Update: Death of a Plastic Shower Curtain, Part 2

Last updated on December 3, 2020.

If you read my previous post about the death of my plastic shower curtain liner, you’ll recall that my goal was to find a plastic-free alternative. First, I decided that we would try getting by with only the cloth shower curtain. And I told you I’d update you on how that went!

The Shower Curtain

I purchased the cloth shower curtain at Bed Bath & Beyond back in 2015. As I mentioned before, I also had a plastic liner to protect it. The cloth one is made of 100% cotton and listed as machine washable on their website. But it also indicated “liner not included,” meaning it was intended to be a  decorative curtain, protected by a separate liner. I think I knew that at the time I purchased it, but back then I thought I would always have a plastic/vinyl shower curtain liner.

But the shower curtain has not withstood daily use in the shower and two subsequent washing machine cycles. The curtain got very dark and dingy with a few mold spots. After I washed it the first time in the washing machine, I noticed some small holes and areas where the fabric was starting to deteriorate. But I rehung it for a couple of more months and it got gross again.

Image shows the bottom section of the dingy shower curtain.
Image shows the bottom section of the dingy shower curtain.
Close-up image of the mold spots and dinginess.
Close-up image of the mold spots and dinginess.

Washing the Shower Curtain

This week, it was time to wash it again. In recent weeks, I discovered Otter Wax, which is a waterproofing wax made of different waxes, including beeswax. This product does not contain paraffin, silicone, or other petroleum-based synthetic ingredients. So I ordered some and planned to waterproof my shower curtain.

Image of the Otter Wax I purchased.

The instructions are clear that the fabric item must be cleaned and dried, but also be able to cure for 24 hours. Since we only have one shower, I had to time this perfectly around three people’s daily use of the shower. I took it down after the last shower one morning this week and worked on it right away to make sure I had enough time.

The night before I pre-treated it by spraying 3% hydrogen peroxide on the inside of the curtain, to deal with the mold spots. (I avoid using bleach whenever possible because of its toxicity, and I keep reading that bleach just changes the color of mold and doesn’t actually kill it.) I let it sit on the curtain for a while and rinsed it off later. It did not make any visible difference but I had hoped it killed the mold.

I put 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle.
I put 3% hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle.

Next, I put it in the washing machine on the casual cycle (which is supposed to be gentler during the spin cycle than the regular cycle). But here’s what happened!

Image of the damaged shower curtain.
This is the damaged shower curtain. Thankfully the damage was isolated to the bottom portion of the curtain.

Oh, dear.

My initial thought was that I would have to purchase a new hemp shower curtain. But money is tight these days, so I decided not to give up on this curtain just yet!

Reparations

Obviously, damage this bad cannot be mended or patched up. My only option was to hem the shower curtain. I needed to cut off 7 inches (up to the highest points of the damaged areas) and then I used a half-inch folded twice to make a new bottom hem. This meant I was going to lose a total of 8 inches off the bottom.

I cut, pinned, and then held it up to the shower curtain rod to see if it would still be long enough before I completed it. It seemed fine and the curtain rod is adjustable, so I went ahead and hemmed the curtain.

Trimming the shower curtain.
Trimming the shower curtain.
Pinning the hem.
Pinning the hem.
The final hem.
The final hem.

Waterproofing

The last step was to apply the Otter Wax on the fabric, which took some elbow grease. I only ended up having enough wax to do the lower half of the shower curtain (and just enough time before going to work that day). My bar is only the size of a pat of butter now!

Full bar of Otter Wax before I began.
Full bar of Otter Wax before I began.
My tiny leftover piece after completion.
My tiny leftover piece after completion.

After it was coated, I allowed about 22 hours to cure. I left it out on my dining room table at room temperature. The next morning, my husband and I hung it back up. We did have to lower the shower curtain rod a couple of inches (which lightly damaged the paint, so I’ll have to touch that up this weekend). But the shorter length is not that noticeable.

Cleaned, repaired, and re-hung: a second life for this shower curtain.
Cleaned, repaired, and re-hung: a second life for this shower curtain.

The next step

It’s not perfectly coated, so I may need to apply another layer. For now, I’m going to see how it repels water. I followed the instructions on the paper label, but I’ve since watched YouTube videos about how others use OtterWax. Some users recommended using a hairdryer on low to make the wax easier to spread onto the fabric. Others recommended ironing the entire piece on low after rubbing the bar into the fabric. This is the option I will try should I need to make it more waterproof.

I hope this post was helpful! Have you had any struggles going plastic-free with a shower curtain? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

Please check out Part 3 in this short series. Thanks for reading, and please subscribe!

All images in this post were taken by me.

4 Replies to “Update: Death of a Plastic Shower Curtain, Part 2”

  1. I’ve been trying different plastic free methods for years, they all seem to get moldy and then the mold doesn’t wash out. Looking forward to part 3 and an update. I’m wondering if a PUL/TPU fabric liner would be worth the finances and stress. My next try is using the tex kraft vegan leather fabric. Someone needs to come up with a banana leaf or waterproof cork fabric liner that’s not $100+!

    1. Hi Kelly, I did write a part 3, please read it when you have time! I, too, struggle with mold no matter what I do. I hadn’t thought of using PUL/TPU fabric (the types of fabrics used to make waterproof items such as cloth diaper covers) because unfortunately, those are not plastic-free. And I agree about pricing, everything non-plastic seems to be close to or over $100. I would love to know if you try the vegan leather fabric and how that works out – please come back and let me know if you do! Thank you for your comment and I hope to hear back from you!

  2. Hello, I have undergone the same project. 100% cotton curtain and otter wax. I used the pail, which I set in a rice cooker full of hot water to melt, then brushed on the wax with a brush. This left yellow clumps on the fabric that didn’t seem to completely absorb. I tried a hair dryer which did not work. I finally got my hands on a heat gun and could visibly see the wax melt into the cotton fibers. Once complete, water would bead up on the wax, leaving the other side dry. I’m happy with it, except the bottom has also grown some mold. I’m hoping a re-wax will seal the mold off from oxygen and kill it… I tried daubing some coconut oil on it as a temporary measure as well. The heat gun was a loan, so I need to get my own for the next application. Overall, it is a good system, but I think I need a better solution for preventing mold. Perhaps a spray bottle that I could clean off the hem with? I’m not sure. Nice to see others are doing the same project I have!

    1. Hi Jess, Thank you for sharing! I need to write a part 3 to this post, as I experienced mold growth on the shower curtain too. It almost seemed like the otter wax was holding it in, especially around the hem as you mentioned. I ended up having to replace the curtain, and now I have a hemp cloth shower curtain, which has had its own set of complexities. I’ll be sure to write a Part 3 update soon!

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