If you’ve just moved out, are a first-time homeowner, or your showers have always had doors, knowing what shower curtain to purchase can be challenging.

The matter is made even more confusing when you add a shower liner into the mix. Learning the difference between a shower curtain and a shower liner can help you decide what you need for your bathroom.

This article will discuss the differences between a shower curtain and a shower liner.

shower curtain vs shower liner infographic


Key takeaways

  • Shower curtain liners will do a better job of keeping water in the tub.
  • Shower curtains hang outside of the tub and liners hang inside.
  • Shower curtains are meant to be decorative while shower liners are not.
  • Shower curtains are more expensive than shower liners.
  • Shower curtains provide more privacy compared to shower liners.
  • Shower curtains will need to be replaced more often without a curtain liner.

Purpose

Both shower curtains and shower curtain liners help conceal the shower or tub while keeping water inside the shower area.

However, they both perform slightly different tasks, although these tasks sometimes overlap.

Shower liners are specifically designed to keep water in, and they’re generally more effective at that task than shower curtains.

Liners are made of a water-resistant material, and they often have small magnets or weights at the bottom to keep them in place so that water can’t escape.

Shower curtains can hold in water, but they’re mostly decorative. A shower curtain is designed to hide the tub.

The decorative appearance of a shower curtain can be chosen to match the colors and décor of the rest of the bathroom.

Perfectly designed bathroom with white vanity cabinet, tub and shower combo accented with grey marble tiles surround and blue shower curtain.

Position

For the most part, shower curtains are designed to hang outside of the tub, facing the rest of the bathroom. Shower liners are designed to hang inside the tub, facing the shower.

Shower curtain hangs on the outside of tub
Shower curtain hangs on the outside of tub

Appearance

Because shower curtains are intended to be decorative, they’re available in a wide variety of colors and styles. Some are a solid color, while others feature patterns or embroidery.

Shower curtains are large, so many depict a large scene or several images.

Shower liners aren’t intended to be seen. They’re usually plain and are either clear or a solid, semi-opaque white color.

Material

Shower liners are usually made of either vinyl or polyester. Vinyl is inexpensive, water-resistant, and very easy to clean.

However, some vinyl shower curtain liners contain PVC, which can be toxic. To avoid this, many people choose a polyester liner. Polyester liners are a bit more expensive than vinyl liners.

They are also a bit harder to clean, but they’re usually machine washable. If you’re looking for an opaque shower curtain liner, a polyester liner is a better choice.

Shower curtains aren’t meant to come in contact with the water as much, so they can be made from a variety of materials. Cotton or polyester are the most common options.

Cotton can readily absorb water, so it’s designed to be used with a shower curtain liner. Polyester will stand up to water a bit better.

Other shower curtain material options include linen, hemp, or microfiber.

new Shower curtain liner in package
Shower curtain liner

Privacy

If you share a bathroom with someone, you may want to consider privacy when deciding what shower curtains or liners to buy.

woman behind a shower curtain wearing a shower cap

Most shower curtain liners are transparent, so they will offer almost no privacy.

Shower curtains, on the other hand, are almost always opaque, offering plenty of privacy.

If you have small children, a shower liner that you can see through is sometimes a good option, so you can keep an eye on them while they bathe.

Can I use just a shower curtain or just a liner?

Purchasing both a shower curtain and liner can sometimes feel a bit expensive. If you need to, you can purchase just one or the other.

If you only want to purchase one item, a shower liner is usually the best choice. Although they won’t hide the tub or offer privacy, and they aren’t as nice to look at as a shower curtain, they will effectively keep water inside the tub.

This will reduce water staining and damage to the floor, walls, or any items you have in the bathroom. The material of a shower liner is designed to stand up to contact with water, as well.

Shower curtains can be used by themselves, too, but if you want to only use a shower curtain, try to pick one that’s made of water-resistant fabric.

Some shower curtains are even made of vinyl and act much like a shower liner. These curtains aren’t always as decorative, but they provide a good balance of privacy, decoration, and water protection.

Shower curtains that are used without a liner will need to be replaced much more frequently than curtains with a liner.

When used with a liner and taken care of properly, shower curtains can last many years. Remember to clean your shower curtain whenever it becomes dirty or dusty.

Shower liners should also be cleaned every one to two weeks.

woman shopping for a shower curtain

What should I do if my shower curtain or liner gets mildewed?

One of the biggest issues with both shower curtains and liners is mildew. Unlike regular dirt or soap residue, mildew is very difficult to clean.

It can leave prominent stains, and it can also emit a musty odor. Because they’re so close to the water so frequently, shower curtains and liners are prone to mildewing.

shower curtain liner mildew
shower curtain with mildew

To prevent a shower curtain and liner from mildewing, try to dry the bathroom as quickly as possible after showering. Open the door and turn on an overhead fan.

If there’s a bathroom window, you might want to open it to release steam. After a shower, always spread the shower curtain and liner open so that water can evaporate quickly and won’t become trapped in any creases.

If the shower curtain or liner becomes mildewed, you can try washing it in the washing machine. Vinyl shower liners that have mildewed should be thrown away and replaced.

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