How To Clean A Plastic Shower Curtain & Mat

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Grunge was cool in the 90s, not in your shower.  Just sayin’. If you have a shower, there’s a really good chance you have a shower mat and shower curtain liner.  And, there’s a super good chance that you haven’t washed them (lately or ever).

These plastic shower accoutrements get quite dirty over time.  Let’s explore why:

  • They live in your shower, and your shower is a damp, warm place (mold and mildew <3 this).
  • They are situated among bacteria, hard water, soap scum and body oils
  • I could go on, but these are the two key reasons.

Showers are damp and warm and what a perfect environment for mold and mildew to cultivate.  Mold and mildew come in a variety of colours, but the most common ones you’ll see in the bathroom are pinky/orange and greyish/brown.  Mold and mildew are not indicative of a ‘dirty’ shower per se, but they don’t help in creating a clean looking shower.  And, your shower will become dirtier as the mold and mildew builds up (because you are not cleaning it away), but the initial onset of the stuff doesn’t mean you are showering in some sort of pig sty.  To be clear, soap scum is the true indicator of a dirty shower – oh, have you seen that video yet?

So here is the lowdown friends, the simple and easy way to clean your plastic shower curtain (and shower curtain liners) as well as plastic shower mats so that they stay clean and mildew-free.

What you’ll need:

  1. Laundry detergent
  2. 1 cup of baking soda
  3. Washing machine
  4.  2-3 towels (ideally light coloured or white).
  5. Optional: 10 drops of tea tree oil (which can kill mold and mildew).

Here’s What to do:

  1. Carefully remove the plastic shower curtains from hooks and peel up shower mat, take them to your washing machine (pretty easy so far).
  2. Place them in your washing machine, along with the 2 towels.  Add regular detergent and a cup of baking soda (and tea tree oil).
  3. Wash on the gentle cycle
  4. Re-hang the plastic shower curtain to air dry, and hang the shower mat to allow all the water to dry off.  The towels can go in the dryer.

DONEZO.

So what just happened here?  Let’s re-cap:

The towels act as a buffer between the washing machine and the delicate plastic curtain.  They also assist in scrubbing away dirt and mildew during the washing process.  The baking soda is a mild abrasive that will further scrub away the moldy gunk and will also help deodorize any funk that’s been growing in the plastic.  Your total time involved here is under 10 minutes.  You will feel great in your much cleaner shower!

This can be done 4 times a year.  So often we think it’s easier to buy a new item, but hopefully this changes your mind.  All they need is a little TLC!

A couple of other tips to keep your plastic shower items clean and mold/mildew free:

  1. Drying the shower zone stat:  Once you are done your shower, remember to spray the tub, tiles and curtain with a daily shower spray (to inhibit mold growth) LINK HERE TO THE VIDEO, and to ventilate the space well to promote quick drying and moisture removal.
  2. Optimal positioning: My mother always requested that we peel up the shower mat after a shower and that we left the shower curtains closed so that they could properly dry.  This helped in reducing mold and mildew as well.  My mother is totally reading this and saying something like ‘see, I told you so’. Yes mom, you did.  You were right.
  3. Cleaning your sponges and bath/shower accessories: this is just extra info because I am sure some of you are curious!  Visit our post on 10 great uses for vinegar to learn how to do this!

Run along now and clean your plastic shower parts and report back!

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.

95 COMMENTS

  1. Another simple ritual: my liner has magnets along the bottom so it sticks to the metal of my shower tub, keeping it in place as I shower. If you have the same, after your shower, spray and squeegee your liner, give it a light shake to get the drips off. Next, (from outside the tub, as a last step) in the middle of the curtain push the magnet on the bottom to the opposite side of the tub. This allows the liner to be taught as it dries and the remaining water drips off easier.

  2. How often do you clean the liner, assuming you shower.1-2 times a day? I don’t do things unless.they are on a schedule. I put clean liner task to repeat every 6 months for now, but your insight would be appreciated.

  3. I use a $5 liner and spray liner and shower with Lysol about every second shower. This keeps mold away. When liner gets yukky, I buy a new $5 one.

  4. Not sure how great a fix this can be if you’re using your washing machine with cold water to wash this. I know you’re going to say the baking soda is the main product used to disinfect in this case, but really, all your doing is spreading the bacteria around – AND putting directly on your towels and inside your washing machine so… i pass on this idea.
    I was hoping for a better fix than this.

    • Hi Sam. Read your comment and as far as spreading the bacteria onto your towels, put them with your whites and add Clorox and detergent. That should kill any bacteria.

