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At their most basic level, shower curtains are meant to keep water from splashing onto the floors and walls of your bathroom. But their purpose extends beyond function: A shower curtain is part of a bathroom’s decor, and depending on which you choose, it can add a touch of personality or luxury to the space, said Pamela O’Brien, principal interior designer at Pamela Hope Designs.
SKIP AHEAD Best shower curtains of 2023 | How to shop for shower curtains | What is a shower curtain liner? | Do you always need a shower curtain liner?
We spoke to interior designers about how to shop for shower curtains and rounded up a handful of options to consider. We also broke down some frequently asked questions about shower curtains, like whether you really need a liner, how to hang them and more.
Our top picks
How we picked the best shower curtains
While shopping for shower curtains, experts said to consider the following factors:
- Material: Shower curtains are usually made from plastic, vinyl or fabric. Susan Peters, owner and interior designer for 9108 Designs, said a fabric shower curtain often makes a room look more finished, but ultimately the type of material is a personal preference.
- Size: Most shower curtains come in widths to accommodate a 60-inch standard bathtub, and the standard shower curtain length is 72 inches, O’Brien said. Some brands also offer long and extra-long shower curtains. If your shower is particularly large or small, experts suggested buying a custom-made curtain. And if your shower curtain rod is curved, you may need to purchase multiple curtains to provide full coverage.
- Style: Shower curtains are available in dozens of colors and patterns to best match your bathroom’s decor.
- Hanging method: Peters said some shower curtains have grommets at the top for you to slide a curtain rod through, but most are intended to be hung with hooks or rings.
- Care: As shower curtains are exposed to moisture over time, they can develop mold or mildew if you don’t clean them properly every few months. Pay attention to how the brand recommends cleaning the curtain you’re considering — machine-washable options are the easiest, while some may require dry cleaning.
Best shower curtains to shop in 2023
Below, we rounded up shower curtains that align with expert guidance, in addition to options from some of our favorite brands.
Since I love Target Threshold sheets and towels, I turned to the brand when I needed a new shower curtain for my apartment. This option is white with a simple black striped pattern and fringed bottom, and matches the neutral-colored decor in my bathroom. The curtain has a buttonhole top to put rings or hooks through.
Size: 72×72 | Material: Cotton | Care: Machine wash and line dry or lay flat to dry
Select editor Lindsay Schneider loves Brooklinen’s Shower Curtain. It has a matte finish, according to the brand, and comes in four patterns: Black Dash on White, Black Windowpane on White, Steel and White Oxford Stripe and Orange Grove on Grid. There are 12 holes on top of the shower curtain to put rings or hooks through.
Size: 72×72 | Material: Cotton | Care: Machine wash and line dry or machine dry on low heat/tumble settings
Pottery Barn Belgian Flax Linen Waggle Shower Curtain
Peters said Pottery Barn offers “very nice off-the-shelf fabric shower curtains.” This option has a waffle texture and comes in four solid colors: White, Flax, Chambray and Gray. There are buttonholes at the top to put rings or hooks through.
Size: 72×72 | Material: Linen woven Belgian flax | Care: Machine wash and tumble dry on low heat
Amazon Basics’ affordable shower curtain is made with water-resistant fabric, so you don’t have to use a shower curtain with it (although experts recommended adding one for extra protection). The shower curtain has small grommets on top to put rings or hooks through, and it comes with 12 white plastic hooks. The curtain is also designed with a weighted hem to help keep it in place, according to the brand. You can purchase the shower curtain in over a dozen patterns, including Navy Blue Moroccan, Orange Ombre Chevron, Dark Grey Grid and more.
Size: 72×72 | Material: Polyester | Care: Machine washable
You don’t have to buy a separate liner for this shower curtain — it comes with a snap-in fabric liner you can easily attach and detach. There are magnets on the corners of the shower curtain to weigh the bottom down, and it’s designed with a sheer top section to let light in while still maintaining privacy, according to the brand. There are small grommets along the top of the shower curtain to put the included 12 hooks through. The waffle weave shower curtain comes in over a dozen colors like Black, White, Lavender, Fog Blue and more.
Size: Multiple sizes available, as well as standard, long and extra long lengths | Material: Polyester | Care: Machine washable
West Elm Modern Split Colorblock Shower Curtain
Beth Brown, owner of Beth Brown Interiors, previously recommended blackout curtains from West Elm, which also offers shower curtains like this colorful option that can stand out in any bathroom. The curtain has 12 buttonholes along the top to put hooks or rings through.
Size:7 4×72 | Material: Cotton | Care: Machine wash and tumble dry
Rebecca Rodriguez, Select’s editorial project associate, recommended Urban Outfitters’ Kiko Shower Curtain. It has a geometric, modern design and Rodriguez said its yellow, orange and pink colors make her bathroom feel warm. There are buttonholes on the top of the curtain to put rings or hooks through.
Size: 72×72 | Material: Cotton | Care: Machine-washable
When shopping for plastic or vinyl shower curtains, O’Brien recommended looking for options made from a thick material so it doesn’t feel flimsy. Quiet Town says its plastic shower curtains are “heavy” and have brass grommets to put rings or hooks through. They can be used alone or as a liner when paired with Quiet Town’s canvas shower curtains, according to the brand. You can purchase these plastic curtains in a color-blocked style or in solid colors like Pine, Honey, Air and more.
