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Can Your Dirty Shower Curtain Make You Sick?

Three strategies to keep your shower a safe haven

Dirty shower curtain

Your shower. It’s a welcome reprieve from the real world, where you let all your stress and anxiety wash down the drain.

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Well, until you read that showers and shower liners are harboring unseen nastiness, which brings on full-blown panic. Is the shower yet another thing we need to worry about?

Worrying about shower curtain cleanliness is overrated

“If you’re a healthy person, then worrying about your shower curtain shouldn’t keep you up at night,” says family medicine doctor Jeffrey Brown, DO. “There’s probably little likelihood that your shower or shower curtain will make you sick.”

According to Dr. Brown, all kinds of bacteria and mold form on shower curtains and liners, but the most common type is the kind that causes body odor. However, if you have a suppressed immune system, you may have a greater risk of infection, so ask your doctor if you need to take extra shower precautions.

Dr. Brown says that for the most part, the bacteria in your shower doesn’t pose a significant threat. The only way to get sick is if you happened to inhale the bacteria deeply. And even if this did occur, Dr. Brown says it most likely wouldn’t lead to infection in a healthy person.

Strategies to keep you safe in the shower

Dr. Brown suggests three actions you can take to keep your shower the sanctuary you need it to be:

Clean or replace your shower curtain liner

“I recommend replacing your shower liner every six months to a year,” says Dr. Brown. “Alternatively, you can pop it in the washing machine and run a rinse cycle with bleach or vinegar. Then, hang it on the line outside or back in the shower to dry.”

Dr. Brown doesn’t recommend standing in the shower and spraying your shower curtain with a cleaning solution. In a twist of cleaning irony, inhaling the cleaner is worse for you than the dirty shower liner.

Keep your tub and shower surround clean

Dr. Brown suggests cleaning your bathtub and shower walls with an all-purpose bleach cleaner every week, which will keep surfaces clean enough for a baby’s bottom. Spray the solution on the surface and let it sit for 10 to 15 seconds so it can kill any lingering bacteria. Next, wipe down the shower and tub surfaces, then rinse.

Close the toilet lid when flushing

“Studies have shown that when you flush the toilet, the water mist can spray up to six feet,” says Dr. Brown. “If your toilet is situated next to the shower, you increase the likelihood that the toilet water can touch the shower curtain or surround.”

So close the toilet lid before you flush to keep the mist contained.

When it comes to cleanliness, worry about the right thing

“The most important thing to think about is proper hygiene,” says Dr. Brown. “We often spend time and energy feeling anxious about things that won’t make us sick. It’s more effective to focus on the daily activities we can take to minimize the risk of infection.”

Your go-to bathroom routine should include:

  • Proper wiping: When wiping, go from front to back to minimize the chances of spreading tiny bits of feces, which could cause a urinary tract infection.
  • Handwashing: Wash your hands immediately after using the bathroom with soap for at least 20 seconds. If running water and soap are scarce, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

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