Pay Attention to That Mold Behind the Curtain! A Shower-Curtain Cleaning How-To

by Judy Beasley
Dark mold streaks on an interior plastic shower curtain in a light aqua bathroom

We all love a nice clean shower to step into first thing in the morning or at the end of a long day. But in addition to that warm, steamy, soothing shower washing away your cares for a few minutes, it also leaves something behind: moisture.

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That moisture can facilitate the development of mold and mildew in the shower and bathtub area. And that’s why, as you’ve no doubt noticed, your shower curtain eventually looks grimy and gross.

What Causes Mold on My Shower Curtain?

After you shower, turn the water off and exit, moisture lingers. That moisture remains on all the surfaces in the bathroom, contributing to the development of mold and mildew on the surfaces of your shower curtain and liner, walls and grout.

The best defense against mold and mildew is a good offense. You can purchase moisture-absorbing products to keep in your bathroom. Also, pre-washing your shower curtain before you hang it for the first time will help prevent the development of mold and mildew, and discourage the accumulation of soap scum.

How Do I Remove Mold From a Fabric Shower Curtain?

Because mold and mildew spores get into the fibers and stain them, removing them from a fabric shower curtain can be more challenging than cleaning a plastic curtain. However, mildew-resistant fabric curtains and liners are available.

If you have mold and mildew on an existing curtain, all is not lost. Mix a solution with 2 cups of hydrogen peroxide and 1 cup of water in a spray bottle, spray it onto the fabric and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then, scrub the fabric gently with a soft brush without, taking care not to damage the fabric as you do.

Another effective solution to use for removing mold and mildew from a fabric curtain is composed of equal parts Borax cleaning powder and warm water. Rub the solution into the stain. Use a soft brush on the spot, scrubbing gently and, again, being careful not to damage the fabric.

How Do I Clean a Shower-Curtain Liner?

To help prevent the growth of mold and mildew, both the shower curtain and the liner can be washed in your washing machine using warm (not hot) water prior to being hung. You can use a gentle detergent, baking soda or distilled white vinegar — though you should avoid combining these cleaning agents.

Recently, I used detergent and OxiClean, throwing the plastic liner in with a load of whites in the wash. The towels provided scrubbing action and the liner came out completely clean. Regardless of the cleaning product you use, adding a small amount of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle will help prevent the regrowth of mold and mildew. Remove the curtain from the washer and hang it over the shower rod to dry. Important note: Do not put a plastic curtain or liner in a dryer.

If you prefer to hand wash the shower curtain or liner: Working in the tub, sprinkle baking soda onto a microfiber cloth and wipe down the shower curtain. Rinse it with warm water and retreat any remaining stubborn areas.

What Is Soap Scum and How Do I Get Rid of It?

Soap scum forms when hard water combines with soap residue and dirt to form a scaly stain on bathroom surfaces. There are brand-name cleaners you can purchase for removing soap scum, or you can prepare your own using non-toxic household ingredients.

To remove soap scum from bath and shower surfaces, combine equal portions of distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle, and add 1 tablespoon of dish detergent. Spray the solution onto shower walls and doors. Leave it for 15 minutes, then follow up by scrubbing with a soft brush.

Keep Your Eco-Conscious Conscience Clean, Too

Distilled white vinegar, baking soda, dish detergent, Borax and oil-based castile soap are all cleaners that work well and are less caustic than bleach or ammonia. Simple, non-toxic cleaners may take a little more time and effort, but they’re better for the environment. Whichever you choose, be sure to read and follow the directions.

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Prevent Mold and Mildew

As the saying goes: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are ways to help prevent the development of mold and mildew on bathroom surfaces in the first place. Most of them have to do with eliminating or reducing moisture in the air and on the surfaces. These measures include:

  • Keeping the household humidity below 50%
  • Using a moisture-absorbing product such as DampRid in your bathroom
  • Prewashing or pretreating your shower curtain and liner before hanging them
  • Purchasing mildew-resistant fabric curtains and liners
  • Removing bottles of shampoo and body wash as well as children’s toys and other clutter from the shower and tub area, as these items have surfaces that invite the development of mold and mildew
  • Using a plastic liner (even if you have a plastic shower curtain, too) to provide a barrier between your curtain and the moisture in the shower area
  • Taking the time to squeegee and wipe down with a towel the surfaces in the shower and tub area after each use
  • Using airflow, like for example leaving the exhaust fan running, to remove moisture when you leave the shower area
  • Sticking to a regular cleaning schedule as opposed to waiting until you see mold, mildew or soap scum on the surfaces
  • Immediately replacing caulking and grout that show mold and mildew growth and stains

Remember to Clean Shower-Curtain Rings

Once you’ve gone to all the trouble of cleaning the curtain, liner, and shower and tub surfaces, don’t forget the curtain rod and rings. You can use the solution of vinegar, water and dish detergent you’ve already prepared for the curtain. Spray a microfiber cloth with the solution and wipe the rod. Soak the shower rings in a sink filled with warm water and a cup of distilled white vinegar while the curtain is in the wash. Scrub the rings with a brush to remove any residue.

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