Great question. We didn’t start out to make a shower curtain, nor did we really know how (1). However, we spend A LOT of time in showers, and we get a lot of questions about them. One of those questions is “What shower curtain do you recommend? (2)” So we asked our team and looked around for a shower curtain we would be proud to recommend. We wanted one that aligned with our values: good design, great user experience, all while being better for the planet. What we found was not that. What we found was…
Poor Design: The details, no matter how small, matter.
The bar for a shower curtain and liner is low: a square piece of fabric with holes for hooks. But even with that low bar we found many that didn’t reach it, and very few were able to clear it by leaps and bounds. We wanted a curtain and liner that was high-quality and looked elegant, but was also functional. For example, you need to clean the liner an order of magnitude more than the curtain, so shouldn’t the liner be much easier to remove and wash? The liner needs to be waterproof, contour to your shower or tub, and not feel like a plastic bag when you touch it. You don’t want it to billow, so it should be thick and weighted at the bottom. The curtain should look good, from outside your shower, as well as from the inside.
These are all small things, but you use a shower curtain almost every day, and the small things add up. We spend a lot of time in showers at Nebia, so we care about these details.
Terrible Materials: A lot of PVC and other harmful plastics.
Many curtain liners are made of PVC (Polyvinyl chloride). They are cheap and waterproof, but they also outgas hazardous VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) into your home, and its production leaches chemicals into the water and air. PVC alternatives exist — such as PEVA and EVA — but these materials still have a plastic-like feel, and are difficult to clean.
The best liners we found were made from woven waterproof materials like polyester. These liners nailed the quality and feel that we wanted, but they were made from virgin material (3) (read petroleum). We believe a curtain liner should be great, but should it come at the expense of drilling more resources out of the ground? The answer is no. That’s why we turned to rPET, or recycled polyethylene terephthalate, the same material used in outdoor gear like Patagonia jackets. rPET is made from recycled plastic bottles that often end up in the ocean or landfill.
rPET did everything we wanted it to. It felt great, looked awesome, repelled water, was machine washable, didn’t shrink, and instead of drilling a hole in the ground and processing hundreds of millions of years old organic material, it comes from up-cycled bottles. We loved rPET so much for the liner that we found a sturdier and more luxurious thread and wove it into an Oxford weave to use for the curtain. In the end, the curtain and liner are made from more than 41 500ml plastic bottles. Pretty cool, right?
Oh, and our packaging is 100% recyclable, and uses no plastic.
A Very Short Lifespan: Why do we throw away shower curtains and liners so often?
Many shower curtains and liners we evaluated had to be replaced far more often than we expected, or thought reasonable. After a minimal amount of use, the curtains and liners tore, experienced rust stains, became stiff, were caked with soap scum, and smelled bad. A cheap shower curtain, liner, and hooks costs ~$50 but the liner gets nasty in less than 6 months, the hooks rust in a year, and then the curtain tears. You end up replacing it for another $50 dollars and then repeat the cycle again.
We designed the Nebia shower curtain to last over a decade, with features that increase longevity and make maintenance easy. We tested opening, closing, grabbing, and pulling on the curtain 21,900 times to simulate 10 years of use (for a family of 3). We also made sure the hooks are rust proof and the rPET, on both the liner & curtain, was given a DWR (durable water repellent) coating (4). You can easily un-snap the liner to wash it as needed, and both the curtain and liner can be machine washed. We also put it through anti-fungal, color fading, material shrink, and tear-strength testing, and it passed with flying colors!
The end result? The best shower curtain out there, for you and for the environment, with an unparalleled value over its lifetime. We hope you love the Nebia Shower Curtain as much as we do and that you keep it for many years to come.
-Gabe, Shower Enthusiast (Co-founder & CEO of Nebia)
P.S. A major reason I am writing this is because there are 1,000s of products like shower curtains, products we use everyday but have shit design, shittier materials, and the shittiest lifespan. Nebia can’t, and won’t, be able to design and make better versions of all of these. But we hope people who give a damn about design and the environment will. If you think that the knowledge we have gained making our shower curtain, or other products, will help you make a product that is better for users and the environment, contact us. We would love to share our knowledge and help if we can. And I’d love to be your first customer.
- Our Product Design team had no experience in soft (woven) goods. We had made showers, and in past lives made solar trackers, servers, smart phones and cars, but never a soft good. We had to go learn about the materials, processes, and find experts to help guide us. It was fun, and really informative.
- Our first generation product atomized droplets and expelled them FAST. It felt like you were immersed and showering next to a raging waterfall. And as it moved the air around you, it could cause flimsy shower curtains to billow. So people asked us what curtain we recommended to prevent this.
- Manufacturing products using virgin material uses significantly more energy and depletes natural resources, as opposed to producing goods using recycled materials.
- DWR coating is also used in high quality outdoor gear, like ski jackets and climbing pants, to add a water resistant barrier that causes water to bead on the surface, instead of saturating the fabric.