  5. Hi Melissa! I stumbled upon your page yesterday and let me say I am obsessed! LOL! I am watching videos taking notes… you have some great advice! Definitely love this video…I seemed to have done it the hard way in the past.Thank you for your wonderful videos and blogs! You seem to have personality…again love all the videos!

  6. Sounds like the destroyed curtains may have been washed in a top loader rather than a front loader. She really didn’t say which she had used but the agitating possibly caused the destruction!

    A great tip I use to clean rancid stained body oil from sheets and pillow cases is to soak them in a solution of hot water from tap and a 1/4 cup of dishwasher detergent (like Finish, I prefer the powder) dissolved with enough water to cover articles in a tub container or sink. Let soak for approx one hour, squeeze out and place in washer, u can just pour the container/tub with detergent and sheets in if you prefer, (althought you will be shocked at how much dirt n oil comes out of sheets into the tub). Place half the regular detergent you normally would add either top or front load washer and you will be amazed how much cleaner they will be. I found this worked when looking for a solution to get the body oils out of sheets when my daughter was working at a spa and they were going to have to throw away all their sheets! I used it at home because of meds my husband takes makes him have night sweats and was ruining our sheets!

    Hope this helps others, I also use the same solution to hand wash my car as it breaks down the road grime and gunk!

  7. O my gosh! I love how my shower curtain came out so clean looking, feeling and smelling! Thank you for all your help! My husband is a cleaning novice and I email your videos occasionally to him so he can learn the basics. You’re entertaining enough that he will actually watch them!

  8. My apartment collects tons of dust – daily. If I don’t clean the bathroom for a few days there’s already a pile of dust. Why is this and is there any way I can keep it up without having to clean it every few days??? Help

  9. Just tried on a clear liner from my son’s college apartment and it works like a charm. The shower curtain has been in a tiny no ventilated bathroom from Sept-Dec with 5 young men. Needless to say it was gross. I used an HE washer on delicate with a little clear “ALL” and baking soda with a bath mat and towel and the liner is clean. This saved me time and money. It’s a Christmas miracle

  10. Melissa, You are by far the BEST thing on the internet. And I know that you know that the Internet is a really BIG Place. You’re better than YOUTUBE, bigger than Rock-n- Roll, more useful than FACEBOOK and we are lucky to be able to access this great way to clear the crap in our spaces! PEACE!
    Thanks!

  11. I cleaned my plastic shower curtain on the low cycle with cold water cause I wasn’t sure if hot water would melt it or not. It came looking almost clean, I’d say about 95% of the bottom came out spotless but there still big orange spots in certain places. Though I must say it looks cleaner.

    • Same thing happened to me. I have a blue stripped curtain add it took a lot of the strips & feels sticky. 😢

    • I’ve used this method, and it works fine on plastic liners (both clear and opaque) and on my beige fabric curtain. It did remove the pattern from another plastic curtain that had a green bamboo print on it. This may be because of the baking soda, or perhaps just the agitation in the washer, so from now on I’ll keep patterned plastic curtains out of the washer.

  12. I just put the liner in the washer with old white towels and Clorox. To keep the ceramic tiles from getting soap scum, use a liquid auto wax. Apply the wax, wait a minute or two, and then polish with a terry cloth towel.

  13. I like your videos. Would you like to do one on bathroom mats like the fluffy colored ones? Any extra tips would be great! Thank you for all your helpful blogs! 🙂

  14. I was watching your video on my samsung s3 and it doesn’t play correctly.I watched some others in attempts to find out if it was my phone and they all played correctly. just wanted to let you know.

  15. Wow!! Amazing!! My shower curtains got the comment of “newly bought’ from my husband Thanks a lot for your videos, they’ve changed my life 🙂

    • I’ve seen other posts people specifically say to put it on a delicate or hand wash cycle (depending on what is available on your machine)

  16. I did it but with out the baking soda and vinegar and I was happy with the results but I will need to add those items to my home cleaning shopping list.

  17. Wow, that makes me feel tired! It is good to have a nice fresh house though. summer in Sydney means a lot of wind or heat, so it is good for getting washing dry as long as you time it right, between showers and get it in before the late afternoon dew.

  18. A critical point: Ours was a front-loading washer. I suspect that was a factor, since the weight is distributed differently from a top-loader.

  19. Didn’t work. We just finished, and it left small holes in the curtain. The folding, spinning and weight of the towels folded the plastic tightly in miscellaneous places, and at those points the plastic cracked through. Looks like we’ll need to buy a new curtain. Apparently there are constraints you haven’t worked out or clarified—perhaps such as how soft the plastic must be to come through unscathed.

