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How To: Kill Shower Curtain Mold


FitSugar recently came to me with an icky shower curtain mold dilemma. The base of her shower curtain has been taken over by a gross pink mold. Despite efforts to tell it what time it is, putting it in the washing machine with a stain-killer, and letting it sit for hours, no dice. Unfortunately, mold thrives in the warm, damp environment of bathrooms, and the shower curtain is no exception. With a quick Google, I found that most of the advice recommended is just what Fit had tried, the washing machine. Then, I came across an archive of a Wall Street Journal article by Sam Schechner called "Testing Ways to Kill Shower-Curtain Mold." Success! To hear a summary of Schechner's techniques for battling that repulsive pink mold,

.

He tested five methods, slicing up the same nasty shower curtain into fifths. He sprayed one slice with bleach (Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover), one bleach free of chlorine (Seventh Generation Shower Cleaner), "soaked another slice in a bathtub with a bottle of distilled vinegar," dumped another "in a washing machine along with bleach and white towels (for friction)," and "scrubbed one slice with a mixture of water, dish soap, and tea tree oil." A pretty thorough experiment, huh?

Here are the results:

  • The spray with Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover trial, which cost $3.29 for a 32 fl. oz. spray bottle, was easy, requiring no scrubbing. The result? The curtain smelled "like a noxious swimming pool," but "came out practically bone-white."
  • The spray with Seventh Generation Shower Cleaner, which cost $4.99 for a 32 fl. oz. spray bottle, required 14 minutes of scrubbing on just the one section of curtain. The result? The curtain smelled like "sweet lemon soda," but a "grayish pattern remained where the black mold had been," although not so noticeable from across the room.
  • Soaking the curtain in distilled vinegar and water, which cost $1.29 for a 16 fl. oz. bottle of Heinz distilled white vinegar, required "slightly less elbow grease than some methods," but still took an hour to soak. The result? It smelled "like someone had made a salad in our bathroom," and still left visible gray stains.
  • Washing the curtain with NOW tea tree oil and dishsoap, which cost $5.95 for a 1 fl. oz. bottle of oil and $1.99 for Palmolive, required what felt like nearly "a full upper-body workout at the gym." The result? The curtain smelled like "a massage parlor" but resulted in "minimal payback for all that effort."
  • Bleaching the curtain in washing machine on a hot-water cycle, which cost $1.29 for a 24 fl. oz. bottle of Clorox Ultra Regular Bleach, didn't require any work aside from letting the washing machine do its thing. The result? It was left with a "light bleach odor," but "big rust-colored stains remained," even after a second washing.

