How to Clean a Plastic Shower Curtain the Right Way

updated Nov 29, 2023
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Clear shower curtain in classic bathroom
Credit: Laura Fenton

It’s funny how something in a place that cleans you off gets so dirty. Showers, bathroom grout, and shower curtains get hit with suds nearly every day yet still end up covered with so much grime. Cleaning them can be a confusing process, too — should they be hand washed, or can they go in a washer? Can you use bleach or spot treatment on them?

Quick Overview

How to Clean a Plastic Shower Curtain

Instead of replacing your plastic shower curtain, you can get it cleaned in three easy steps. First, remove it from all its hooks and the rod. Then, clean it in the washer utilizing regular laundry detergent or color-safe bleach for a deeper clean. Finally, hang your curtain up to dry.

Questions like these can cause a lot of frustration — and might make you just want to replace your dirty curtains every time you go to clean your shower. But to avoid adding waste to a landfill and save you some money here’s a guide to properly deep cleaning plastic shower curtains and liners. 

Ready to get started? Check out the materials and instructions below to clean that plastic shower curtain in no time!

Materials You’ll Need

  • Laundry detergent
  • Color-safe bleach
  • ½ cup of baking soda (optional)
  • ½ cup of white vinegar (optional)
  • Washing machine

How to Clean a Plastic Shower Curtain

Here’s how to get a plastic shower curtain cleaned in just three steps.

Step 1: Remove the shower curtain from its hooks and rod.

Take your curtain and liner off of the shower rod and remove all of the hooks.

Step 2: Toss your shower curtain into the washing machine.

Plastic and vinyl shower curtains can actually be cleaned in your washer, according to Merry Maids. If your shower curtain is heavily stained, treat the stains before throwing it in to wash (see our in-depth stain removal tips below).

Using your regular laundry detergent works just fine, but Home Depot’s guide states that you can include between ¼ cup to ½ cup of color-safe bleach to help deep clean (or regular bleach if your curtain or liner is already white).

Step 3: Remove your shower curtain and hang to dry.

Try to take the shower curtain and liner out as soon as the cycle ends to prevent wrinkles or musty smells from happening. Give it a shake or two, then hang it back up on the curtain rod to air-dry. Tuck or prop the curtain into your tub or shower if you need to avoid dripping on your floors.

Tip: If you want your shower curtain to dry faster, you can pat it down with a dry towel to soak up extra moisture before hanging it up. 

Removing Tough Stains

If your shower curtain or liner has stubborn stains that won’t come out, you have a few options for removing things like mildew and mold. First, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) recommends using liquid bleach or a cleaner with bleach to tackle stains. As mentioned above, you can add bleach to the wash cycle, or if that doesn’t do the trick, you can fill your tub up with warm water, take down the shower curtain, and allow it to soak in a solution of warm water and one cup of bleach for 20 to 30 minutes.

If you’d like to try a more natural method, you can add white vinegar to your wash load. Either open and add ½ cup of white vinegar to your top-loading washing machine during the rinse cycle, or you can fill your washer’s fabric softener dosing cup with white vinegar so it releases at the right time.

Lastly, if all else fails, a little extra human-powered scrubbing can help. Dampen your curtain and lay it in your tub or in the bathroom sink, then apply baking soda (or a commercial stain remover) to the affected area. Take a sponge, washcloth, or scrub brush and begin scrubbing until the mold and mildew begin to come off.

The ACI also recommends applying cleaning spray after each shower to stop mold and mildew growth before it can accumulate. Follow this prevention tip with the deep-cleaning steps above and you’ll have a sparkling clean plastic shower curtain in no time.