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How To: Kill Shower Curtain Mold



FitSugar recently came to me with an icky shower curtain mold dilemma. The base of her shower curtain has been taken over by a gross pink mold. Despite efforts to tell it what time it is, putting it in the washing machine with a stain-killer, and letting it sit for hours, no dice. Unfortunately, mold thrives in the warm, damp environment of bathrooms, and the shower curtain is no exception. With a quick Google, I found that most of the advice recommended is just what Fit had tried, the washing machine. Then, I came across an archive of a Wall Street Journal article by Sam Schechner called "Testing Ways to Kill Shower-Curtain Mold." Success! To hear a summary of Schechner's techniques for battling that repulsive pink mold, read more.

He tested five methods, slicing up the same nasty shower curtain into fifths. He sprayed one slice with bleach (Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover), one bleach free of chlorine (Seventh Generation Shower Cleaner), "soaked another slice in a bathtub with a bottle of distilled vinegar," dumped another "in a washing machine along with bleach and white towels (for friction)," and "scrubbed one slice with a mixture of water, dish soap, and tea tree oil." A pretty thorough experiment, huh?

Here are the results:

  • The spray with Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover trial, which cost $3.29 for a 32 fl. oz. spray bottle, was easy, requiring no scrubbing. The result? The curtain smelled "like a noxious swimming pool," but "came out practically bone-white."
  • The spray with Seventh Generation Shower Cleaner, which cost $4.99 for a 32 fl. oz. spray bottle, required 14 minutes of scrubbing on just the one section of curtain. The result? The curtain smelled like "sweet lemon soda," but a "grayish pattern remained where the black mold had been," although not so noticeable from across the room.
  • Soaking the curtain in distilled vinegar and water, which cost $1.29 for a 16 fl. oz. bottle of Heinz distilled white vinegar, required "slightly less elbow grease than some methods," but still took an hour to soak. The result? It smelled "like someone had made a salad in our bathroom," and still left visible gray stains.
  • Washing the curtain with NOW tea tree oil and dishsoap, which cost $5.95 for a 1 fl. oz. bottle of oil and $1.99 for Palmolive, required what felt like nearly "a full upper-body workout at the gym." The result? The curtain smelled like "a massage parlor" but resulted in "minimal payback for all that effort."
  • Bleaching the curtain in washing machine on a hot-water cycle, which cost $1.29 for a 24 fl. oz. bottle of Clorox Ultra Regular Bleach, didn't require any work aside from letting the washing machine do its thing. The result? It was left with a "light bleach odor," but "big rust-colored stains remained," even after a second washing.

So, I guess the Tilex did the trick in the stain department, but is still toxic. Letting it air dry might get rid of the chemical smell, but still, who wants to inhale the smell of a "noxious swimming pool?" That can't be good for you or the environment. In terms of results, The Seventh Generation Shower Cleaner sounds like the second best option, but is 70 minutes of scrubbing time (14 mins. x 5) really worth it? It might be better to find a way to recycle, reuse, or repurpose your moldy nylon shower curtain, and buy a new one. Ahh it's hard to be So Fresh and Clean sometimes.
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