How Often Should You Clean Your Shower Curtain?

We took this bathroom-cleaning conundrum straight to the experts.

Some household chores are essential no matter how much we dread them, like cleaning the bathroom. And while we're quick to scrub bathtubs and toilet bowls as they're obvious culprits for hosting scum and grime, we tend to overlook other bathroom accessories that more sneakily attract mold and bacteria, like the shower curtain. We asked experts for advice on how often we should treat our shower curtains and liners to a good clean, and they delivered with plenty of tips on when and how to clean them—plus a scientific explanation of why it's so important.

How Often Should You Clean Your Shower Curtain?

Cleaning experts agree that washing your shower curtain once a month is necessary in order to reduce mold and bacteria from thriving in a humid environment. “If the bathroom is used frequently or remains humid for long periods, the more often it’s cleaned, the better,” explains Michael Rubino, a mold and air quality expert and founder of HomeCleanse. “This will help reduce the opportunity for microbial growth [because] the more moisture that is present, the higher the chance for contamination to develop.”  

For bathrooms with showers that aren't used frequently, that's not used frequently may be able to go longer periods before washing their shower curtains, if they use it less often or it’s an extra bathroom.  “Depending on the number of showers taken in a household, if it’s less than almost every day, you can wash your curtains at least every other month,” explains Alicia Sokolowski, President and Co-CEO of AspenClean. To keep bacteria at bay, Rubino recommends “spraying the shower curtain with a botanical cleaner and wiping it down once a week in between monthly washings to help avoid any microbial growth.”

Why Is Cleaning The Shower Curtain So Important?

Speckles or curious colors on a curtain or liner are signs that mold and bacteria are thriving on the humid surface. “Contaminants like mold and bacteria can grow on the surface without proper cleaning,” says Rubino. “With abundant moisture in the shower and organic material like soap scum and skin cells, the shower curtain can become prime real estate should a mold spore land on the surface.”

Some types of mold can grow very quickly—as soon as 24 to 48 hours. “Keeping the shower curtain and bath area dry is key to helping avoid microbial growth,” says Rubino. 

What's The Best Way To Clean A Shower Curtain?

When it comes time to wash your shower curtain and liner, you have a couple of options. First, check the label to see if the curtain and liner are machine washable. If so, you can place them in the washing machine with warm water and use either a natural laundry detergent or a mix of vinegar and baking soda, explains Sokolowski. After washing, hang to dry and it's ready to go. In addition to laundry detergent, Rubino suggests using EC3, a botanical laundry additive that helps pull out particles from the curtain's surface, making it easier to eliminate mold spores and bacteria. 

Both experts agree that plastic curtains or liners shouldn’t be placed in the washing machine; instead, those should be hand-washed. For this method, Sokolowski suggests sprinkling baking soda on a damp microfiber cloth, then scrubbing the curtain and rinsing with warm water before hanging to dry. Another idea? “For shower curtain liners, you can fill your tub with warm/hot water, add a tablespoon of natural laundry detergent and one-quarter of a cup of baking soda,” says Sokolowski. “Let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes then hand-wash your curtain with a microfiber cloth or a soft sponge.” Then, hang to dry.  

Tips for Keeping Your Shower Curtain Cleaner Longer

Between monthly washings, there are some things you can do to minimize the curtain from becoming a haven for microscopic growth. When you finish taking a shower, straighten the curtain and let it dry, says Sokolowski. Rubino adds that it’s important to separate the shower curtain and liner after showering so they dry properly and quickly. 

Ventilation is also important in the bathroom, so “create airflow by using the exhaust fan and cracking a door or window while showering,” says Rubino. But no amount of washing shower curtain liners trumps trading an old one for a new one, notes Rubino. Plan to replace the liner around the six-month mark.

Can Mold and Bacteria Affect a Person’s Health?

In a nutshell, yes! There are numerous species of mold. One of the most common types is Aspergillus, which is often mistakenly referred to as mildew, says Rubino. But mildew isn’t a specific kind of mold; rather, it's “a type of mold growth,” he says. “This particular species of mold can create toxic byproducts called mycotoxins, particularly ochratoxin A and aflatoxins, which are harmful to our bodies.” 

Because mold can affect a person’s health, it’s important to make cleaning the bathroom a priority to reduce unnecessary exposure.  “Mold spores, fragments, and mycotoxins are small enough to be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested into the body,” says Rubino. “The longer an individual is present in an indoor environment with microbial growth, the more particles will enter the body and potentially cause adverse health reactions.”

But each person reacts to mold and bacteria differently. “Various factors can affect how someone reacts to exposure, if they notice any changes in health, and how quickly adverse health reactions begin,” says Rubino. This means that people can be exposed to the same microbial growth and have different reactions or no reaction at all. He offers up an example: “One individual may experience an occasional headache while another develops several different chronic symptoms. This highlights the importance of considering environmental exposures as a possible culprit for chronic illness.”

So next time you notice bacteria or mold growth on your shower curtain, strip the curtain and give it a wash—your bathroom will look cleaner, and you'll reduce the chance of breathing in icky mold particles. We'll call that a win-win.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles