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Shower Curtains vs Glass Shower Doors & Enclosures

Wesley Ward - 2/7/18 12:17 PM

Read Time: 8 minutes

The choice between shower curtains and a glass shower door or enclosure can often be a daunting one, with many considerations to sort through. In this post, we will explore the pros and cons of each type of shower enclosure and provide some thoughts on which option may be best for your shower.

Glass Shower Enclosures

There are a number of different types of glass shower enclosures; including sliding doors, hinged doors, and screens/splash guards, all of which can be used with both standalone shower and bathtub installations. Glass enclosures are typically offered in framed and frameless varieties and can be clear, frosted or opaque, with different benefits to fit your specific needs. 

Pros

Here are some reasons you may want to consider a glass enclosure for your shower:

  • Style: If you prefer a clean, modern look, glass enclosures, especially the frameless variety, are a popular choice. The glass provides separation and the feeling of space at the same time, which is very effective in small, compact bathroom spaces.
  • Budget: Glass enclosures are often more expensive for both the materials and installation, though over the course of their lifetime, can be just as cost effective as shower curtains without accumulating mildew and soap scum. 
  • Reduce splash: Shower curtains help reduce water splashing outside of the shower space, though don't always eliminate it. If the liner is not in place correctly, water can pool on your floors, potentially creating a slip hazard. Glass doors/enclosures are more effective at retaining water within the shower area, and because they are fixed in place, are less prone to splashing.   
  • Warmth: If you have a drafty bathroom, or if you often leave your bathroom windows open, a glass enclosure may be a better option because they are more effective at keeping the steam and heat from hot water within the shower space. Shower curtains can blow around and draw in cold air to the shower area if there is a change in air pressure within the bathroom. 
  • Maintenance: Tired of that damp mildew smell from your shower curtain? Glass is much more resilient against mildew and soap scum build-up, and can be most often be cleaned with regular glass cleaner. Many shower enclosure manufacturers also offer additional protective coatings that repel water and bacteria growth and reduce your cleaning effort.

The Dreamline Essence Shower Door can be a great alternative to a shower curtain.

Cons

There are some drawbacks to glass enclosures, including:

  • Unique spaces: If you have a sloped ceiling or alcove in your bathroom, you may need a custom glass enclosure, which may come at an additional expense and require additional planning to install. 
  • Frames: For sliding glass doors, many entry-level price point options require a track for the doors to follow when they slide. These are most common at the bottom of the unit, and can be bothersome depending on how you use your bath or shower. If you have children, pets or care for elderly parents, the track for the sliding door can be painful to lean on and over when you assist with bathing. The tracks are also more challenging than hinged doors or frameless alternatives to clean because water tends to collect and sit in the grooves. There are alternatives, though frameless and hinged alternatives are typically more expensive than their framed counterparts.
  • Accessibility: If your bathroom is compact, you may have limited glass door options, as the space may not allow doors to fully open. Glass shower doors and screens are fixed to the walls and the top of your bathtub or shower base, so you may need to step into the space in order to clean and wipe it down. Also, if you are bathing others, the fixed nature of the glass can make it more difficult to lift kids, pets and relatives in and out of the tub. 
  • Keep your toiletries tidy: With a clear glass enclosure all of your toiletries will be on display, so if you do not spend the time to clean and organize your shower, your space may often look cluttered and dirty. With shower curtains, you always have the option to pull them closed and conceal your bathing products. 

Shower Curtains

Shower curtains are a popular option for bathtubs with shower heads and are sometimes used in standalone showers. Curtains for showers come in two common configurations, a single EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) sheet hung from a rod, or a two-piece system where there is an inner vinyl or PVC liner and a decorative fabric outer curtain. Shower curtains can be found in other materials, including hemp which is naturally mold and mildew resistant and a more eco-friendly version that its PVC counterparts. 

Pros

Shower curtains are good options if the following factors are important to you:

  • Variety: Shower curtains are available in endless variations of colors and patterns, giving you plenty of options to choose from and the option to change curtains seasonally and as your style preferences change. This is an inexpensive way to keep your bathroom looking fresh and up-to-date. 
  • Initial cost: The initial cost of a shower curtain can be as low as $50 with an inexpensive tension rod, liner and outer curtain. 
  • Accessibility: For families bathing children, pets and elderly relatives, shower curtains are good options because they can easily be moved to one side to give full access to the bathtub or shower area. 
  • Texture: If your bathroom has lots of flat, hard surfaces, a fabric shower curtain can help add some texture and warmth to the space. A frilly or textured fabric curtain can soften a bathroom that looks too sterile or harsh. 
  • Versatility: Given the cost, and the variety, shower curtains are very versatile options for your bathroom. If you have an unusual space, you have flexibility with different rod options and curtain sizes, and in extreme circumstances, you can even resize if you have access to a sewing machine. Shower curtains are the best option if you plan to integrate a shower with a freestanding, clawfoot or roll top tub. 

Shower Curtain.jpg

Cons

You may prefer glass enclosures if these factors concern you:

  • Cleaning: While shower curtains can easily be replaced, they are difficult to clean on a regular basis. The liners will attract mildew and soap scum over time and will discolor. Fabric curtains can be washed, though they too may discolor or fade with repeated cleaning. 
  • Health concerns: PVC liners contain toxins can be hazardous to you and your family's health. Toxins from PVC are known to cause respiratory problems, headaches and other health issues. Many retailers no longer sell PVC liners, though some stores still do. There are non-PVC alternatives to consider, including EVA and Hemp. EVA liners are healthier than PVC options, though are man-made and not environmentally friendly. Fabric and Hemp liners may be better options for the environmentally conscious. 
  • Cold drafts: Curtains are susceptible to the chimney effect, whereas the water warms the air in the shower, the warm air rises drawing in cold air from under the curtain. 
  • The Shower Curtain Effect: The are a number of scientific explanations for the "shower curtain effect, where the shower curtain blows inwards and sticks to your body, but regardless of which theory you believe, the result is an unpleasant surprise during your shower.

Final Thoughts

There are multiple factors to consider when selecting the right type of enclosure for your shower or bathtub, though ultimately, the best option depends on your specific needs. Generally, a glass enclosure is likely the better option if you plan to stay in your home for a while, have plenty of space, and want a modern, clean look for your bathroom. Shower curtains are likely a better option for you when you have a smaller space, that is shared by kids, pets, or elderly relatives, and if want the flexibility to change the look of your bathroom easily in the near future. 

Topics: Bathroom- Shower- Decision Guide

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