7 Alternatives to Glass Shower Doors: Better Design & Cleaning
Author: Rick Worst | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
Alternatives to glass shower doors are on the rise. Most of us have used a shower curtain, but what we all hate is having to clean the glass doors, worry about if they're frosted enough to hide our bodies, etc.
Glass doors have been the constant companion to shower enclosures for years now and even more so with the newer zero threshold showers, but as it is with all trends, this too seems to be passing. Quite understandable—glass shower doors are to be treated with extreme care, right from the installation to the maintenance.
These doors are easily given to shattering, whether due to improper installation, temperature changes, or just you slamming them by mistake (leading to a world of pain after and we’re not just talking about the effort of cleaning up).
Due to these reasons and a need for variety in shower enclosure aesthetics, presumably, many people are looking for unique alternatives to plain old glass shower doors; the demand caused by this search has led to quite a crop of novel glass shower door alternatives.
Alternatives to Glass Shower Doors
Whether you’re looking to remodel your bathroom or are in the process of building a new one and want to stay away from the glass, here’s a list of our favorite alternatives to glass shower doors. Of course, which you use will depend on the types of showers you have in your home, but you'll find a suitable alternative for sure.
Safe to say, shower curtains are the most obvious, common, and popular alternative out there. You can either opt for a single-layered curtain or a double-layered one; the former is generally a plastic sheet, whereas the latter is more decorative.
These include an attractive outer fabric covering the inner plastic sheet—there’s no need to compromise on style for functionality, though if you want to explore other looks you can check out our list of shower curtain alternatives, too.
Shower curtains are also probably the cheapest alternative to a shower door, from the curtain itself to the installation; to add to the appeal, they’re super easy to put up—all you need are a simple rod and polyester/vinyl rings, which give you even more decoration options.
If that aesthetic doesn’t appeal to you, you can opt to hang your curtain from the ceiling with any types of wall hooks, though this is obviously more work and hence, uncommon. Shower curtains are also great for those with kids and those who have tubs.
Ultimately, shower curtains are easier to clean, provide more privacy, are cheap and therefore, easier to replace if necessary. I don't even clean my inner lining sheet, I just buy a new one for a few dollars a couple times per year.
An Open Shower
The next most popular option is to have no shower door at all. Doorless showers are an extremely common feature in Asian bathrooms and save users the trouble of cleaning and any difficulty in entering and exiting.
However, unless you have a large walk-in shower where the spray from the water is contained within the enclosure (generally a partial enclosure), this option might not work so well, especially with tubs.
So though you may not have a door to clean, you’ll be left with a wet space that extends beyond your shower area, resulting in unsafe slippery surfaces and even mold, if left uncleaned. Additionally, if you value your privacy, this option leaves you with none.
The once-a-day sprays (above) that stop gunk from growing or soap scum from sticking works wonders in these setups though. They work regardless. I've only had to scrub my shower and tub once every six months since starting to use them.
Alternately, you could just have an open bathroom like many Asian countries do—that is, with no enclosure to wall off the shower area or separate it from the rest of the bathroom. However, you’ll face pretty much the same problem with this as the above.
Aluminum & Steel
While this is more unconventional, a steel or aluminum grid or frame can really add a classy look to your shower space.
Though most people who use this option combine the grid with glass panels, you can just as well skip the glass and still have a pretty cool, unique screen for your shower space.
Depending on the privacy you want, you can either get a structure or screen with large designs, like squares, or finer designs, like filigree. Such screens work especially great with tub/shower enclosures. You could also get a sliding frame, similar to Japanese shoji screens, minus the glass.
However, since such screens are not readily available in the market and therefore, need to be custom ordered, this can end up costing you quite a bit.
Additionally, cleaning this screen and keeping it sparkling means almost daily maintenance, and failing to do so means water damage and stains can take away the look of the screen to a great extent.
Framed enclosures are popular alternatives to glass shower doors, primarily for being a low-cost solution that can really bring a decorative look to your shower.
The entry to the shower can be framed in classic brass, or you can opt for a more stylish, modern chrome finish. Even better, opt for an oil-rubbed bronze frame for a great combination of traditional and affordable.
