There is a certain smell that fills your bathroom when you unwrap a conventional shower curtain from its package. Most of us just take that as part of the shower curtain experience, but recent information has come out regarding the toxic nature of this smell.

It seems that vinyl shower curtains contain some nasty chemicals that release their vapors into the air.


PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is used in the making of soft vinyl-like shower curtains. PVC contains dioxin, phthalates, and chlorine. Dioxin is a carcinogen and is given off when PVC burns or gets hot (how showers, anyone?). It is particularly implicated in breast cancer.

The phthalates in PVC include DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate) and BBzP (benzyl butyl phthalate), and they are used to keep the plastic soft when it’s made. Phthalates are implicated in autism, allergies, and reproductive problems (they mimic human hormones). And finally, the chlorine used to make PVC emits toxic vapors.

Eco-Friendly Shower Curtains

So what is a showerer to do? Here are some ideas for eco-friendly, non-toxic shower curtains.

1. Hemp – Hemp shower curtains are expensive, but durable. They are said to insulate well, and they are free from synthetic chemical compounds.

2. Bamboo – It seems there is nothing they can’t make from bamboo these days! The natural mold and mildew resistance of bamboo is attractive to many, as is its durability. A bamboo shower rod would make an attractive completion to the natural look.

3. Linen – Naturally water-resistant, the dense fabric of linen makes a good shower curtain. There are quite a few color choices with linen.

4. Cotton – Organic cotton is probably the least expensive of the commercially available, eco-friendly shower curtain options. Again, colors and fabrics are quite varied. Just make sure that any cotton curtains are not treated with synthetic chemicals or soft plastics to make them water resistant.

5. Make Your Own – You may be surprised by what you have at home that could work for a shower curtain. Old sheets are especially conducive to this DIY project. You can also use thin, old bedspreads or coverlets. To hang your homemade shower curtain, you can sew fabric tabs or loops to the top of a sheet, or fold it over the curtain rod and sew along the length of the rod. Then slip the rod through and hang.

You can decorate your piece of fabric in all sorts of ways. Stencils are popular, as are children’s art and handprints. You could also do rubber stamps in whatever shapes you like.

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