtain?

Shower curtains usually consist of two separate parts: the shower curtain itself and the liner. The latter faces towards the shower, making it much more prone to buildup of soap scum and the growth of mold, so consider cleaning this weekly; there are specific ways to get rid of shower curtain mold. The shower curtain itself requires less frequent cleaning: monthly is fine. 

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.