Lessons From a Shower Curtain

by Katy on January 22, 2022 · 44 comments

I spent an hour or so (emphasis on “or so”) scrubbing down and then bleaching my so called “mildew-free” shower curtain liner. (Oregon, amirite?) I know a lot of people would question my choice to expend so much energy on this task, but let me present my reasoning:

• Overconsumption of consumer goods is killing our planet and it’s up to us to do what we can to make our stuff last as long as possible.

• I purposely bought a thicker and slightly more expensive shower curtain liner so that it could withstand being repeatedly washed and possibly be less disposable.

• Time is not money, so screw the mindset that how we spend our time has to be justified in a monetary manner.

• Having said that, it does save me around twenty bucks every time I decide to scrub instead of replace.

The world is not going to be “saved” by me cleaning a single shower curtain, but perhaps I can help others to questions their own throwaway mindset.

For our phones, our clothes, our appliances and even our shower curtains.

Katy Wolk-Stanley    

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Joann w January 22, 2022 at 8:59 pm

I also wash my liner I “cheat” and wash it and bleach it with a load of towels in the washer. Then hsng it up to dry. My last liner I got at a yard sale it was still new in the package.


Katy January 22, 2022 at 9:15 pm

The curtain had gotten to level of grimy mildew where a simple run through the wash wouldn’t have been sufficient.


CORAL CLARKE January 22, 2022 at 9:15 pm

I always cut off the hem of shower cutain/ liner, as it’s a mildew trap.After your shower, flip it over the rail to expose the wet side and allow it to air and dry quickly. Minimal effort, huge difference.


Christine January 23, 2022 at 11:09 am

Great idea with letting the wet side air dry.


AILEEN GASSON January 23, 2022 at 3:35 am

“The world is not going to be “saved” by me cleaning a single shower curtain, but perhaps I can help others to questions their own throwaway mindset.”

My daughter would say that it is better for 1 million people to do one small thing than for one person to do a million things, so keep scrubbing away.


Kathy January 23, 2022 at 5:15 am

No shower curtains in our home. We do squeegee the shower after every use.
My husband repaired a suitcase handle vs. buying another suitcase.
Katy I’ve learned from you to upcycle boxes and envelopes for shipping


Mary January 23, 2022 at 9:46 pm

Kathy – our husband are kindred luggage-spirits. The wood “foot” replacement on a trolley case – finally pained black to match – has been the best repair from my engineer mate on an expensive suitcase. The case is at least 23 years old and the repair a good 15. We refer to this roller boy as peg-leg.


Jill A January 23, 2022 at 5:54 am

I love that you and others here are so good at reusing items others would throw away. I also clean my shower curtain liner but it’s cloth. I throw it in the washing machine. My problem instead of mildew is rust stains. We have very rusty water even with a water softener. I can’t ever get all the stains out of it even with a good soak in rust remover but I keep using it because if I get a new one it will just end up in the same condition.


Coral Clarke January 25, 2022 at 7:46 pm

I wonder if a rather random dip dye or tie dye would be a solution?


Sondra Walling January 23, 2022 at 6:57 am

I have a poly cloth one that repels water, its so easy I just spritz it occasionally with a bleach mildew cleaner and it stays bright and clean bought it in 2017…and plan to use it forever.


Ruby January 23, 2022 at 7:25 am

So much of living a frugal/low consumer life is also good for the planet. If everyone consistently scrubbed their shower curtain liners and did a couple dozen other relatively easy things, they save an appreciable amount of money and leave a far lighter footprint on the earth.

Thank you for so faithfully setting a great example, Katy.


Bee January 23, 2022 at 7:34 am

Love this! Tread lightly upon the earth.


Hawaii Planner January 23, 2022 at 8:01 am

My husband spent 8 hours this weekend repairing our 16+ year old espresso machine. It’s quite a pricey item to replace, but also, who wants to send that giant hunk of machinery to the landfill, if it can be replaced. A few people were shocked that he’d “waste” 8 hours of his time on the repair, and asking him to calculate his time, etc. He now has a new skill (after watching hours of YouTube videos) & can make additional repairs in the future, and we are back with more espresso. It’s made 20K cups so far, and it’s chugging again.


sharon January 23, 2022 at 8:01 am

Huzzah for treading lightly!
I do the same with shower curtains, machine wash plus a good scrub about every third time. I have old towels that I cut into rags that we use instead of paper towels (Paper towels are mainly for pet messes) I just spent several days rehabing a purse I love by cleaning and conditioning the leather, using shoe cream to recolor the leather (it’s purple) washing the lining and cutting away the badly damaged part of the handle and sewing the ends together. Hopefully I can get another 10+ years from the purse. All of this frugal and keeps stuff out of the landfill 🙂


Danielle C January 23, 2022 at 8:22 am

Worth the effort! And once it’s not, a sturdy shower curtain makes an awesome drop cloth for small painting projects. 🙂


Marie January 23, 2022 at 8:54 am

Yes, I save for painting too. Having a little farm, something always needs painted.


