Vinyl shower curtains are waterproof, inexpensive, durable and convenient; however, they off-gas when new and are not Earth friendly. Other options include using fabric shower curtains or installing shower doors. If planning a new shower, a walk-in unit that requires no doors or curtain is another choice. In Japan, the entire bathroom is waterproof and has a central floor drain, eliminating the need for a curtain.
The primary purpose of a shower curtain is containing water in the shower and protecting the surroundings, and vinyl is very effective for this purpose. Often consumers who choose cloth shower curtains use a two-part system that includes a vinyl liner. While vinyl liners offer the same advantages as a vinyl curtain, they also have the same disadvantages.
Nylon and polyester shower curtains are not quite as waterproof as vinyl but provide some protection for the surroundings. These materials dry quickly but may remain damp enough to allow the growth of mold. They are also made from synthetic materials that may not be environmentally friendly.
Natural fabrics offer a more environmentally acceptable option but often remain wet between showers. The wet conditions eventually grow mold in the shower. The shower user must leave the curtain in the tub to prevent puddles from forming on the floor.