Show off a shower curtain that gleams as brightly as your post-scrubbed bathtub.

Simple Ways to Wash Shower Curtains

by Benna Crawford

Protect the environment and preserve your household budget by extending the life of your shower curtains and liners. There are hassle-free ways to minimize streaks and banish mold to keep even a plastic liner from the dollar store in near-pristine condition. Match the cleaning method to the curtain for a sparkling shower that withstands even the grubbiest junior dirt-, grease- and mudslingers.

1. Washing Machine

Most shower curtains and liners can go right in your washing machine and emerge ready to hang and drip dry. Plastic survives just fine on warm-temperature, gentle-cycle settings. Toss a liner or curtain in the machine with mild detergent and a few towels. The towels help keep the curtain from bunching up so all of it is exposed to the soap, water and agitation. If your curtain can handle chlorine bleach, add 1/2 cup bleach and wash the curtain with white towels -- both will come out looking new. Warm water keeps plastic curtains and liners soft so they don't stiffen and crack in cold water.

2. Green Clean

White vinegar is an effective and environmentally friendly cleaner that works well on shower curtains, wherever you wash them. Soak the curtain in a bucket or right in the bathtub. Spray the curtain first with vinegar, or add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the soaking water, swish the curtain around and let it sit. Try a soft paste of baking soda moistened with vinegar -- but be prepared for the chemical combination to fizz when you first mix it. Wipe the paste on the hanging curtain, allow it to stand, then wipe it off, rinsing with the shower hose. For stubborn mold, wipe on baking soda paste and scrub the curtain with a scrub brush until it is clean. Add 1/2 cup baking soda to detergent for machine washing, and add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle.

3. Spray and Wipe

Nonabrasive bathroom cleaners keep most curtains clean and prevent stinky, unsightly mold. They work best on vinyl or plastic curtains, so always test an unobtrusive corner of your curtain before spraying the whole thing. You also can use a spray-on fabric softener to remove soap residue. "Yankee" recommends mixing several teaspoons of fabric softener in a spray bottle with warm water and spritzing the curtain before wiping it down. Rinse with a hand-held showerhead, and save the wipe-down. Fabric-softener sheets wipe away soap scum, too. Save the used ones from the dryer and put them to a second use cleaning the shower curtains.

4. Fabric Curtains

Most fabric curtains are washable -- just be sure to check manufacturer's instructions about harsh detergents, use of bleach or recommended care. Luxurious master-bathroom shower curtains -- brocades, cotton velvets, silk-trimmed and ruffled designer curtains -- require more than a quick toss in the washing machine. One strategy to preserve the decor in your ensuite retreat is to use a plain plastic liner to keep fancy curtains cleaner and avoid frequent washing. But inexpensive plastic does break down faster than sturdier hemp, linen, cotton canvas or nylon. If you are concerned about PVC emissions or discarding old plastic curtains when they become cracked and dingy, fabric liners and curtains may be the more economical and ecologically sensitive choice.

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