Kristen January 31, 2022 at 7:05 am

Oooh, I love this idea! Filing it away in my brain.


Shona January 23, 2022 at 8:27 am

At some point the lightbulb went off and I changed my mindset from cheap to frugal. Cheap was buying *gasp* PVC curtains at Dollar Tree. Frugal is washing, soaking, and sometimes scrubbing the 2 hand-me-down washable curtains my mom gave me about 14 years ago.


Linda January 23, 2022 at 8:59 am

Oh, I love this post & all the comments. I wash my shower curtain liner, too. And husband & I constantly try to repair rather than purchase something new. Well done!


MB in MN January 23, 2022 at 9:01 am

Like many of you, I’m all about the small things adding up to a whole lot. I do the same thing with our fabric shower curtain, which gets rusty from our water. I enjoy spending an inordinate amount of time on bringing things back to life rather than replacing them. Overconsumption is a beast to the planet – and also to our bodies, but that’s a whole other topic. Once I took the mantra “live within your means and within your seams” to heart, my discipline seemed to improve in all areas.


Denise January 24, 2022 at 2:28 am

“Live within your means and within your seams” is absolutely brilliant.

Never heard it before. It’s so true (assuming that you’re a healthy weight to start with. I’m currently losing weight after being diagnosed with a fatty liver (fat inside my liver) from being medically obese (a UK size 14, which is a US 12, I think). I’ve found a tailor who is going to deal with my better quality clothes and otherwise: that’s what belts were made for! My sister is appalled: give everything away and start again. No way. I pointed out that for sitting in my kitchen, her kitchen or gardening, who cares? For a nice lunch or dinner for birthdays etc., the tailor will work his magic. (And no, not tackling needlework; useless at it and it bores me senseless.)


Marilyn January 23, 2022 at 9:19 am

Well, yes, there is time involved in scrubbing a shower curtain, but there is also time involved in shopping for a new one. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took an hour or so to shop for a new shower curtain liner, so it’s probably “a wash.”


Susan Robinson January 23, 2022 at 9:39 am

Katy, I always buy a more expensive one, too, but I put mine in the wash with a few white bath towels and bleach them. I comes out so nice and clean! I haven’t purchased a new liner in over 2 years. I toss it in the dryer for about 5 minutes and then hang it.


SC from MN January 23, 2022 at 10:12 am

Katy, thank you for writing, “Time is not money.” I think people should factor in the amount of time it takes for an item to decompose in their calculations when making their purchases. I also am a shower curtain washer.


Selena January 24, 2022 at 7:52 pm

Time is not always money is a better saying IMHO. And sometimes, it just gets personal.


Kara January 23, 2022 at 10:23 am

I love the British “made do and mend” saying from the war. I try and throw my shower curtain in the wash every month or so (it’s fabric, not plastic). I’m reconditioning a leather purse at the moment, I’m wearing MUCH darned socks. I have noticed that the denim bathmat that I made 10 years ago has become threadbare in places. I will make another one from old jeans. I’m currently sewing a fabric twine basket (I’ve twisted the twine from scrap fabric strips) to be a plant pot cover
(like this one http://www.pinterest.com/pin/257971884897895886/)
Thanks for the post, Katy, and I’m enjoying all the comments too!


Christine January 23, 2022 at 11:07 am

I wash and sometimes scrub our shower curtains too (2 bathrooms). I find the best products for hand scrubbing the moldiest parts are a brush and either Ajax or Comet, something containing grit and bleach. For periodic washing in the washing machine I use bleach and a small amount of laundry detergent, then hang dry over the deck railing or the clothesline.
I’m currently reading The Day the World Stopped Shopping and it is eye opening. The overconsumption of goods in this country and abroad is frightening in that it is directly linked to CO2 emissions and pollution. I’m thinking if all of us were more mindful about this link it would propel us into a healthier environment. Needless to say, we would hang onto more of our hardearned $$$.


Ava January 23, 2022 at 11:12 am

Our extra heavy liner gets a regular trip through the washer with bleach. It was extra long when new so it has had a little trimmed off the bottom at times when that gets really disgusting. I hope to keep using it until the holes pull out.


Joyce January 23, 2022 at 12:41 pm

Late to the game and may be something you already know but…borax is a wonderful cleanser for mildewy things and it helps prevent it also.
I have a shower curtain liner that was more expensive and I have had it for several years…I scrub and wash it with borax and it truly no longer gets any mildew.
I try to repair everything possible, I hate shopping and waste.
Also a teaspoon of borax followed with almost boiling water down a drain will get rid of smells, and “drain gnats” horrible little buggers.


janine January 23, 2022 at 1:05 pm

I love the “Make do and Mend” mentality. I focus on our towel collection – I cut off the ragged ends and hang them back up. Some of them could be classified as vintage if any one were crazy enough to want them! I do have a couple of towels that look good enough to hang for guests.


