Story of the toxic shower curtain liner

The shower curtain liner in the CPL household has gotten unbearably gross. I’m sure everyone with a plastic shower liner in the bathroom knows what I’m talking about. After a couple months of usage, the liner always seems to grow gross, brown, moldy spots. Every time I use the shower I think, “next time I’m in the shower I’m going to scrub those spots…” Guess how long it’s been since I first started thinking that? Yup, it’s been a while and I have yet to carry it out.

So when I saw an “Eco Shower Curtain Liner” on sale for $9 while browsing the West Elm website, I skimmed through the description (“An earth-friendly vinyl liner that pairs perfectly with all west elm shower curtains,” “Made of PEVA, a combination of 50% PE and 50% EVA.”) and mindlessly clicked “Add to Cart.”

shower curtain

My initial reaction was, “Yay, an eco-friendly shower curtain liner on sale! I don’t have to scrub the old gross one anymore!” Then my critical thinking side finally set in a couple minutes later. Wait, what am I going to do with the old liner if I replace it solely because I don’t want to clean it? Just toss it in the trash so it can sit in the landfill for eternity? And what the hell is PEVA, PE, and EVA?? The West Elm description says its “vinyl” so that means it’s made of petroleum, which is NOT eco-friendly or “earth-friendly.” If anything, “an earth-friendly vinyl liner” is an oxymoron is what it is. As much as I love West Elm and all the green initiatives they say they are up to, GAWD, I HATE GREENWASHING!!!

“Greenwashing (a compound word modeled on “whitewash”), or “green sheen,” is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims and/or policies are environmentally friendly.”   — Wikipedia

What’s worse, I ALMOST FELL FOR IT!!! Just to make sure, I googled PEVA. An article on says PEVA liners are non-vinyl (PVC-free), chlorine-free, and biodegradable which is questionable because PEVA stands for polyethylene vinyl acetate which is still clearly a plastic and a vinyl. I guess PEVA is “better” because it doesn’t have chlorine in it like conventional liners that are made from PVC. As for the biodegradable property that is touted, does that mean it’ll biodegrade in 1 year or 50 years or 300 years?? Just because a product claims to be biodegradable doesn’t mean it’s automatically eco-friendly. In short PEVA products are less toxic and eco-friend-LIER than PVC products but definitely NOT really eco or earth-friendly.

By the way, conventional shower curtains and all PVC products are laden with volatile organic compounds (don’t let the word “organic” fool you here, VOC’s nasty stuff that is the source of all kinds of health problems in humans, especially children) and other poisonous chemicals that continue to off-gas into the air in the home. I don’t want to scare you yet about just how much stuff in an average household is made from PVC; that’ll be for another post.

For those who are more curious about “greenwashing” and what you can do to spot it, here’s a great resource: Greenwashing Index – About Greenwashing

I believe it’s really important for consumers–people like you and me–to be able to recognize what’s really green and what’s not, and if these companies are really telling the truth or if they are just using the words “green,” “natural,” “organic,” etc as a marketing tactic. The money that we spend on buying products are votes. Do we really want to vote to reward companies that are lying to our faces?

I’m trying to be more careful and intentional about the products I choose to purchase (do I really need it, even if it’s a “good deal”? Is it the most green option?), and even then, like today I get baited by sales and greenwashing lingo. I’m realizing more and more that I don’t want to bring in excess into my home, especially when the products are laden with toxic chemicals. But having been raised as a consumer in this consumeristic society, I’m also learning that it’s a hard habit to break. Being bombarded constantly by the sales, the commercials, the marketing ads, it feels like an uphill battle against what our culture preaches. But I feel during the little while I’ve been trying to rein in my purchasing habits, I’ve already experienced how liberating it can be to have less “stuff” to deal with in my home. But when the mood to get something new strikes, sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. In recognizing how really unnecessary it is to buy a new shower curtain liner (even though it took a while), and further recognizing a falsely marketed green product, I feel like I won today :) Time to go scrub that nasty shower curtain liner…


3 thoughts on “Story of the toxic shower curtain liner

  1. Sharon

    Haha, I threw out my last shower curtain and bought this one from Amazon (it’s made of not earth-friendly materials I’m sure but it’s awesome because you don’t get mildew with it and only costs $10).

    But good for you for scrubbing your shower curtain, I’ve only done it twice. By the third time, I decided to throw my old one away and buy the above shower curtain.


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