Your shower curtain is actually the dirtiest spot in your bathroom.

By Stacey Leasca
Updated January 30, 2020
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Even if you think your home is the cleanest on the block, there’s likely one place you’re forgetting to scrub: the shower curtain and liner.

We get why you probably never wash this shower accessory—shower curtains and liners can be a real pain to keep tidy. But it’s imperative you start cleaning them, because they're indeed disgusting. As a study by Safe Home found, your shower curtain actually harbors 60 times more bacteria than your toilet seat. In fact, the study reveals that shower curtains and liners are the dirtiest spots in the bathroom by leaps and bounds.

Thankfully, there are a few easy tips for cleaning and replacing your shower curtain that will not only save you time, but could also save you money—while keeping your bathroom sanitized and spotless. “I used to replace my [shower curtain and liner] every six months or so,” says Jeneva Aaron, a Sacramento–based home decor blogger. But what a waste of money and materials, right? “If you’re trying to save money, you can keep your shower curtain until washing it doesn’t work anymore,” Aaron adds. Here’s how to clean your shower curtain to ensure it doesn't end up in the trash too early.

How to Clean Your Shower Curtain in the Washing Machine

Aaron keeps her cleaning routine simple by taking her shower curtain off its rings and popping it in the washing machine on a regular laundry cycle once a month.

“Throw it in the machine with a half-cup of baking soda and a towel or two,” she says. “The baking soda will break down the grime, and the towels will wipe it off as it spins.” The towel trick will also work wonders on a plastic liner because it’ll help keep it from getting wrinkled in the machine. But to be safe, wash other laundry in a separate load. And while plastic shower liners can go in the washing machine, make sure it never gets tossed into the dryer.

Once the washer hits the rinse cycle, Aaron suggests adding a half-cup of vinegar to break down any leftover dirt. When the cycle is finished, take the shower curtain out and hang it up to dry.

How to Clean Your Shower Curtain Without a Washing Machine

Georgia Dixon and Angela Bell of Grove Collaborative's Grove Guides recommend using a daily shower spray to help maintain your liner and curtain for longer. “Add a few drops of tea tree oil to the spray bottle for extra antibacterial and antifungal properties,” they suggest.

If your curtain or liner is showing signs of a buildup, especially around the bottom, use an enzyme stain spray, or soak it in an oxygen whitener, and scrub with a soft scrub brush before laundering. This will help remove all that grime and get it like new again. They also recommend Aaron’s favorite trick, even if you don't use a machine: “You can soak a plastic liner in a baking soda and vinegar solution to remove soap residue.”

Purchase a Second Liner for Rotation

Bell and Dixon suggest buying two of the same liner and curtain so you can rotate them out and make them both last just a bit longer. Genius, right?

If you prefer a plastic liner, Dixon and Bell say it’s best to look for PVC-free shower curtain liner as it will likely be toxin-free as well. Still, a fabric liner can work wonders and may be a better choice for cleanliness and the environment. “A fabric liner can work great in a well-ventilated bathroom,” they say. “Fabric liners can be cold-water washed regularly if you’re looking for a more sustainable option to plastic.”

How Often Should You Wash Your Shower Curtain and Liner?

Your shower curtain and liner should get a shower themselves about once a month. “Washing the curtain and liner can be added to your monthly task-list,” Dixon and Bell say. “Keeping the curtains mildew-free can really prolong their lifespan, as mold and mildew can break down the fabric.”

How to Know When It’s Time to Toss Your Curtain

It’s time to invest in a new curtain/liner when “visible mold stays after laundering,” Bell and Dixon say. If you see any signs of “light brown stains still on it” after a cycle in the wash, Aaron says, “that’s when you should throw it away.”

Ready for an upgrade in your bathroom? Check out these five shower curtains that can totally transform your bathroom (just don’t forget to wash them).

Have a Shower Door Instead of a Curtain?

That’s quick and easy to clean too, but it requires a little elbow grease. Here’s how to de-grime the shower door: Add a few drops of distilled white vinegar to one cup of baking soda, and stir to make a thick paste. Apply it to the door and let it sit for an hour. Then use a microfiber cloth to rub it in. After rinsing off the paste, buff the door dry using a fresh microfiber cloth.

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This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com