A nice shower curtain can really make a decorative difference in a bathroom. Whatever pattern, color, or design you choose can change the room’s entire look. But while a shower curtain’s cosmetic and functional purposes may be clear, figuring out how to hang one up may not be as simple as it seems.
A shower curtain goes inside the bathtub or shower stall when hung. That way, the curtain can keep water from spilling out or dripping onto the floor. However, different shower curtain types might be hung differently, depending on the material.
In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss whether you should hang your shower curtain inside or outside your bath. I’ll also go over the primary materials shower curtains are made of and how you should hang them. Keep reading.
The Purpose of a Shower Curtain
The purpose of a shower curtain is to keep the bathroom floor dry while someone is bathing or showering. A shower curtain can also serve as a decoration. It’s an affordable option for people who have a combined bathtub and shower and can’t have a shower stall door to accomplish the same job.
However, it may mean that your shower curtain isn’t doing a good job if you notice there’s still a lot of water getting on your bathroom floor while you shower.
The way it’s hung might be the reason — the following section explains this in detail.
Which Types of Shower Curtains Go Inside/Outside
Not all shower curtains are made equally. You might have thought that the main difference between the different curtains you can find is their pattern or their length, but that’s not the case.
You’ll want to make sure that you hang your shower curtain properly, depending on which one you choose.
Singular Shower Curtains Should Be Inside a Tub or Shower
A singular shower curtain is pretty self-explanatory.
These packages will usually say that they come with one shower curtain enclosed in the packaging.
If that’s what’s mentioned on the packaging, it’s typically intended to be hung on its own. In this case, the curtain will likely be made out of waterproof or water-resistant material, which I’ll go into in more detail below.
These shower curtains may have a decorative print or color on them, but their main purpose is to be functional.
These curtains should be on the inside of your tub or shower to be used properly.
Plain, Water-Blocking Lined Shower Curtains Go Inside a Tub or Shower
When you see a package that says it holds a “lined shower curtain,” that means when you hang it up, you’ll have two curtain swatches of material.
In most cases, one of these curtains will be decorative and made of a softer material that’s more similar to what you might find in other types of curtains or upholstery.
The other curtain will likely be made out of water-repelling material and will probably be a plain color like white or transparent.
The best way to hang these curtains is to allow the decorative curtain to hang outside your bathtub so it doesn’t absorb water and can serve its more “fashionable” purpose.
Instead, the plain, water-blocking curtain should be hung inside the tub so that it can keep water from spilling over your tub and onto the floor.
Decorative Replacement Shower Curtains Go Outside a Tub or Shower
Replacement shower curtains may be hard to recognize.
These curtains may say something like “decorative curtain” or “liner” or “replacement” somewhere on their packaging or in their descriptions.
These packages will come with a single curtain. However, they differ from the singular curtains mentioned above because these are meant to be replacement curtains.
If you have a lined curtain that needs a new decorative or lining piece, and you’d prefer not to purchase an entirely new set, these curtains are good options.
So, you’ll want to hang a replacement liner inside the bath and a decorative replacement curtain outside.
In the case of liner replacements, if they’re hung on their own, there likely won’t be any problems.
However, you should check to ensure that a decorative curtain is made of appropriate material to be hung on its own or if it’s, in fact, a replacement part for a lined curtain.
Popular Shower Curtain Materials
The material a shower curtain is made out of can determine how it’s supposed to be hung for those cases when you might be confused.
Vinyl Shower Curtains Will Block Water and Won’t Absorb Moisture
Vinyl is often the first material people will think of when they think of shower curtains. That’s because this material is great for dealing with water.
Since these curtains are waterproof, they won’t absorb moisture. As long as they’re cleaned regularly and can dry, they won’t develop mold.
The vinyl thickness will affect how durable a curtain is, but well-made plastic shower curtains can last years without being replaced.
Shower curtain liners will usually be made out of vinyl or another sort of plastic. However, so will many single curtains.
These curtains should be hung inside the tub to block water from spilling.
Polyester Shower Curtains Are Softer Than Vinyl Shower Curtains
Speaking of other plastics, it’s likely that, if you don’t think of vinyl, you think of this material when asked to picture what shower curtains are made out of.
Since polyester is also plastic, like vinyl, it’s also waterproof, meaning it won’t absorb moisture.
However, unlike vinyl, since polyester is also often used for clothing, it’s a softer sort of material. Polyester curtains may not always be as easy to clean compared to traditional plastic like vinyl.
You might have to take them down and put them in the washing machine. However, that’s the primary difference between these two plastic-based options.
You don’t need a liner for these curtains as they can do the job of keeping water from escaping onto the bathroom floor. So, these curtains should be hung inside the tub or shower.
Cotton Shower Curtains Should Only Serve as Decorations
Cotton is another popular option for shower curtains because it’s a soft, easy to make, and easy to clean material.
However, cotton shower curtains are typically meant to be purely decorative.
This fabric absorbs water, which can damage your curtain, walls, or ceiling (however you have your curtain hung), and will allow water to spill onto your bathroom floor.
These factors would defeat some of the points of having it as your primary water-blocker.
This curtain should be hung outside your tub together with a liner to go on the inside.
Microfiber Shower Curtains Usually Don’t Need Liners
Microfiber fabric has become a popular shower curtain option in recent years.
The material is more water-resistant than other fabric types while still being easy to clean. This fabric is durable and can come in a pattern or solid-colored options.
Since it’s also a fabric material, curtains made of this material will often look similar to other purely decorative options. However, microfiber shower curtains don’t need a liner, unlike cotton or other fabrics.
If you take regular baths, you may want a plastic liner to help create a seal to keep water in your tub and not on the floor.
However, a microfiber curtain alone can usually do the trick for showers.
This curtain, when used alone, should be hung inside the tub to prevent spilling. It can be hung either inside or outside when used with a liner, depending on your preference.
Interested in checking out more information about cleaning shower curtains? Take a look at this article: How to Clean a Shower Curtain Without Taking It Down
Shower Curtain Alternatives
While shower curtains are a fairly common choice for many bathrooms, there are some alternatives worth looking at that’ll have their own pros and cons compared to curtains.
If you don’t have a bathtub, a shower door may be a good alternative to a shower curtain.
Shower doors are made in a way that seals the shower stall or box so that water doesn’t spray outside onto the floor.
This option usually does the trick at keeping the floor dry as showers involve continuously drained water so it won’t collect.
The con to this is that a door typically won’t work for bath-shower combinations, and it can be difficult to clean in the door’s crevices.
Nothing at All
A bold but valid choice if you have a bathtub but no shower is to avoid using anything at all. It’s a valid option if you’re confident that you can bathe without water overflowing.
The con is that it’s challenging to take a bath without any water getting on the floor unless you use your tub sparingly just to relax for a little while. That means more cleanup for you.
You likely won’t use this method if you bathe to get clean.
Also, if you have a bath and shower in one, this option likely won’t work for you as it’s harder to control the shower spray to keep it from getting everywhere without a curtain.
Knowing how to hang your shower curtains can be surprisingly tricky.
Between types of materials and packages of curtains you can buy, it can be tempting to just go with a different water-control option altogether.
However, your shower curtain or liner generally should go inside your tub to avoid getting your floor wet.
See also: Standard Shower Curtain Sizes: Which One Fits Your Shower?