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Guide to Shower Curtains: Get to Know Colors, Sizes, Materials & More

shower curtain
Written By
PARACHUTE TEAM
Photographs By
JESSICA SCHRAMM FOR PARACHUTE
@parachutehome
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Do shower curtains really matter? The average person doesn’t give it a second thought, but shower curtains are actually a key way to tie in your bathroom decor. Let’s be real — not everyone can afford their dream bathroom remodel, but a carefully chosen shower curtain can completely revamp your space. So, how do you choose? 

The internet isn’t short on shower and bath curtains — from decorative options with artist-drawn patterns to utilitarian models. What you pick should depend on the space. Do you have a custom tub or are the standard shower curtain dimensions suitable? What style is your bathroom? Do you dare to go bold or do you prefer to keep things neutral? This guide will give you the lowdown on everything you need to know about shower curtains.

What Is a Shower Curtain?

In the most basic terms, a shower curtain is a curtain that pulls around your shower. Showers and bathtubs tend to have two options: they’re either enclosed in glass or use a shower curtain with a liner. Both of these methods help keep water from splashing out into the rest of the bathroom, but shower curtains actually serve a greater purpose. They provide privacy and are an integral part of a bathroom’s style.

There are three things to keep in mind when you’re looking to buy a shower curtain:

  • Dimensions

  • Fabric type

  • Style. 

Most showers require a standard shower curtain height, but that will change if you have a custom tub. You can really get creative with fabric and style choices. A shower curtain tends to be the center of a bathroom, so using a few of the best shower curtain ideas will help transform your space for the better.

Shower Curtain Materials

Shower curtains come in a variety of different fabrics and materials — from natural fabrics like cotton and linen to synthetic fabrics like vinyl and polyester. This is where form and function meet. Some people prefer a decorative shower curtain made from a textural fabric. Others want a utilitarian option that serves as both a liner and a curtain. In general, natural fabrics are more environmentally friendly while luxe, but synthetic fabrics and plastics are easier to clean. Some of the most popular shower curtain materials include:

Linen

Linen is a medium weight natural fabric that’s ideal for a shower curtain because it’s known for staying dry in humidity. The Linen Shower Curtain you’ll find at Parachute is made from 100% European flax, which means it’s durable and naturally insulating. Overall, this stylish, eco-friendly fabric looks more luxurious than synthetic fabrics. Unfortunately, like all natural fabrics, linen isn’t waterproof, so you’ll need a liner. To avoid wrinkles, make sure to leave your shower curtain closed while it dries.

Learn more about what makes the linen fabric so special in the Linen: Know Your Bedding Like a Designer guide.

Cotton

Cotton is an airy natural fabric that’s known for its durability. Like linen, this type of fabric adds a luxurious (but cozy) feeling to your bathroom. Where it thrives is versatility. It’s eco-friendly and comes in a myriad of colors, textures and weights. For example, a cloud cotton shower curtain is lightweight with a rich, crinkled texture, whereas a turkish shower curtain is a medium weight with a cozy knit texture.

Vinyl

Vinyl shower curtains tend to be the most utilitarian option. They’re generally inexpensive and water resistant by design. These function as a two-in-one. With a thick vinyl shower curtain, you won’t need a shower liner. Unfortunately, these can look cheap. They’re often used in hotels and dormitories because they’re inexpensive and easy to care for. 

Polyester

Polyester shower curtains are sort of the best of both worlds. They don’t look as expensive as natural fabrics, but you still get a fabric feel with the mildew resistance of vinyl. (Polyester is, after all, plastic.) Polyester shower curtains aren’t eco-friendly, but they lend themselves to bold patterns and colors that won’t fade.

Shower Curtain Sizes

It’s important to choose your shower curtain size carefully. One that’s too short won’t just look slightly off — it will allow water to drip on your floor. A little water is no big deal for relatively waterproof tile, but nobody wants to be stuck mopping up a mess. So size is a standard shower curtain dimensions? 

All three standard shower curtain dimensions fit most conventional showers. They only vary slightly, so there’s not much room for error. The average shower curtain sizes are:

  • 70 x 70 inches

  • 70 x 72 inches

  • 72 x 72 inches

Some bathrooms require different shower curtain lengths and widths. For example, you’ll need extra height if you’ve got an extra-tall shower and less width for a tiny shower stall. In this case, look for the following specialty sizes:

  • 70 x 84 inches or 72 x 84 inches for extra tall showers

  • 144 x 72 inches for extra wide showers

  • 54 x 78 inches for shower stalls

Again, there’s not much room for error. Shower curtains don’t have to be a perfect fit as long as they’re not dragging on the ground. Err on the side of too big rather than too small. A too-short shower curtain paired with a same-sized liner will lead to water leakage, so it’s important to measure your space before you buy.

How to Measure Your Shower for a Shower Curtain

To get the perfect shower curtain dimensions, first measure your shower from wall to wall. You want your shower curtain to have a relaxed look when it’s pulled closed, so add 12 inches to the width measurement. 

To get the height, measure from the top of the shower rod to the floor. If you’re purchasing a shower curtain that uses curtain rings (rather than built-in rings) subtract eight to 10 inches. Some rings are bigger than others, but this number is less important if you have an adjustable curtain rod. You’ll be able to adjust the rod to accommodate a couple inches in either direction.