Christine January 23, 2022 at 5:05 pm

Regarding towels…when I was volunteering at the local cat shelter we received many donations of food, litter, cleaning supplies and bedding. Among the bedding we received were used towels which we folded up and used for cat beds. I noticed almost all the donated towels were in better shape than the ones I use at home! Lol. Like you I cut off the ragged ends and strings and just keep using them. When they become threadbare they get ripped up for rags.


Heidi Louise January 24, 2022 at 7:42 am

I also work my towels until they drop. I would occasionally donate some to the art department of the local college, as they used them for clean-up around tie-dye and other projects, and I am sure washed them to use them again.


Mary in Maryland January 24, 2022 at 10:56 am

Most of our towels are ones I was asked to take to the thrift shop. I zigzag around the edges when they start to fray. We let them go when they start shedding enough lint to endanger the washing machine.


K D January 23, 2022 at 1:39 pm

Thank you for the thought provoking post. Kudos on your accomplishment.

We have fabric shower liners and have had the same ones for many years. They have pink mildew at the bottom that does not completely wash out but we keep using them anyway.

I feel a comfort in using things that are functional rather than replacing them with newer items. It’s good for the planet and the wallet. There is such a huge intersection there.


Sarah January 23, 2022 at 8:14 pm

Katy, thanks for “representing” for all of us who try to live a little lighter on the earth. I just patched my husband’s PJ pants, in a rather “interesting place” with fabric that makes us giggle cause it sure as heck doesn’t match! My son the welder brings his work pants over every couple of weeks for darning, he has one pair that is almost more patch than original pant.

We’re not just making do and mending, we are celebrating our ability to take care of ourselves and each other by putting both hands and heart to work. Let’s all keep supporting each other!


Ruby January 25, 2022 at 6:10 am

I put a whole new armpit in my husband’s favorite long-sleeved winter undershirt. No one is ever going to see that it’s dark gray and the shirt is red (faded red at this point). That repair was more comfortable for him than multiple seams to stitch together the wear.

The “donor shirt” for that project was a thrifted church camp t-shirt that had already given up the lower 3/4 of its sleeves so I could turn a short-sleeved shirt into a long-sleeved one for our son. A great $1.99 purchase!


Texasilver January 23, 2022 at 11:48 pm

My husband found a large hard shell suitcase. The handles are broken. He said he can use an old leather belt & make new handles. The telescopic handle & wheels are fine.
I find a lot of household items on the curb when I walk. My sister recently got divorced. Her exhusband took most of the kitchen items. She did not have to buy anything new as I had an inventory of silverware, microwave, toaster oven etc that I had found. All were sanitized & cleaned up for her.
My closest friend’s father died recently. The family packed up his clothes & a lg. number of pkg of incontinent briefs. I took all to the clothes closet that my church runs. The people who man the clothes closet & food pantry said hygiene items are always needed.
My old towels & bath rugs go to the local humane society.
There is always a use for discarded items in my opinion. Rather than throw them in the trash why not donate them so they can be of use to another?


Christine January 24, 2022 at 3:17 am

Good post, Katy, as always. Spot on.


Audry January 24, 2022 at 4:49 am

I was thinking if you yesterday when I turned the collar of my husband’s favorite flannel shirt. It’s at least 15 years old. We could afford to buy a new one, but why? Now it has yers of life left in it. And it’s perfectly soft after it’s years of use.


Miggs January 24, 2022 at 8:27 am

I also scrub and spray-bleach my shower liner on the reg. It’s tedious, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of the task.


cathy January 24, 2022 at 12:22 pm

Just happened to read your post while waiting for my daughter to finish her laundry so I can…wash the shower curtain and fabric liner. Sometimes the bottom of the liner does need an extra scrub, but I can’t imagine buying a PVC one that will continually off-gas or throwing out the liner just because it gets dirty. Though many people feel like “I’m just one person, what difference does it make?” I fully believe that if each of us does more and more to help the planet, cumulatively there will be progress.


Ashley Bananas January 24, 2022 at 2:36 pm

When I was in college the janitor in my dorm would throw the shower curtains in the washing machine once a week to keep them clean. I did this once at my sisters house when hers expensive cloth one had gotten moldy. She was hesitant because she was afraid it would break, but if it cleaned and could be reused was decidedly better than throwing it away without trying to clean it. It lived through the wash cycle to hang another day!


Cathy January 25, 2022 at 10:27 am

Word. There is a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment I get when I repair/clean/upcycle my belongings. I know it takes time and energy, but it’s worth it.


Kim January 26, 2022 at 3:44 pm

I also wash my cloth shower curtain liner and purchase a new only once a year or two. I used to toss these and purchase a new one every month so this is a huge improvement for me. I rec’d a stack of my favorite magazines for Christmas. I read thru them and fully enjoyed and then passed on for others to read. Magazines are really expensive today so the more people that enjoy them the better. Once everyone has read them, I donate them to the elementary school for the students to cut up for art projects. I bought an expensive leather purse thinking the quality would last me forever but unfortunately I injured my shoulder and now the purse is too uncomfortable to use. I cleaned it up with leather cleaner and it looks brand new- my niece had commented that she liked my purse so I will give it to her. I know she will appreciate it.


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