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Why you Need a Nontoxic Shower Curtain – The Best PVC-Free Shower Curtains

If you’re trying to remove toxins from your home, you need to consider a non toxic shower curtain! Discover the best nontoxic shower curtains and what materials to avoid when shopping for a shower curtain or shower liner.

Okay, so I completely understand if you’re doing a bit of an eye roll at me for talking about nontoxic shower curtains. I get it. My husband used to look at me like I’m crazy when I mentioned things like that, too! 

Since my husband started learning more about the chemicals and pollution in our homes, he’s gotten on board with making swaps to nontoxic household items. I think after reading about the potentially harmful chemicals lurking in many shower curtains, you’ll be ready for a nontoxic shower curtain, too!

nontoxic shower curtainsToxins can come from many different things in your house. Plastics, for example, can leach chemicals into your food, especially if you microwave your meals in plastic or put plastics in the dishwasher. (Did you know that Consumer Reports advises against putting plastics in the dishwasher with hot water or a heated dry?)

Other toxins come from off-gasing. For example, according to the EPA, new rugs, carpets, and furniture can release potentially harmful gasses. And that new shower curtain smell? It probably contains pollutants! There are so many potentially toxic ingredients and chemicals in our homes today that, according to the American Lung Association, indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air.

Off-gasing is how conventional shower curtains with PVC can affect your family and health. 

This post includes affiliate links, which means I may make a commission on purchases made through links at no additional cost to you.

Toxic ingredients in shower curtains

First, let’s take a look at some of the problematic ingredients in many shower curtains. If you’re like me and have a skeptical family member at home, this section can help you convince them it’s time to make a switch!

In 2008, the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice released the results from a laboratory study that analyzed vinyl shower curtains from major retailers like Walmart, Target, and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Study findings included:

  • 108 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were released into the air over 28 days.
  • The Total VOCs recorded was 16 times greater than the recommended limits according to the US Green Building Council.
  • The Total VOCs of the WalMart shower curtain were so high they completely saturated the equipment and testing had to stop to keep the equipment from being damaged.
  • The study was done under laboratory conditions and did not replicate the heat and humidity of taking a shower. Researchers posit that even more (!) chemicals would be released during actual use.
  • Seven of the chemicals found are classified as hazardous air pollutants by the EPA under the Clean Air Act.
  • “Consumers should avoid purchasing shower curtains made with PVC, and should not buy shower curtains that are not labeled with their content.” (source)

Since I’m a mom with a young toddler, this pull quote also caught my eye:

“The brain is a major target for VOCs, causing everything from headache and loss of concentration to learning disabilities in children whose mothers were exposed before their birth, as shown in a recent Canadian study. Since there are safe alternatives to vinyl shower curtains, such exposures should always be avoided,” said David O. Carpenter, M.D., of the Institute for Health & The Environment at the University at Albany, SUNY. (source)

vinyl shower curtain

Is vinyl toxic?

Vinyl is toxic at all stages of it’s lifecycle. It is hazardous to manufacture, use, and to dispose of.

Polyvinyl chloride not only emits harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs, as mentioned in the study above). It is made with a toxic petroleum-derived chemical called vinyl chloride.

Vinyl chloride can cause a variety of health problems. According to the National Cancer Institute, exposure to vinyl chloride can increase the risk of a form of liver cancer, brain and lung cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia. If you want to know more about vinyl chloride and its myriad problems, I recommend reading the EPA vinyl chloride fact sheet. 

PVC can also contain lead, cadmium, and dioxins (among other hazardous chemicals!). Dioxin is a known human carcinogen and a persistent environmental pollutant (or POP) that accumulates in the food chain because it is lipophilic. This means dioxins accumulate in animal fats, which is why they move up the food chain. (By contrast, some pollutants, like phthalates, actually have a pretty short half life in the human body.) 

Obviously, vinyl isn’t used only in shower curtains. Vinyl with PVC is used for a variety of things, including upholstery, raincoats, school supplies, food packaging (!), and toys (!!).

PVC-free shower curtains

PVC-free shower curtains

Let’s take a look at two PVC-free shower curtain/shower curtain liner options: polyester shower curtains and nylon shower curtains.

I hesitate to call these nontoxic because polyester and nylon are both synthetic materials made from petrochemicals. Thousands of chemicals are used to produce synthetic textiles. Some of them wash off, which pollutes waterways, and some of them don’t, which puts you at continued risk. 

Almost 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make polyester and, since it’s a synthetic material, it takes 200+ years to decompose. Nylon production is energy intensive and requires three times as much electricity as cotton to produce. Nylon is not biodegradable and is a major source of microplastics pollution. 

All that having been said…at least polyester and nylon aren’t PVC/vinyl. If a natural fiber, truly nontoxic shower curtain seems like too much of a leap for you at this time, these fabrics are better choices than vinyl shower curtains.

If you want a truly natural, nontoxic shower curtain or liner, please skip past these suggestions and take a look at the next section with shows curtains made from natural materials!

This post includes affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through one of these links I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Polyester shower curtains

Polyester shower curtains are very common and popular. They dry quickly and are mildew resistant. As mentioned above, they’re a synthetic material, which means they aren’t as “good” for you and the environment, but they’re not PVC.

If you decide to buy a polyester shower curtain, make sure to avoid purchasing one that contains triclosanTriclosan may not be specifically mentioned on the label – be on the lookout for band names like Microban and the key phrase “antimicrobial.” 

