Let’s talk about…shower curtains

Update: Once again, readers of this blog have responded with some brilliant ideas. Thank you all so much, and readers, I encourage you to check the Comments section. I am more concerned about using and tossing plastic than I am about spending twenty bucks on a new shower curtain. I’ve gotten some great ideas here and will look into the hotel shower curtain option that many readers recommend. It reminds me of how much writing this blog is an interaction, and it feels like having hundreds of super smart girlfriends. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts.

I’m having one of those Compact condundrums. Our shower curtain is getting pretty ratty and I’m ready to buy a new one. The problem is that this is not an item that fares well in the “buy used, make yourself, make it do, or do without” universe. I actually remember reading that some of the original Compacters broke ranks over a shower curtain dilemma.

Since we use what is essentially a liner, it wouldn’t matter if I made our own because we’d still need the liner. Plus I don’t sew. Doing without is not an option without flooding the bathroom floor, and I’ve never heard of buying a used shower curtain. Kind of gross, unless you could find it still in its package at Goodwill or somewhere, cast off by someone who decided they didn’t like the pattern. But it would take a long time to find such a specific item, since I don’t go to Goodwill that often and haven’t been “looking out for it.”

We have managed to “make it do” by using it probably an unhygienic length of time (a couple of years?) and I manage to lengthen the lifespan of a shower curtain by washing it once in the washing machine. I’ve tried twice, but that seems to destroy its future as a dropcloth.

That’s how we recycle shower curtains: my husband uses them as an outdoor dropcloth for all manner of painting and other projects until they are literally falling apart. At this point it makes its final journey to the trash bin.

Is there an alternative to manufacturing and tossing these things once every 2 or 3 years? If there is, I’d like to know about it.

What do you use for shower curtains, and how do you dispose of them? Please share your ideas in the Comments section.


  1. Elaine says

    Well, I’m not in the Compact, I’m just frugal, so buy a new one when I need it. I hang on to them a really long time, too. I was so happy to find out you could throw them in the washing machine. That extended the life of my shower curtain (which was a liner) for a long, long time.

    When they’re no longer usable in the shower, they become drop cloths.

    Unless you switch to baths, or install shower doors, I don’t see how you can do without a shower curtain or at least a liner. It prevents damage from water, so I see it as a necessity.

  2. says

    In my opinion, the only way to avoid shower curtain liners is to have a shower with a door and panel walls. I’ve seen this installed around a tub/shower once, although personally I didn’t like the look and it made using the tub as a tub impractical. When you wash it in your washing machine, do you use cold water on delicate and throw in an old towel with it? I find I can wash them quite a few times that way (and normally they die by having to many ring holes ripped, not from washing).

  3. sandy says

    About 20 years ago I purchased a cloth shower curtain liner like many hotels use. I bought white so that I could bleach it. i have used it for 20 years and it is still going strong. I just take it down periodically and wash and bleach it and then put it back up. Recently I bought another so that I could trade off and not have to wash it and rehang it in the same day. I got it online on sale for about 15 dollars. That works out cheaply when you consider how long they last. I also like that it is not “plastic”. And yes, it does work well even though it is cloth based.

  4. Tracy says

    I finally got sick of this dilema too. I purchased the kind of shower curtain that they now use in hotels/motels. They are kind of like a fabric material but still keep the water in. I bought two..one for the outside and one for the inside of the shower that stays in the tub. You can take these down about once a month..wash and hang dry. Mine have been around for over two years of this with four people using the same shower daily…and the floors stayed dry. I don’t know if you could find them at a goodwill store but I think being able to use these for longer than the plastic ones is worth having to buy new.

  5. says

    I have a liner I don’t want to throw away. I say I’ll use it as a dropcloth, which is kind of funny cause I don’t do any painting.

  6. Diane says

    I stay at Holiday Inn Express often. They have a new type of (cloth) shower curtain that has mesh inset diagonally at the top which allows steam to escape so the curtain doesn’t billow and stick to you while showering. I love them. Could you check out a nearby Holiday Inn Express and ask to buy a gently used one? Used, not plastic, good looking, functional, durable – sounds compact-y (-ish) enough for me.
    Otherwise, have you considered asking for one on freecycle?

