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- A great shower curtain liner should be durable, easy to take care of, and mildew-resistant.
- Plastic or polyester liners have the best durability and water repellency.
- We also recommend looking for liners with a weighted hem, which keeps the liner in place.
- See also: The best shower curtains
The purpose of a shower curtain liner is simple but important: to keep water contained in the tub and off your bathroom floor. Shopping for the best shower liner should be just as straightforward if you know what to look for.
Most liners are made from cheap, durable, and water-repellent plastics like PVC or PEVA. They’re easy to maintain and you can replace them easily once they’ve developed too much buildup. There are also affordable fabric liners if you prefer something that repels water but also looks nice enough to double as your main shower curtain.
“I’m personally partial to polyester as it has a softer, more elevated look and feel than the old-school vinyl options, but it’s still water-repellent and mildew-resistant (as much as it can be). It’s easy enough to throw it in the wash for a good clean every month, and as a bonus, is more environmentally friendly,” said Heather Goerzen, a designer at online interior design platform Havenly. We’ve included both disposable plastic and reusable fabric liners in our guide.
Other than deciding your preferred material, we also recommend looking for liners with weighted, magnetic hems. This design feature makes the shower liner cling to the tub, not your body, so you can enjoy your shower time without distractions.
All of our picks are based on research and expert input from Goerzen and materials engineer Dr. Peter Kofinas. Read more about our methodology here. Keep in mind none of the options come with curtain hooks, so you’ll need to buy those separately.
Here are the best shower curtain liners in 2021
- Best shower curtains overall: LiBa, Gorilla Grip
- Best budget shower curtains: Room Essentials, Bed Bath & Beyond
- Best fabric shower curtains: mDesign, Maytex
- Best curtain/liner sets: Hookless, Barossa Design
If you don’t mind the plastic look — which will likely be hidden by your main shower curtain anyway — and wiping down your liner from time to time, these PEVA shower liners offer excellent durability and mildew resistance.
The best budget shower curtains
You don’t have to spend more than a few dollars on a liner if you don’t want to. These cheap but effective liners are suitable for college apartments, guest bathrooms, and anyone on a budget. The drawback is that you might have to replace them more often.
The best fabric shower curtains
Fabric shower liners look and feel nicer than plastic liners, plus they’re machine-washable so you don’t have to buy a new liner every few months. Even better, they usually don’t cost more than their plastic counterparts.
The best curtain/liner sets
These sets have both an attractive shower curtain and a built-in liner to save you the time and trouble of buying each separately.
We spoke with interior designer Heather Goerzen and materials engineer Dr. Peter Kofinas about what goes into a great shower curtain liner, materials to look for, general price ranges, and their favorite brands. With their advice in mind, we then selected a handful of liners for each category.
Our next update will involve requesting samples of all the liners and conducting durability and water resistance tests. In addition to noting the ease of assembly, opacity, and seams, we will:
- Wash the liner at least two times (if machine-washable), and stress test it by pulling it roughly back and forth in the tub
- Shower with each liner for at least three days in a row, noting how quickly or slowly the liner dries.
- Track long-term mildew growth in the upcoming months.
Shower curtain liner FAQs
Why do you need a shower curtain liner?
A shower curtain liner helps prevent mildew and keeps water contained within the tub and off your floors. If you have a decorative shower curtain that isn’t made from a water-resistant material, you’ll need a liner to protect it from the water. You can also use a liner as your sole shower curtain.
What size liner should you buy?
The standard liner dimensions are 72″ by 72″. There are also extra long or extra wide versions on the market. Measure your shower before purchasing to ensure you’re not getting a liner that’s too narrow, short, or large.
Is PVC safe? What about PEVA?
“PVC and PEVA are safe,” said Dr. Peter Kofinas, a professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Maryland. He specializes in the science of polymers, which are materials made from repeating subunits of macromolecules and include PVC and PEVA.
Kofinas explained to me that PVC contains small quantities of chlorine gas thanks to the use of plasticizers (small molecules that soften materials and make them more pliable) and the manufacturing process, “but it’s definitely not toxic.” These very small gas emissions are also why products with PVC tend to smell.
A PVC liner can be dangerous “if you stand close to [it] and you sniff it for hours, but that’s not the condition that people are using it. Under normal conditions, these are safe and have been evaluated as such,” said Kofinas.
How often should you replace your shower curtain liner?
It depends. “It will all vary depending on your environment, the amount of humidity in your bathroom, and the fabric type of the liner itself,” said Goerzen. “The best advice: keep an eye on it and if you’re noticing some build-up, then toss it in the wash [or throw it away and replace with a new liner if not made from a washable fabric].
Goerzen also suggests adding baking soda to the wash or using a baking soda-powered detergent to break down grime and mildew.
For a liner that is not machine-washable, such as one made from PVC and PEVA, you should scrub it clean with a sponge, water, and white vinegar every time you notice grime and mildew build-up. If hand-washing does not remove the build-up, it’s time to throw away your liner and buy a new one.
Glossary of terms
PVC: Short for polyvinyl chloride and known colloquially as vinyl. A common polymer that is cheap, durable, water-resistant, and used in a wide variety of applications, including shower curtain liners, plumbing, and medical devices. Plasticizer may be added, as in the case of shower liners, to make it softer and more flexible.
PEVA: Short for polyethylene-vinyl acetate. A chlorine-free alternative to PVC that is also cheap, durable, and water-resistant. In addition to shower curtain liners, it’s used as foam rubber in shoes and other sports equipment.
Check out our other great bathroom buying guides