      • You Have to use warm water setting. Cold water will make the curtain crack. If you machine is preset to cold for the rinse cycle ( like mine is), you’ll need to stop the machine before the rinse cycle. Run the wash cycle again to rinse the curtain. Once again stop the machine before the rinse cycle begins.

  20. Works great! I have a clear vinyl shower curtain that was opaque from soap scum. Followed your instructions with a top-loading washing machine, regular setting, cold water, and only filled the washing machine half way. The curtain gets wrinkly but it is clean, clean, clean!

  21. I spray my bath mat with a mixture of 1/2 C Hydrogen Peroxide, 1/2 C rubbing alcohol, a tablespoon of Dawn and a tablespoon of dishwasher rinse. Fill with water in a spray bottle. First spray off the shower doors then spray both side of the math and hang it over the doors. I will probably toss into washer as you suggested with drying mat and the towels, when it’s getting raunchy. (Only a month old now!)

  22. I have tried this method before, but didn’t know about the tea tree oil. I’m cleaning my shower liner today. Can’t wait to see how this works!

  23. I just found and used this solution today! I had no idea a plastic shower curtain could be washed! I was afraid my favorite shower curtain was going to have to be thrown away! Before changing to the shower curtain I bought and “settled for”, I decided to google cleaning a shower curtain. Your solution was not only easy, but it worked! I even used expired baking soda and it still worked! Thank you soooooo much for helping me save my favorite shower curtain! I can’t wait to tell my friends and family all about it!

  24. as much as i hate a dirty shower curtain, i hate your video much more. seriously, why do you have to be so annoying. if you really want to be cute that badly, try being yourself. plastic cute cute makes the world more plastic and we all know how toxic plastic is. i would rather have my curtain mildew than watch your video.

  25. Tried your method today and it worked amazingly! Our vinyl shower curtain came out like new–clear, shiny, with all the water stains and mildew gone. The tea tree oil worked swimmingly. The shower curtain came out smelling great. It’s like new –such a simple and easy method. Thank you. I’m so happy with the results.

  26. Just tried this method for first time. I put both our plastic shower liners with 2 towels and tea trea oil and soda in washer, with a mat. I’d say this method got 98% of the mold and mildew off. I was super pleased. Perhaps doing both shower curtains at once was too much. Next time I may go for 100% and just do one curtain at a time. Thanks!

  27. I followed your instructions for the shower liner. However, there was much residue, I think it was the baking soda from the grittiness I felt. I wonder if less baking soda would be better? You do not mention this happening in your comments…

  28. Just did this and it worked awesome. I did it in the regular load on warm in a top load washer. I washed a clear curtain liner so I wasn’t concerned with scratching a pattern.

  29. This works so well! Thank you soooo much. I thought I would have to go out and buy another one, but now I don’t! (:

  30. Hi, Melissa! I love your videos. Here’s my question: what kind of bath mat do you use? Mine is cotton and it’s not very absorbent.

  31. This was not so successful for me. In washing, all the magnets on the shower curtain came off. Also, instead of towels, I decided to use the bathroom mats (material was close enough to towels). Should have thought that one through because I ended up with dachshund-fur-covered shower curtains with no magnets.

  32. I have a top loading washer – will the towels still protect my shower curtain? I used to wash shower curtain liners in the washer, but last time I tried, it was ruined. I’ve never used towels in there with it, though, so I’m hoping that solves the problem…?

  33. Thank you Melissa for teaching us very effective and practical ways for cleaning. I am learning a lot from you. I love cleaning! Better to say, I love when my space is clean!

  34. Hi Melissa
    Just washed my shower curtains and have them hanging to dry They look great! But I thought you put tennis balls that have been put into white sock, so that the yellow dye from the tennis balls don’t bleed and give your shower curtains a funny yellow colour? Please help me remember into what wash do I add the tennis balls!

  35. I would always find washing my shower curtain and bath mat in the washing machine, most of the time it would be great, especially the shower curtain but not so much the shower mat as some mould would always remain. I had never thought of using baking soda though, definitely going to try your technique next time. Thanks!

  36. I’ve been washing my shower curtain for several years (love doing that since it’s a map of the world shower curtain which is way cheaper to clean than to replace). Thanks for the tips on the baking soda and towels! Will definitely try that next time I wash it… which should be soon since every morning I say “hmm, it’s about time to wash the world again.”

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