Shower Curtain Decor Ideas

The right shower curtain can completely transform your bathroom’s look and feel. These bathroom shower curtain ideas may spark some inspiration.

Use Stylish Curtain Rings

Shower curtains are hung on a curtain rod with rings or hooks. Some shower curtains come with built-in rings, but most shower curtains require the addition of rings. Decorative rings can make a huge impact on an otherwise basic shower curtain, so you may want to upgrade. Opt for chrome Shower Curtain Hooks to match the rest of your hardware or choose Black Curtain Hooks for a modern feel.

Try Earth Tones to Create a Calming Space

Earth tones bring about a feeling of calm and relaxation, especially when paired with greenery. A well-placed houseplant by a bathroom window does wonders for the psyche (not to mention it’ll love soaking up the humidity). Pair a plant with an earth-toned shower curtain like a Cloud Cotton Shower Curtain in Terra and bring on the boho vibes.

Learn more tips about choosing the right plants in our list of the Best Plants for the Bedroom.

Match Your Shower Curtain to Your Decor

Matching your shower curtain to your towels and bathmat is a great way to create a clean, cohesive look — but you can work with more than just color. For example, match textures. Think: a Waffle Shower Curtain with a pair of Waffle Towels or Soft Rib Tub Mat with Soft Rib Towels.

Dial in your bathroom floor options with our guide to Bath Mats vs Bath Rugs.

Crisp White Gives a Clean Look

White shower curtains are the best for small bathrooms. Rather than bogging down a space with heavy accents, white curtains open up a room. They also tend to go with any type of bathroom style. Industrial? No problem. Boho? You got it. Modern? Always.

Use Neutrals to Let Texture Shine

Neutral colors don’t have to be boring. With towels, curtains, robes and bathmats, there are plenty of places in a bathroom to play with texture. Try using muted colors in different textures to add some excitement to an otherwise drab space. How you fold your towels also makes a huge difference.

Need more bathroom towel tips? See our guide to the Best Towel Materials and Sizes. Then, see our article on How to Fold and Style Your Towels Like a Hotel.

Use a Pattern as Your Bathroom’s Centerpiece

Want a big impact? Opt for a patterned shower curtain. It can be used as a standout centerpiece or to tie together different accent colors. 

How to Wash and Care for Your Shower Curtains

How you care for your shower curtain and liner depends on the material. Plastics are mold and mildew-resistant, and you can usually clean them with your normal bathroom cleaners. You’ll always want to close your shower curtain and liner as they dry to help prevent mold and mildew from growing in the folds.

If you have a fabric shower curtain, you may be able to wash it in a washing machine as long as you’re careful. We recommend spot cleaning with a natural laundry detergent or machine washing on a cold delicate cycle in a mesh laundry bag to preserve the integrity of the fabric. Line dry (or tumble dry on a low setting, again in a mesh laundry bag) to avoid shrinkage. Yes, just like your favorite t-shirt, shower curtains can shrink in the wash.

It’s important to read the care instructions on your shower curtain’s label before throwing it in the wash with the rest of your laundry.

Read our article How to Clean A Shower Curtain for a complete guide to shower curtain care.

Or learn more about how to wash and care for other home items here:

How to Properly Wash Towels

How to Wash and Properly Care for Bedding

How Often Should I Wash My Sheets?

How Often Should We Replace Our Pillows?

Shower Liner vs. Shower Curtain: Is a Liner Necessary?

Shower curtains and shower liners are two similar but different products. Sure, your shower curtain will help keep water from splashing onto your bathroom floor, but that’s not its primary purpose. Shower curtains typically hang outside of the bathtub and are used for privacy and style. They’re often made of fabric that absorbs (rather than repels) water, meaning they’re not waterproof and take longer to dry. Shower liners protect your bathroom and stop water in its tracks.

Unless you’re using a vinyl shower curtain, shower liners are necessary for a couple of reasons. First, you can tuck the liner into your bathtub to stop water from dripping out of the shower. They’re typically made of plastic because they’re designed to get wet and dry quickly. Second, they act as a barrier between your more porous shower curtain and the rest of your bathroom. It’s much more difficult to remove mold and mildew from a fabric shower curtain than it is to wipe it off of a plastic liner. In fact, the Shower Curtain Liner you’ll find at Parachute is mildew resistant.

Overall, plastic liners protect your shower curtain. They’re inexpensive and easy to replace, whereas a really nice curtain is more of an investment but transforms your bathroom’s style.

The Bottom Line

Shower curtains are an essential part of most bathrooms. They epitomize the idea of form and function. A simple swap can make a boring, cramped bathroom into a peaceful oasis. At Parachute, shower curtains revel in luxurious natural fabrics that match every kind of decor, whether you want to make a statement with texture or have a crisp, minimalist space. Browse shower curtain options to find a perfect match.

For more bathroom inspiration, read on in these Parachute bath decor guides:

Bathroom Interior Design Ideas & Inspiration

Guest Bathroom Essentials: 10 Decor Ideas and Tips

Step-By-Step Linen Closet Organization Guide

Mirror Decor Ideas & Inspiration For Your Bathroom and Bedroom 

Home Scent Ideas: Room-by-Room Fragrance Essentials