However, this works only for shower enclosures with a doorway and only for decorative purposes. Again, keeping the frame clean may take a little bit of effort, though not as much as an aluminum or steel frame.
Partial Shower Doors
Partial enclosures work extremely well with tubs and/or shower stalls. A decor trend that’s extremely popular in Europe, partial enclosures are both modern and budget friendly and come in a range of shapes, sizes, materials and silhouettes.
These enclosures partially shut off the tub or shower area while partially leaving it open. Though these are commonly available in glass, you can get creative with materials like aluminum, steel and wood (laminated or varnished).
However, this can get a little expensive; partial enclosures range between $800 to $1,000 and customizing them will cost more. But the result is really nice and stops water splashing as well.
Other Glass Alternatives
If you’ve decided to stay away from the glass only because of the monotony of plain glass and not the material itself, there are many decorative glass doors that can spruce up your shower space.
These include hammered glass, obscure glass, tinted glass, rain glass (textured on only one side), glass mosaic doors and frosted glass, to name a few. There’s a wide variety of options available that all boost your privacy and make your decor a bit more classy.
If you don’t want to opt for a shower door that’s purely made of glass but don’t mind some amount of glass, you can get a shower door that’s a combination of glass and another material, most commonly tiles, wood, metal, or other shower tile alternatives.
The options become nearly infinite, as you can customize the design based on the proportion of glass to ‘other material’ that you desire. This also allows more scope for design, from barn doors to sliding doors. You can match them with your types of toilets, mirrors, lighting, and other decorations to create a unifying decor.
Why Stay Away From Glass Shower Doors?
As mentioned earlier, alternatives to glass shower doors are slowly and steadily dominating bathrooms across the world. Though glass is great and has its perks, many folks find the downsides to be quite a throw off.
For starters, glass is a magnet for water and mineral stains and unless you clean your glass door frequently, these stains are not going to disappear any time soon. The longer you let them stay, the harder they are to remove.
This makes cleaning the glass a herculean task. Additionally, glass attracts smudges and fingerprints—if you’re someone who really cares about being orderly and clean, this will annoy you endlessly.
Glass can also be quite unsafe, especially if not fixed or secured properly. Add the wetness and slippery surfaces of a bathroom to this and you have quite a risky, potentially unsafe combination on your hands.
This becomes all the more risky with little kids around in the house. All it takes is one unintentional slam (especially if you don’t have an efficient swing-reducing or stopping mechanism) for the glass to literally fall apart.
Additionally, if the glass isn’t thick enough and you slip and fall into it, it may just break and cause more pain and injury than a simple fall would have. This is another reason we suggest alternatives to sliding glass doors, too.
Glass doors can also be quite expensive, costing more than most other materials to not only install but also maintain. If you do end up breaking your glass door the cost and effort involved in its replacement are quite high.
What makes it even more inconvenient and expensive is that if you so much as crack your door, you’ll have to replace the entire door—tape can only get you so far and so long through cracked glass doors. Those cracks will propagate with the fluctuating temperatures in the bathroom.
Most modern options will feature tempered glass that isn't going to crack. If you have an impact with it, it's designed to shatter into tons of tiny pieces. You can see this in the image at the beginning of this section. This reduces the risk of being cut during and after the accident.
Lastly, glass doesn’t allow much privacy, as mentioned earlier. This can be quite a bummer if you’re sharing a flat with others and the bathroom is subject to multiple users simultaneously. Though you can remedy this to some extent with textured glass, it still doesn’t reduce the above disadvantages that glass comes with.
On the other hand, glass shower door alternatives are more practical, safer and friendlier to your wallet. Shower curtains, for example, are extremely cheap, easy to replace, practical and safe.
With more trendy designs hitting the market, you may not even have to compromise all that much on the aesthetic value. Frames and grids add their own appeal as well—a great option if you’re going for the industrial-chic vibe.
Glass Shower Door Alternatives are Better!
Glass is a great attachment to any bathroom, but not necessarily the most creative, novel, or unique choice.
If you’re among those tired of being offered glass shower doors (and probably curtains) or seeing them in every bathroom decor picture you dig up, the above-mentioned options are definitely worth a try.
From no shower doors to partial doors to full doors, you have an array of alternatives to glass shower doors at your disposal, so prepare for a new and unique bathroom experience.