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Choosing Bathroom Window Treatments

Choosing window treatments for a full bathroom, as shown in Figure 1, can be a bit of a daunting task. Unlike the majority of the rooms in a home the high levels of moisture generated in a full bathroom can have a detrimental effect on a number of materials used for window treatments.

bathroom with horizontal window blind
Figure 1 - Bathroom with horizontal window blind

Window treatment for a full bathroom is an area where, in many cases, the longevity of lower cost window treatment materials is superior to high cost window treatment materials.

While many home design magazines will show a full gamut of different styles of bathroom window treatments, which look very appealing in the pictures, they may look good when installed but exposing high levels of moisture to some materials will cause damage to the material and/or provide a perfect media for mildew and mold.

mildew on bathroom curtain
Figure 2 - Mildew on bathroom curtain
  • Wood window treatments, blinds or shutters can warp, bow and even rot when exposed to high levels of moisture.
  • Many fabrics used for window treatments do not last in a high moisture environment such as a full bathroom. Continuous exposure to high levels of moisture can cause the materials to shred, deteriorate and grow mold and mildew as shown in Figure 2.

In most cases, the window treatments in a full bathroom must provide a level of privacy, but they should not trap moisture between the back side of the window treatment and the window. Window frames are usually made of wood. Even vinyl, aluminum or fiberglass windows usually have wood sills and trim. Moisture trapped between the window and the back of the window treatment can run down trim and glass windows leaving puddles of water on the window sills, walls below windows and on the floor. This could eventually damage the window sills, window trims, drywall and flooring.

It is not uncommon to see traces of mildew and mold in the lower corner of bathroom window frames that have been covered with a window treatment material that does not breathe. It is also not uncommon to see the same traces of mildew and mold on the back side of the window treatment.

The best materials for full bathroom window treatments are those that are not affected by moisture. They include; vinyl, aluminum, faux wood and most of the synthetic fabrics such as nylon and polyester.

The use of horizontal window blinds is one of the best choices in a full bathroom, as the horizontal window blinds, while providing privacy do not seal between the slats and hence they breathe. They can also be opened to allow the moisture to escape the full length of the window blind from between the window the back of the window treatment.

Caution should be used if you are considering the use of cellular shades for privacy in your full bathroom as the inherent design of the product allows for moisture to be trapped in the folds of the product.

Of course high levels of moisture can also damage other materials in the bathroom and to protect your window treatments, vanities, flooring and other items in the bathroom you should always operate a bathroom exhaust fan, when the bathroom fixtures are generating large quantities of moisture.

It is also wise to open the window treatment and window as soon as possible after the high levels of moisture have been generated.

Additional information on window treatments.