7 Surprising Mistakes You’re Making With Your Shower Curtain

The bathroom just might be the easiest space in the house to decorate: You choose some pretty towels and hang up a pretty shower curtain, and voila—you’re done. Right?

Well, not to make you paranoid, but the shower curtain is actually easier to screw up than you’d think.

“Too many frills, crazy, annoying patterns, or anything that needs special care is a problem when it comes to shower curtains,” says Drew Henry of Design Dudes.

Are you falling for the most common slip-ups? Let’s take a peek behind the curtain at these seven do’s and don’ts.

1. Picking plastic

A lot of folks will pick plastic in a pinch—it’s cheap and easy to clean, and you won’t feel bad about tossing it when you get tired of it. But the problem with cheap plastic curtains is that they look, well, cheap.

Splurge for fabric here—and that goes for the liner, too. (A cheap plastic liner is fine if you change it regularly and keep it scrupulously clean. But you’ll need to replace it every six months—or sooner if necessary—because it tends to show water stains, soap scum, and mildew.)

“I recommend a fabric liner made of polyester, which is pretty water-resistant and also very spalike,” Henry says.

Or try a nylon, hotel-style liner, suggests Catherine Pulcine of CPI Interiors. Both are better than tacky plastic, and have more staying power.

2. Forgetting about texture


Photo by mango design co 
No, we don’t mean you should add ruffles. But you should consider simple trim, ribbon, or embroidery so your plain curtain stands out. Henry’s master bath shower curtain is made from a cool-gray fabric with a white, ribbed center panel that brings texture and interest to the room.

“There’s also some light fringe on the bottom, which adds a bit of playful sophistication,” he notes.

But don’t go overboard or too high-end with your pick: “A custom shower curtain may not be machine-washable,” points out Lindsay MacRae of the eponymous design firm in New York City.

Stick with store-bought options, which are meant to be washed and dried along with other laundry.

“If you do have one made or you make it yourself, be sure the fabric is preshrunk,” MacRae warns.

3. Confusing cute with cheesy

Photo by Tyler Karu Design + Interiors 

The kids’ bath can definitely be childlike and colorful, but that doesn’t mean you cave entirely and hang up your little one’s favorite cartoon character (we’re looking at you, SpongeBob!). Keep this look fun, but don’t pick something cheesy, Henry suggests.

“Try an oversize graphic, an interesting pattern, or your child’s favorite colors instead,” he says.

4. Being afraid of plain white

Shower curtains give us a ripe opportunity to play with colors and patterns without committing to them for life. But before you go seeking out the perfect design, consider that the most on-trend look might just be the easiest: plain white.

It’ll give you a fresh look, especially in the master bath—and you’ll never risk making your space look cheap.

“Hotels use it exclusively because it telegraphs cleanliness—so it’s the only color I ever specify,” says Justin Riordan of Spade and Archer Design Agency.

5. Being a slave to size

Photo by Chronicle Books 

Of course you’ll need to measure before you buy a shower curtain—buying one that’s too short or not wide enough means a daily flood on the floor. But don’t limit yourself entirely here. If you have a stall shower that isn’t enclosed in glass, you can actually ignore the curtain width. (Owners of open stall showers have long been shortchanged when it comes to curtain options, since the vast majority of pretty patterns and colors are sized for longer tub showers.)

But most of these tub curtains fit a stall shower just fine—the fabric will be just a bit bunched on each end. And if you pick your pattern wisely, with just a top or bottom border rather than one graphic slapped in the middle, your curtain’s design will display nicely.

6. Picking plastic rings

“Plastic shower rings remind me of the ’80s—and more specifically John Candy in ‘Planes, Trains, Automobiles,'” MacRae says. (To the uninitiated: his character sold the things!)

She prefers metal, as does Henry, who likes to match shower rings to other finishes in the bathroom.

“And always use double hooks so that the liner can hang inside the tub while the decorative curtain stays on the outside,” Pulcine suggests.

For added security, look for a liner with little magnets sewn into the bottom hem, MacRae suggests.

“This way, the liner sticks to the porcelain and doesn’t attack you in the shower,” she reports.

7. Ignoring hookless options

Jamie Novak, author of “Keep This Toss That,” struggled for years with rusting metal rings, cheap plastic ones, liners that ripped, and fancier versions that got ruined in the wash. Her solution? A hookless shower curtain with a snap-in liner.

“This product has rings with breaks in them so you can slip each one over the bar, stress-free,” she says. “And the washable liner snaps in and out—easy, breezy.”

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