Also make sure to avoid polyester shower curtains with water repellant treatments. These treatments are typically made from fluoropolymers, which may be harmful. Polyester is not inherently waterproof, so if the shower curtain says its waterproof, it’s been coated with something.

It’s very easy to find polyester shower curtains – just be on the lookout for those antimicrobial claims and water repellant treatments that actually signal harmful chemicals! I had a difficult time finding non-treated shower curtains to include in this post, so it can take some label reading. 

This polyester and cotton blend shower curtain seems to be the best bet. It claims it doesn’t have any type of coating, which is a big plus! The waffleweave fabric is attractive and the shower curtain is machine washable.

Nylon shower curtains

Like polyester, nylon isn’t as eco-friendly as natural material shower curtains. Nylon dries fairly quickly and is mildew resistant, so it’s easier to care for than a natural material shower curtain. Nylon shower curtains are typically machine washable. Washing it regularly can help keep your nylon shower curtain clean and free from mold and mildew.

While Nylon doesn’t contain PVC, it is produced from petrochemicals and is very energy intensive to make. It also doesn’t break down, which adds to plastics pollution. 

Nylon fabrics, and nylon blends, are frequently treated with formaldehyde to make them wrinkle resistant, so if you see anything about being wrinkle resistant on a nylon shower curtain’s package, you might want to keep looking!

Again, keep an eye on the packing for “antibacterial” claims that signal the product has been treated with triclosan and make sure to pass up any shower curtains or liners that claim to be antibacterial. 

Also be on the lookout for water repellant coatings that contain potentially harmful chemicals. 

Here are a few nylon shower curtains I would consider if I were purchasing one. As far as I can tell, they do not claim to be antibacterial or wrinkle resistant, and they are all highly rated.

must-know nontoxic shower curtians

Nontoxic shower curtains

Now that we know we definitely need to avoid vinyl shower curtains, and might want to avoid polyester and nylon shower curtains, let’s take a look at several nontoxic shower curtains made from natural materials!

Tips for keeping your cotton and linen shower curtains dry and clean

Before you buy a natural material shower curtain, it’s important to know that they all absorb water. You need to stretch them out across the rod after each use instead of leaving them bunched up at one end. 

Although most natural shower curtains are machine washable, you need to use cold water to wash them and be prepared for some wrinkles!

The best way to keep your hemp, cotton, or linen shower curtain dry is to get a curved shower curtain rod

A curved shower curtain rod helps keep the curtain out of the water and, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Do not spray your natural shower curtain with chlorine bleach or bleach water to kill mold and mildew. 

Bleach damages the fabric and breathing in chlorine bleach spray is no good!

Instead, keep your shower curtain dry, launder it at least once a month, and spray it down with vinegar or vinegar/water, as needed. Vinegar is effective at controlling many types of mold and mildew and is much safer than bleach. 

Run your bathroom fan and leave the door open after you shower. This helps clear the humidity from the air and protects your shower curtain.

Organic cotton shower curtains

Organic cotton shower curtains are natural and nontoxic, but cotton does absorb water. Cotton tends to dry fairly quickly, as long as it’s not super humid out, but cotton shower curtains can take a bit of extra care to ensure they don’t mildew. Please see the tips above on keeping your shower curtain mildew free!

I specifically mention organic cotton because so-called conventional cotton accounts for nearly a quarter of the world’s insecticide use and 11% of global pesticide use

If you can’t find organic cotton, a 100% cotton shower curtain is still a better choice than a plastic shower curtain. 

Organic cotton shower curtains can be a little more difficult to find, but I did some searching around on the web for you. 🙂

Bean Products Organic Cotton Shower Curtain - 70" x 74"  - White - Also...
  • Better for you, your home and our Environment. Natural Handcrafted Shower Curtains - Cotton, Hemp, Linen or Organic Cotton - no PVC liner needed - Eco...
  • You have a choice of Four Durable and Beautiful fabrics. - 7 oz. cotton in Natural or Environmentally Friendly hydrogen peroxide bleached White - 9...
  • Built to last. Our curtains don't billow in towards the shower spray like lightweight toxic PVC plastic liners. Our shower curtains will get wet, but...

Linen shower curtains

Linen is a lovely natural fiber made from the flax plant (yes, like the flaxseeds you eat!) There are some truly beautiful linen shower curtains available. I love linen – the way it looks, the way it smells, and the way it drapes. 

Make sure to read the label or product description carefully when you’re shopping for a linen shower curtain. Some manufacturers will call a curtain “linen” to describe the natural color or to mean it has a “linen look” weave. Make sure the fiber content is actually linen, or a linen/cotton blend, not a synthetic material. I did the sleuthing for you on these lovely shower linen shower curtains – they’re all made from 100% linen! 

Hemp shower curtains

Hemp shower curtains also absorb water, so you have to stretch them out across the rod to make sure they dry. Although hemp is naturally mildew resistant, it can mildew if it stays wet. 

Hemp shower curtains can be tricky to find, but I found 100% hemp shower curtain that’s made in the USA on Overstock.com!

Rawganique has their hemp shower curtains available in multiple colors on Amazon. Rawganique hemp shower curtains are also metal free (no corrosion!) and made from European hemp, not cheap Chinese imports. 

Trying to reduce the toxins in your home can feel overwhelming, but I hope this guide to eco-friendly, nontoxic shower curtains has helped!

If you found it helpful, please Pin this post so you don’t lose track of it!

nontoxic shower curtains for a healthy family
{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Beks November 4, 2019, 21:12

    Thank you for this list! This is something I haven’t found just looking in stores, so I’m glad to have a few I can order online! THANKS!

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