New plastic shower curtains -- along with a few other household plastic goods -- usually have a noxious smell after removing them from their packaging. Besides being bad-smelling, some vinyl and plastic shower curtains emit toxic fumes, harmful to small children and allergic or sensitive family members. These noxious smells often increase after exposing the plastic or vinyl shower curtains to heat and humidity in the shower. To keep your family safe, purchase organic fabric shower curtains or ones that say "PVC Free" on the packaging. If you recently bought a non-PVC shower curtain, you have several options for getting rid of its plastic smell.
All brand new plastic shower curtains omit an odor. But some are worse than others. The Center for Health, Environment and Justice indicates that shower curtains made with polyvinyl chloride -- PVCs -- can contain as many as 108 volatile organic chemicals, heavy metals and other toxins. While some retailers have volunteered to remove these from their shelves and replace them with PVC-free plastic shower curtains, the onus is on you -- as the consumer -- to read the packaging. You do not want to bring shower curtains home that can take more than 28 days to off-gas these volatile organic chemicals.
Once you take the curtains out of the packaging, clean them straight away. Instead of using only laundry detergent, mix 1 cup detergent with 1 cup white vinegar or bleach for your machine load. Immediately place the shower curtain inside your washing machine on the gentle setting with two towels. The towels help to prevent the shower curtain from rolling up into a ball. The white vinegar is a natural acetic acid used in many all-purpose cleaning agents. This cleaning solution also works if your shower curtain develops an infestation of mold and mildew.
When the washing machine cycle finishes its last spin cycle, place the plastic shower curtain with the towels in the dryer on the lowest heat setting for no more than 5 minutes. The purpose is not to dry the shower curtain, but to simply get rid of the wrinkles and any leftover smells. When the cycle is complete, hang your shower curtain to dry on a clothesline or in a well-ventilated area. After a few hours, depending upon the weather and humidity levels outside, it should be ready to hang up in your bathroom.
While airing out your plastic shower curtain takes the longest time, it brings a nice fresh smell to your non-PVC shower curtain. Hang your shower curtain on a clothing line and spread it out as much as possible. Leave the shower curtain undisturbed for a minimum of one week and then smell it to see if the odor is still present. While you may have to leave it longer to completely get rid of the odor, leaving your shower curtain in the fresh air makes its smell less potent. If you purchased a shower curtain that contains PVCs, leave it outside to air for at least 28 days, if not longer, before bringing it inside to use.