What's A Girl To Do About That Shower Curtain Smell?

Gotta be honest, we love a good bubble bath as much as the next girl. But during the week, it's all about the shower! However, once we started researching the chemicals in shower curtains, it really made us think twice. It made us love the gorgeous shower-curtain-free bathroom remodel by Joanna Gaines on Fixer Upper (yup, we're fans! Can we be besties?) even more! 

You're probably familiar with the smell of a new, plastic shower curtain. The smell lingers a little bit, but according to a recent study the smell is actually 108 chemicals being released into the air you are breathing. This is 16 times greater than the recommended indoor air quality! These chemicals include dioxide, phthalates, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and can linger for at least a month and up to one year, and can linger much longer after the smell has gone away.

In addition to chemicals off-gassing throughout the day, dioxide is a carcinogen released when PVC (what most shower liners are made of) is heated... so basically any time you take a hot shower your chemical exposure goes up. Not cool : (  

Phthalates, which are among several chemicals commonly found in personal care products, are known endocrine disruptors and can mess with your hormones. Again, not cool.

All those chemicals just because you wanted to take a nice hot shower! 

So what's girl to do about that shower curtain smell? There are a few alternatives to all this nastiness... If you're ever doing a bathroom remodel, look for options that don't need a shower curtain (sliding doors, glass doors, creative architecture, etc). We're sure Joanna Gaines has plenty of ideas ; ) 

Jonna Gaines makes gorgeous bathrooms that don't need shower curtains! The question is whether we'd miss a shower too much!

Jonna Gaines makes gorgeous bathrooms that don't need shower curtains! The question is whether we'd miss a shower too much!

If you're stuck needing a shower curtain, here are some options:

1) If you have to buy a plastic shower curtain, purchase one made with PEVA or HDPE (meaning PVC and VOC-free, breathable and mildew resistant) shower curtains. An example would be these shower curtain liners from InterDesign. Notice how it still says "mildew-free?" That's a clue it is not the cleanest version you can find, BUT it is still so much better than a regular PVC shower curtain. So if this is what you get, that's still a win! 

2) There is a lot of greenwashing (using words on labels that sound good but aren't really true about the product). Use the smell test in the store. The stronger the smell is through the packaging the more you do not want it! 

3) 100% nylon plastic shower curtains are another choice that is PVC free, but they are still not the best because a) they are made out of plastic b) still contain some harsher chemicals c) and have a lasting environmental impact.

4) Avoid buying shower curtains with labels of "mold and mildew resistant." That means extra chemicals are added to shower liner and who needs that? Not us! TIP: No one likes mildew, so when you get out of the shower, lightly spray the bottom of shower curtains with some tea tree essential oil (add several drops to a small spray bottle of water - the more drops the stronger the scent and disinfecting capabilities. About 5-10 drops should do it depending on how big your bottle is). We also spray the corners of the tub and we've found this really cuts down on the mold and mildew that tries to grow there!  

5) For the go-getter crafter, you can make your own shower curtains! Have to be honest, this didn't occur to us, lol, but it is a fun idea and it is supposedly super simple. You just rub beeswax over the surface of your fabric of choice to repel water.

Sustainable idea: Use old bed sheets? Anyone? PLEASE tell us if you try this!

Here are some great alternatives that don't require crafting, ha!  

  1. Rawganique shower curtains are made out of hemp. It was a little weird for us to see "cannabis" in the description of these shower curtains. But really, it's a legitimately good fabric option! Hemp shower curtains are pricey, but they are supposed to last a lifetime and work effectively.
  2. Coyuchi has several organic cotton shower curtain options. These don't need a liner, but should be wrung out if they get too wet and can be washed. Organic cotton is amazing, but still requires a bit more resources to grow than hemp and can hold onto water for a little bit longer in your shower. Still a totally SHE option!
  3. Solray Wellness  offers hemp shower curtains that are 100% pesticide-free Romanian hemp shower curtain or liner.
  4. Are Naturals also has a fair trade, organic cotton shower curtain and several hemp shower curtains available. They have plenty of eco-friendly products so be sure to check them out!
  5. Pottery Barn offers shower curtains made of 100% organic cotton.

If you are skipping a liner, keep your bathroom well-ventilated ad after you are done showering, gently squeeze water out of the bottom, turn a fan, on or crack open a window.

Those are some places to start! Let us know if you have any favorites or products you've found! 

Live well,

Heather & Jennifer