Shower Curtains? Who Cares About Shower Curtains?
When I look at at the categories of things made in China that people request most often, one I see come up are Shower Curtains. But if you dig deeply into how China came to dominate manufacturing of shower curtains, it fully reveals how brilliant the Chinese Communist Party was and how utterly foolish and myopic American corporations were–and still are.
Turn the clock back to 1993. Read this speech by newly elected president Bill Clinton, made just four years after Tienanmen Square. Clinton signed an executive order granting China Most Favored Nation status, and berated past administrations for vetoing legislation that would have made it permanent. He expressed “concern” that China had an $18 billion trade surplus with the US, but also expressed “hope” that China would stop its proliferation of dangerous weapons and that economic reform would lead to greater political freedom. In 2001, Clinton and Bush made China’s Most Favored Nation status complete. If you could look at the personal bank accounts of the Clinton family, the Bush family, and the majority of members of Congress during those years, I will bet you will see a lot of red.
Let’s look at things today. Did China discontinue its provocative military expansion? No. And what was the trade surplus of China last year? Over $300 BILLION dollars.
How China Intends to Take Over Every Sector–and Americans are
In the 2000s, US corporations tended to outsource only small, trivial manufacturing to China. Clock radios. Cheap plastic toys. Plastic computer parts. As they’d done with countries like Taiwan and Japan in the 1970s, they found that they could exploit cheap labor, get their products made cheaply, sell them for the same price, and see greater profits. The countries that they outsourced to would see a rise in their living standards and the greater prosperity would lead to more liberalization of their political structures. And it worked. Countries like Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea raised their standards of living and are now vibrant democracies.
And so American corporations and politicians figured “It’ll happen to China too!” But Americans–ironically dating back to Nixon and Kissinger–put blinders on. They didn’t count on the Chinese Communist Party maintaining their complete control over every nuance of their society.
And so American companies were encouraged to outsource the “little things” to China. But over time, as corporate executives saw the stock prices of countries selling toys and widgets rising, they decided that they wanted a piece of the action too. And so industry after industry closed shop and sent all their manufacturing to China.
But did you notice something? Unlike with countries like Japan and Taiwan, China is intent on controlling manufacturing for every industry. It ingratiates itself to American companies by negotiating with executives like Tom Cook and Elon Musk, giving them “offers they can’t refuse”, all centrally planned by the Party. It uses protectionist tactics to block emerging economies like India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam from taking on all but the most trivial of manufacturing. We’re treating them like they’re a free and open society, and they’re treating us like they’re playing a game of Risk or Monopoly.
What happens when China controls “the little things”:
We saw what happened in 2020 when American had decided years ago that N95 face masks were just a commodity to be manufactured by the cheapest means possible. China controlled all of the production, and just weeks after they allowed COVID-19 to be unleashed on the world, they purchased the world’s supply of N95s and dictated to all mask manufacturers that their supply would be reserved for China. Do you remember the pictures of front-line workers in the United States trying to make their own masks using garbage bags and rags? American doctors, nurses, EMS personnel literally died because America was too foolish to maintain some manufacturing here.
One thing that terrifies me as I write this blog is how many industries the United States has done the same thing to. It’s nearly impossible to find a sports ball, or a clock radio, or a plastic keychain, or a coffee maker, or an air fryer that’s NOT made in China. And yes, a shower curtain. And if you think that these aren’t important, think again. Because if you control these things, you control entire supply chains of raw materials that are used to make these things. And worse, I’ve covered in other posts how China has all but monopolized the supply of food supplements and vitamins, and they are quickly moving to own the supply chain for food as well. That’s when it’s game over.
And so if you’re inclined to just go to your local Walmart or Bed Bath and Beyond and pick up a shower curtain regardless of where it’s made, just do one thing. Check the label. And if it’s made in China, go to the next product. You may not get the prettiest design, but you’ll be assured that not a penny of your money will go to help the CCP continue its dominance (and maybe it is literally just a penny, but that’s the point).
How I came up with this list
I went through a slightly different process for this list. Normally I’ll review a large number of manufacturers and retailers. The problem, of course, is that the category of shower curtains is so commoditized and saturated that it’s practically impossible to go through thousands and thousands of products to find ones that are not made in China. I was able to find a handful of basic curtains and liners made in the USA on Amazon. But for the more traditional, decorative curtains I turned to Overstock, where it’s much easier to spot the brands that choose to look for producers outside of China.
If you’re like me, you don’t really need a fancy shower curtain with lovely flowers or designs. You just want something functional that will keep your floor from getting drenched when you shower. And that’s why I appreciate this shower curtain liner from Kent & West (they say “liner”, so you can place it behind a decorative shower curtain, but of course you can use it by itself as well if you don’t care too much about privacy).
I love how they make a point to say that the material (PEVA, short for polyethylene vinyl acetate) is made in the USA. PEVA is healthier than regular “vinyl” (also known as PVC, or polyvinyl chloride) in that it doesn’t contain chlorine. When PVC is produced, used, or thrown out it releases dioxins into the environment, which are one of the world’s most persistent pollutants and a known cause of cancer. PEVC is produced without chlorine, dioxins, and phthalates. Bottom line, it’s better for you, it’s better for the planet.
