How to choose shower curtains
First, choose a material that’s durable and easy to care for. According to Donna McMahon, there are three main types:
- Natural fabric: These are your cotton, linen, canvas, hemp, and bamboo blends. A good quality cotton curtain is a top choice for most people, according to McMahon. Simply toss it in the wash on laundry day to keep it in good shape (other fabrics may have specific care instructions, though). The drawback is that they can be expensive — up to $60 and sometimes more — and cannot be used without a liner. All-natural cloth curtains need a protective liner to stay dry and mildew-free.
- Polyester and polyblend: If you’re on a budget, curtains made out of polyester are another long-lasting and low-maintenance choice. They’re machine washable, quick-drying, and water-repellant, which means they don’t need a liner though they can double as one.
- Plastic: Plastic curtains shouldn’t go in the wash and instead must be regularly wiped and scrubbed clean. They’re the cheapest option (most are under $20) and tend to be replaced frequently. They’re the most waterproof material of the bunch, so they’re usually used as liners but can work as standalone curtains too. Be sure to steer away from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), cautions McMahon, which contains a mix of chlorine, phthalates, and other chemicals that give vinyl plastic curtains that pungent headache-inducing smell. Plastic curtains made with PE (polyethylene), PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate), and EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) are safer alternatives, but when in doubt, “search for ‘PVC free’ in product descriptions,” says McMahon.
The rest is a matter of your personal taste. Natural fabric curtains drape beautifully and have a more elevated look, and polyester curtains can have a similar soft, woven-fabric feel.
In terms of colors, patterns, and prints, go with what makes you happy. If you really don’t know where to start, McMahon said, “Pick a curtain design that has a touch of the prominent color in your bathroom tile or other finishes to tie it all together. And if the tones of your bathroom are soft and subtle, a curtain that’s bolder in color can be the perfect contrast too.”
Keeping it simple with white though will never go out of style — just think of every hotel bathroom you’ve ever seen.
The standard size that fits most built-in tubs is 72 x 72 inches, but before you add your brand new curtain to your cart, break out the tape measure to make sure you’re getting the proper size.
- Width: Measure along the entire length of the curtain rod and add 12 inches so the curtain can drape and extend nicely. For reference, the standard bathtub is about 60-inches long. Shower stalls will be narrower and clawfoot tubs will be longer because the curtain needs to fit around a full circular rod, says McMahon. For this, look for 180 x 70, or you can use two 72 x 72-inch curtains.
- Height: The curtain height will also vary depending on what kind of shower you have, but generally the bottom hem should float at least one to two inches above the floor. “This allows air to circulate and prevent mold and mildew growth,” says McMahon. Measure from below the rod — or end of the shower curtain hooks — to the floor, then subtract at least two inches.
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