How to Choose a Non-Toxic Shower Curtain

December 19, 2014 by Joe Ness

woman-nontoxic-shower-curtainGoing green is good for you. Eco-friendly products are often better quality, and they leave the Earth in better shape for future generations. If you’re worried about harmful chemicals and carcinogens (ingredients that cause cancer), sustainable items are a great choice.

One of the worst offenders is plastic, both environmentally and health-wise. PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is in everything from plastic shower curtains to tupperware to children’s toys. You should avoid PVC shower curtains because “hot steamy conditions promote the release of phthalates,” according to Mother Nature Network.

And why are phthalates bad? The Breast Cancer Fund explains the problem with these plastic-softeners:

A 2012 study found that women working in the automotive and food-canning industries have nearly a fivefold increase in risk for premenopausal breast cancer, likely because of their exposure to phthalates, BPA and flame-retardants. Phthalates have also been linked to birth defects, asthma, neurodevelopmental problems in newborns, fertility issues and obesity [emphasis mine].

Dr. Oz (yes, Oprah’s pal) even says phthalates “may lower testosterone and metabolism levels, causing you to gain weight and lose muscle mass.” Who knew your shower curtain could make you pack on the pounds?

Bottom line: Your stinky plastic shower curtain smells because it contains more than 100 potentially hazardous chemicals. Hot showers in a confined, stuffy space like the bathroom only make it worse. So how can you choose an eco-friendly, non-toxic shower curtain?

Look for PEVA and EVA instead.

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Photo: Romana Klee

PEVA (polyethylene vinyl acetate) is a vinyl made without chloride, so it doesn’t offgass. But like PVC, it’s waterproof and affordable. “I throw mine in the wash a few times a year with towels (for scrubbing) and a 1/2 cup of vinegar. Spotless and effortless,” notes one reader on Apartment Therapy.

PEVA and EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) aren’t perfect. Their manufacture uses petrochemicals. But they’re better for you than PVC shower curtains, because they have fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs). If the rest of the non-toxic shower curtains below don’t seem realistic, try PEVA or EVA.

Choose sustainable materials.

Go with a hemp, linen, or organic cotton shower curtain. You can wring hemp out and put it in the washing machine. Plus, it’s breathable and resists mold. Hemp shower curtains aren’t cheap, though. They often cost $80 to $100.

Cotton, linen, and hemp also all absorb water to some degree, unless you use a liner. Cotton and linen will attract mold more than hemp and other materials. But unlike PVC, these options are biodegradable or recyclable to some extent. (Burning PVC gives off dioxins, which can also cause cancer.)

woman behind shower curtain

Pick polyester.

Like cotton, linen, and hemp, polyester is porous (unlike plastic). But at least it’s lightweight and can be popped in the washing machine. As one Apartment Therapy commenter raves, “I recently converted to a 100% polyester liner and I love it. It can be thrown in the wash with non-chlorine bleach and comes out fresh as a daisy.” You can even find mildew-free, water-resistant polyester shower curtains.

Try nylon.

Water-resistant, washable nylon can be a great choice for a non-toxic shower curtain. Supposedly it dries quickly, too. Ripstop nylon shower curtains in particular are strong, thin, and long-lasting.

Choose Serenity.

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Not only is our Serenity shower curtain 100% recyclable, but it won’t rust or mold. And depending on the type of shower (walk in, curbless etc.), the coiled wire fabric keeps almost all the water inside the shower. This odorless, non-toxic shower curtain is stylish and sexy as well — two things you can’t say about a vinyl shower curtain!

We hope these non-toxic shower curtains gave you some ideas. Your other option, of course, is a glass shower door (although not even that is immune to mold). Or you can get really creative and buy a recycled boat sail as your non-toxic shower curtain.

Whatever shower curtain you use, ventilate your bathroom by cracking a window or running the fan. That will help improve your indoor air quality. And when you’re done with your shower curtain, give it another life as a drop cloth. Now you’re one step closer to a healthy, environmentally friendly life.

Have you ditched PVC? What kind of shower curtain do you have? 

Posted in Sustainability

Tags: green design, green living, health, non-toxic, safety, shower curtain

  • Jake Braught

    I want a Serenity curtain, they look amazing!

  • HollyR

    I’ve found PEVA curtains are affordable and definitely don’t offgas as much as PVC ones.

  • umwspr

    Gonna replace my shower curtain!