The one thing that gives me pause when I read Kent & West’s product page on Amazon is that they seem to go completely out of their way to state that the PEVA is made in the USA, but they don’t come out and say upfront that their entire product is manufactured in the USA, which is something we care about just as much. It took a customer question in May 2020 to push them to say flat out that it’s also assembled in the USA.
So I’ll recommend them, but keep an eye on them. Usually when manufacturers are non-committal like this, it means they might be contemplating outsourcing their manufacturing. Which would be fine, as long as they don’t go to you-know-where.
Normally when I see the word “Imported” in a product listing with no other words, I run for the hills. 99.9% of the time, this means “Made in China”.
I was pleasantly shocked to find that Bed Bath & Beyond manufactures these (which is essentially their store brand) in India. I’d pretty much grown resigned to the fact that anything that costs under $10 would be made in China. This is the first time in a very, very long time that I’ve seen a store brand sourcing from anywhere else, and of course that includes the big “A” whose AmazonBasics store brand may as well be called the CCPBasics brand.
3. Bean Shower Curtain – Best Basic, No-Frills Shower Curtain
If you search Amazon for “shower curtains made in the USA”, you’ll of course get mostly curtains made in China. But Bean Products was a welcome exception. If you’re in the market for a basic shower curtain that dries quickly, is machine washable, and made of all-natural materials, this is the product for you.
The curtain pictured here is their basic white cotton one. It comes in white, grey, and off-white colors. There are no decorations, just a simple, plain, and elegant solid color. It also comes i
I love that they use only use natural fabrics, and don’t have to deal with any chemical with “poly”, “ate” or “ine” in its name. Just cotton, organic cotton, hemp, organic hemp, or a blend.
Bean Products has been around for 33 years and prides themselves on using eco-friendly products, sustainably sourced and domestically produced. They’ve been based out of Chicago since their founding in 1987, when they invented the now-iconic Sleeping Bean Body Pillow. It’s great to see that they’re managed to continue to be successful, but have never caved into the pressure to outsource to China.
You can buy these from Amazon or directly from Bean Products.
4. Decorative Things – Extra-Long Shower Curtains in a Variety of Basic Styles
I had to do a double-take when I saw Decorative Things curtains on Amazon. I’d literally clicked on hundreds of Amazon listings before I saw listing after listing of their products made in the USA.
Decorative Things has been based out of New York City since 1988. Their speciality appears to be “extra long shower curtains”, available in 84″ lengths.
In my opinion, the designs are elegant, classy, and simple, unlike a lot of newer, gaudy made-in-China shower curtains.
If you need an extra-long shower curtain, this one seems like a no-brainer.
Not Made in China, Sold on Overstock
I tried searching Amazon for other shower curtains that were not made in China, but because Amazon doesn’t allow me to see Country of Origin (and deliberately shows false and misleading results when you try to search “not made in China), I gave up trying to find anything on Amazon.
But happily, Overstock.com does display country of origin on all their products. It’s not 100% fool-proof, as I’ll detail below. And because Overstock doesn’t have a way to filter by country of origin, finding a shower curtain not made in China is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But the fact that they list country of origin at all is a big plus in their favor, and so I recommend Overstock over sites that actively work to hide country of origin information.
Here are some of the more popular designs and US-based makers.
5. Americanflat – Gorgeous Designs
I never heard of Americanflat before, but they make some of the best selling shower curtains on Overstock. When I visited their Web site, I could see why. They sell framed art, but unlike companies like Bed Bath and Beyond that mass produce generic art pulled from a stock photo site, Americanflat sources from real artists. It tells their stories, and it ensures that artists are compensated fairly.
Their product listing goes out of its way to say “100% Made in the USA for best in-quality production supporting local artists”. The designs, not surprisingly, are stunningly beautiful works of art. They’re made from 100% polyester fabric, so they’re durable. They do suggest using a liner.
Marimekko is a brand out of Finland that dates back to the 1950s. They’ve been a major influence on fashion and are known for their brightly colored fabrics and simple styles.
I was pleased to find some of their shower curtains on Overstock, and even more pleased to see that all their products sold at Overstock are made in Mexico or Pakistan.
As always, try to confirm with the retailer before you buy the product, just to make sure they don’t bait and switch you into buying a version made in China. And if they do, make sure to send it back.
7. Laural Home
Laural Home is a head-scratcher. On their site they say “We pride ourselves on our exceptional products, all of which are made in America”. And yet on their Overstock product pages, many are marked with China as the County of Origin while others say the country of origin is the United States. In fact, some product listings say both.
My guess is that this means that the raw material (100% polyester) comes from China, but the final manufacturing is done in the US. It’s not ideal, and I wish Laural Home would work a little harder to find a source outside of China. But at the very least, it’s putting some artists and someone running the digital printer in New Jersey to work.
You’ll definitely want to avoid the product pages that say “County of Origin: China”. Even if they are using China and the United States interchangeably, you want to send a clear message to Overstock and Laural Home of what matters to you.
Do you know of other shower curtain companies worthy of mention here? Let us know in the comments!
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