    • Angela says

      Thanks Diane. I’m going to look into those cloth shower curtains. They sound really practical and I would love to give up the plastic, for environmental reasons.

    • Angela says

      Nancy, This looks really nice. I might give that a try because I do love Gaiam sheets. Still using a set I purchased 3 years ago.

  7. says

    Hi Angela – great post. Last year we had to replace our shower curtain and Boyfriend does not share my enthusiasm for thrift store shopping, or making do or recycling or …..
    So we ended up buying a plastic curtain.
    Before we had a nice cloth shower curtain but BF redid our bath and the old curtain no longer matched the colors in the bath.
    I donated the old cloth curtain to Goodwill. It was very nice and very expensive when we purchased it six years ago.
    Good luck with finding something Compact worthy and fantastic!

    • Angela says

      Hi Tammy, my first online friend! How are you? Thanks for commenting. I always get such great ideas from blogs and my readers. Hope you are well and happy.

  8. says

    I”m just going to echo a few others: invest in a good quality cloth liner that you can wash on a regular basis. While I don’t like the store, I got ours (I think it’s a nylon mix?) at Bed Bath and Beyond, and it was pricey, but much better than purchasing something cheap (or even plastic-y) that ends up being thrown away. If/when I need to replace it, I’m planning to turn any undamaged material into toiletry bags for travel. But it’s lasted for two years now, and I think it could last a decade if it wants to.

    re: finding shower curtains at Goodwill, I’ve had pretty good luck there (I found a Dwell Studio curtain for $5, they retail for $60, it was a REALLY good evening there), but I don’t think it’s gross to buy a non-packaged one, not if you wash it properly in hot water. I’m pretty confident of the quality control Goodwill has, I rarely see anything non-purchasable on their shop floor.

  9. Jean says

    I have to chime in with those who have recommended the hotel cloth shower curtain–these get washed at hotels in commercial washers that are much harder on them than your home washer will be, and they last forever! Loved the comment about using the fabric for something else when it got too worn–that has lots of possibilities. When you divide the years of use into the price of this, you aren’t going to do much better with a plastic liner and then you’ve contributed more plastic to the landfills.

    • Angela says

      Jean, I would love to contribute less plastic to the landfill. If you use a hotel-style shower curtain, could you please share where you bought it?

  10. Rhonda says

    I was interested in the comments here, as have been wondering about this myself. Where does one fine these cloth hotel-type shower curtains? Sounds like and interesting option.

  11. Angela says

    Yes, please, Sandy, Tracy, Diane, or Jean- where does one purchase these curtains? Names of stores and/or links would be invaluable. I will add to the post or write another.

    thank you all!

  12. rosa rugosa says

    I tried to post a couple of links, but I think I got spam-filtered out. The Vermont Country Store catalog has a couple of options you might like.

  13. Kat says

    We bought our 100% Nylon shower curtain liner at Bed Bath and Beyond about 2 1/2 years ago when we decided we didn’t want to use the vinyl liners anymore, since they needed to be replaced so often. I throw it in the washer every few weeks and it still looks good as new. Even though it was a bit more pricey than the typical vinyl liners, it will last much longer with somewhat regular washings. We use it along with a high quality cloth outer shower curtain that my husband bought probably 10 years ago and they both still look great! I don’t see an exact match on B, B & B’s website anymore, but they may not have put the company name in the description. It is “Excell Home Fashions” 100% nylon shower curtain.

    This may be it: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=13294119&RN=12&

    It looks like they have a few other options that might be more resilient as well now: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/stylePage.asp?RN=12&

    Good luck in your search!

  14. Saymoi says

    Hi Angela, I don’t know if you’re still looking, but I found my washable liner at Marshall’s and I’m pretty sure I paid under $10.

  15. Allison says

    I asked for a hemp shower curtain for my birthday two years ago. I liked it better than the polyester option because it was heavier (no billowing and clinging) and organic natural fiber. It was seriously expensive, but I figured it would probably last forever. So far I’ve needed to wash and bleach it once. It’s fabulous. Don’t remember where we got it, but I remember finding several choices online.


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