So, I guess the Tilex did the trick in the stain department, but is still toxic. Letting it air dry might get rid of the chemical smell, but still, who wants to inhale the smell of a "noxious swimming pool?" That can't be good for you or the environment. In terms of results, The Seventh Generation Shower Cleaner sounds like the second best option, but is 70 minutes of scrubbing time (14 mins. x 5) really worth it? It might be better to find a way to recycle, reuse, or repurpose your moldy nylon shower curtain, and buy a new one. Ahh it's hard to be So Fresh and Clean sometimes.
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liz-moon liz-moon 2 years
This may be an old article, but I still want to comment :) I have serious mold allergies and was recommended to use tilex, which is very harsh to smell and breath, but I think a few minutes of the chemical smell is worth getting rid of the mold. I just ventilate the bathroom so the smell goes away while I work in another room, come back a few minutes later and the mold is gone!
jillybean jillybean 8 years
What a great post! I have been bothered by my shower curtain for a while now - and it especially became evident when I had a houseguest - I was embarassed. I clean my shower curtain often in the washing machine with bleach, but it never got clean clean.I was just about to go out an buy a new one when I read your post. So glad I did!!! :) I had a spray cleaner with bleach (Target brand) so I pulled the curtain and laid it in the bathtub. I sprayed it (quite heavily) and walked away. I came back a while later and it was definately whiter, but not gone. I sprayed some more and left again. When I came back it looked brand new!! No scrubbing necessary!!! To get rid of the bleach smell I threw it in the washing machine with some white towels and it smells fresh and looks great!!! I was totally impressed and had to let you know!Bonus is that my shower is totally clean now also!!! Thanks so much for the good advice! I love your column!
jillybean jillybean 8 years
What a great post! I have been bothered by my shower curtain for a while now - and it especially became evident when I had a houseguest - I was embarassed. I clean my shower curtain often in the washing machine with bleach, but it never got clean clean. I was just about to go out an buy a new one when I read your post. So glad I did!!! :) I had a spray cleaner with bleach (Target brand) so I pulled the curtain and laid it in the bathtub. I sprayed it (quite heavily) and walked away. I came back a while later and it was definately whiter, but not gone. I sprayed some more and left again. When I came back it looked brand new!! No scrubbing necessary!!! To get rid of the bleach smell I threw it in the washing machine with some white towels and it smells fresh and looks great!!! I was totally impressed and had to let you know! Bonus is that my shower is totally clean now also!!! Thanks so much for the good advice! I love your column!
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 8 years
OH, AND IF YOU DO THIS FREQUENTLY ENOUGH (EVERY 2 MONTHS OR SO), YOU CAN BRING DOWN THE BLEACH LEVEL UNTIL YOU'RE BARELY USING ANY BLEACH.
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 8 years
THE TOWELS WILL ACT AS THE SCRUBBERS FOR THE MOLD.
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 8 years
THERE'S A FATAL FLAW IN THIS EXPERIMENT. THE TRICK O THE WASHING MACHINE IS TO USE ABOUT A CUP OF BLEACH AND TWO OLD WHITE TOWELS AND WASH IT IN THE HEAVY CLOTHES CYCLE . DO THE CYCLE AND WHEN IT COMES TO THE RINSE / DOWNEY CYCLE, ADD THE SOFTENER AS USUAL (IF NOT MORE THAN USUAL), IT WILL HELP SOFTEN THE BLEACH SMELL. . . THE SHOWER CURTAIN COMES OUT BRAND NEW WITH ONLY THE SLIGHTEST BLEACH SMELL. . . ALL OF YOU SHOULD TRY THIS...
Ejmcmis Ejmcmis 8 years
THERE'S A <i> FATAL FLAW </i> IN THIS EXPERIMENT. <b> THE TRICK O THE WASHING MACHINE IS TO USE ABOUT A CUP OF BLEACH AND TWO OLD WHITE TOWELS AND WASH IT IN THE HEAVY CLOTHES CYCLE </b>. DO THE CYCLE AND WHEN IT COMES TO THE RINSE / DOWNEY CYCLE, ADD THE SOFTENER AS USUAL (IF NOT MORE THAN USUAL), IT WILL HELP SOFTEN THE BLEACH SMELL...THE SHOWER CURTAIN COMES OUT BRAND NEW WITH ONLY THE SLIGHTEST BLEACH SMELL...ALL OF YOU SHOULD TRY THIS...
moss1080 moss1080 8 years
The best way to take care of this is to fill your tub up with laundry soap and warm/hot water. Push the curtain in it and let the whole thing soak while you vacuum the other room or what not. This is a double duty clean as the tub gets de-grimmed by the laundry soap too. As long as you do this frequent enough you don't have to scrub and there is no need to throw it away.
Hanan Hanan 8 years
I use good old fashioned Comet powder (gotta be the cheapest stuff by far) and some elbow grease. I think I have had the same shower curtain liner for 8 years. The little holes where the rings go through are finally breaking so I will have to get a new one. It works! And you save the environment by not replacing it so often.
jlchan jlchan 8 years
It makes me sad to see how many lazy people there are in this forum. Do you know how long it takes vinyl to biodegrade in our landfills? Do you know how damaging the toxic gas fumes are that are emitted during the production of vinyl? Consumption is not always the answer to our problems. Get off your ass, get some exercise, and use some elbow grease to clean your own curtains.
jlchan jlchan 8 years
It makes me sad to see how many lazy people there are in this forum.Do you know how long it takes vinyl to biodegrade in our landfills? Do you know how damaging the toxic gas fumes are that are emitted during the production of vinyl? Consumption is not always the answer to our problems. Get off your ass, get some exercise, and use some elbow grease to clean your own curtains.
nancita nancita 8 years
"14 minutes of scrubbing on just the one section of curtain"?! That is intense and yet, I hate using those noxious toxic cleaners. This is such a difficult dilemma. I have found that spraying the curtain with a nontoxic cleaner and scrubbing it with dryer sheets is actually pretty effective, if time consuming. I'm not sure why, but the texture of the dryer sheets is great for getting rid of soap scum.
cnlew cnlew 8 years
I cut the bottom of my vinyl shower liner off so that its just barely long enough to come inside the top of the tub. That way I avoid it sitting on the bottom of the tub in pooling water and getting moldy/mildewy, but it still serves it purpose of keeping water/soap cast-off inside the tub/shower area and not on the floor below.
Hope5 Hope5 8 years
I replace all of mine every other month!Hate germs!
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
I'd just by a new one...
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
I'd just by a new one...
irina311 irina311 8 years
mixing oregano oil and some water should help, i use it for the whole bathroom, especially the tub. i put it in a spray bottle and its not toxic, but smells kind of like tea tree oil.
3vil1 3vil1 8 years
I put my shower curtain the washing machine with the vinegar and a cap full of bleach. Then it comes out as good as new with no smell.
DreaAST DreaAST 8 years
shower curtains are such a pain. i hate the mold so much!
Kristinh1012 Kristinh1012 8 years
Start with a new shower curtain and freshly cleaned shower. Keep a bottle of 1 part water 2 parts peroxide (1.00) in your bathroom. After each shower/or two, spray the shower curtain and your shower walls. It helps keep down the mold and kills germs.
Tech Tech 8 years
What about vinyl shower curtains? I'm trying to ward off anything growing by leaving the curtain open so it's not folded in on itself, but I live with a boy who doesn't always do what he's told. Is it best to just spray it with multi-purpose cleaner, wipe, and call it a day?
hihowareya hihowareya 8 years
I've used old shower curtains as drop cloths for painting and other messy crafty activities. The paint won't go through, which is what can happen with old sheets for example. It's just a thought for what to use an old shower curtain for, if you're into the arts and crafts type of thing.
puddlesworth puddlesworth 8 years
just buy a new curtain
puddlesworth puddlesworth 8 years
just buy a new curtain
hope2be hope2be 8 years
I always buy mine at the Dollar store, so when their time has run out, I usually discard it, and get a new one.
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