Medical Mythbuster: Can Your Shower Curtain Make You Sick?

By Michael Sheehy, MD
Chief of Population Health and Analytics
Reliant Medical Group 

The answer is it’s possible, but you shouldn’t worry too much about it. The truth is that showers and shower curtains can often harbor mold, which flourishes in wet environments. Mold can potentially cause irritation for those with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as COPD, allergies and asthma.

Fortunately, if you are a healthy person, there’s little chance that your shower curtain will cause a major health problem. The most common type of mold to form on a shower curtain is the kind that causes body odor, so it is not going to put you in any great danger. However, if you have a suppressed immune system, it’s more important to avoid inhaling mold and you may need to take extra precautions (check with your health care provider).

No matter what your health status, it’s always a good idea to take some precautions to reduce the chance of excess mold or germs in your bathroom. First, clean or replace your shower liner approximately every six months. You can put it in the washing machine and add bleach or vinegar to the rinse cycle to thoroughly clean it. (Don’t try cleaning your shower curtain with a spray cleaner while taking a shower, the fumes from the cleaning solution can be harmful if used that way.) You should also clean your bathtub and shower each week with an all-purpose bleach cleaner. Spray the solution and let it sit on surfaces for 10-15 seconds so it can kill any lingering bacteria. Then wipe down the shower and tub surfaces carefully. Closing the toilet lid before flushing is also a good habit to get into. (Mist from a flushing toilet can spread germs up to six feet, including on your shower curtain.)

No matter how clean your bathroom is, the most important way to prevent the spread of germs is washing your hands properly and doing it often. Fortunately, it’s a lot easier to wash your hands than a shower curtain.

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