Size: 72×72 inches | Material: EVA | Care: Hand wash and line dry
Rodriguez also recommended this shower curtain liner, which she said is easy to keep clean since it’s machine-washable. The liner has a weighted hem and anti-draft clips to prevent it from moving around in your tub, according to the brand. You can purchase it in White, Ivory or Grey colors, and the liner has 12 buttonholes on the top to put hooks or rings through.
Size: Various sizes available (stall, standard and long) | Material: Water-resistant cotton | Care: Machine-washable
How to shop for shower curtains
Shower curtains ensure that water is kept inside your tub and off your floors. And since they become part of your bathroom’s decor, brands and retailers offer options to fit most aesthetics. In addition to narrowing down shower curtain options by what they look like, experts recommended thinking about factors like size, material, hanging method and ease of cleaning while shopping.
Size and fit
Most off-the-shelf shower curtains come in widths to accommodate a standard 60-inch bathtub and are typically 72-inches long, though long and extra-long options are available, O’Brien said. Keep in mind that you don’t want your shower curtain to reach the floor — it should hover about four to five inches above the floor, Brown said. This ensures that the curtain easily slides back and forth on the rod, as well as keeps it clean and prevents it from sitting in puddles, according to Peters.
Experts told us there are three main shower curtain materials to consider: fabric, plastic and vinyl.
Fabric shower curtains are a favorite among the experts we spoke to since they give bathrooms a more polished look. Fabric shower curtains are also usually opaque, adding privacy to a shower. However, you’ll need to use a liner with a fabric curtain if it’s not made from a water-resistant material to protect it from moisture, experts told us.
Plastic or vinyl shower curtains are water-resistant, eliminating the need for an additional liner. Some are transparent, so they don’t add privacy, but you can find more opaque options as well. If you opt for a plastic or vinyl shower curtain, O’Brien recommended buying one that’s thick — it might be described as “deluxe” or “heavy duty” by the brand. “If the shower curtain is made from lightweight plastic, it can blow around while you’re showering and may cause you to spill water outside of the tub,” she said.
When it comes to hanging your shower curtain, “there aren’t as many options to choose from as there are for window treatments,” Peters said. Some shower curtains have grommets at the top, allowing you to weave the curtain rod through it. Most shower curtains, however, are designed to be hung with hooks or rings, which come in plastic or silver, gold and bronze metal finishes.
Peters recommends choosing hooks or rings that complement the finish of your curtain rod, are easy to slide along the rod and keep the shower curtain securely attached. If you’re pairing your shower curtain with a liner, you can loop rings through both or use double-sided hooks, which is Peters’ preference.
What color or pattern shower curtain you purchase is entirely a personal choice. But if you’re not sure where to start when it comes to deciding which style curtain would look best in your space, our experts shared some design tips to keep in mind:
- If you want to make a small bathroom look larger, avoid shower curtains with a large pattern and opt for those that have a very small pattern or are a solid color that blends in with the walls, O’Brien said. If you want your shower curtain to be a focal point in the bathroom, she said colorful, large-patterned options will do the trick.
- For shower curtains that are a solid color, remember that light colors make walls feel like they’re receding (going backward), while dark colors make them feel like they’re coming toward or closing in on you, Brown said. Darker colors usually warm up a larger space, while lighter colors can help make smaller spaces feel bigger.
- Some wallpaper prints are also available as fabric, Brown said. If you’re remodeling a bathroom, consider using the same print for the wallpaper and shower curtain. Brown said the matching print creates a neat, sophisticated look.
- If you don’t like any of the shower curtain options you see in stores or online — or if your shower is oddly shaped — experts recommend having a custom curtain made for your space. “It might cost considerably more, but it will be a perfect fit and can match your decor beautifully,” O’Brien said. If you’re working within a tighter budget, you can also customize a shower curtain by purchasing an affordable option in a solid color that matches your bathroom and sewing on a trim you pick out, she said.
What is a shower curtain liner?
A shower curtain liner is usually made from plastic or vinyl. It’s meant to help prevent water from splashing out of your shower and it’s paired with fabric shower curtains to protect the fabric from water, thus extending its longevity, Brown said. Shower curtain liners need to be cleaned or replaced about every six months since they’re directly exposed to water and can get moldy or accumulate mildew if not properly cared for, our experts said.
Using a fabric shower curtain with a liner creates a “double shower curtain” so the fabric is visible from outside the shower and the liner is visible on the inside, Peters said. A shower curtain liner should be tucked into the tub, and Peters said it should come close enough to the bottom of the tub so as to not let water seep out underneath it.
Do you always need to use a shower curtain liner?
No, you don’t always have to use a liner, experts told us. If your shower curtain is made from water-resistant fabric — plastic or vinyl — it’s designed to repel moisture, so a liner is not required. It’s most important to use a liner with fabric curtains that are not made from a water-resistant material. And even if you buy a fabric shower curtain made from a water-resistant material, O’Brien said she still likes to add a liner for extra protection.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
Why trust Select?
Zoe Malin has been covering home and kitchen products at Select since 2020. For this article, she interviewed three interior designers and researched dozens of shower curtains on the market. To recommend shower curtains, we selected options that align with expert guidance or were recommended by Select staff.