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Frosted vs Clear Glass Shower Doors: Which One to Choose?

A shower door keeps water in the shower, prevents chilly drafts that are common with curtains, and invites more space and light into your bathroom.

But a lot comes down to whether your shower has clear glass doors or frosted doors as types of shower doors have their unique benefits when it comes to privacy, maintenance, and price.

frosted glass shower door

Read this guide to understand whether clear or frosted glass shower doors are right for your bathroom.

What Are Clear Glass Shower Doors?

As the name states, clear shower doors are made completely with transparent glass. This means the glass is 100% see-through with no opacity. Clear glass shower doors are high sheen, and they add a professional and sparkly finish to your bathroom shower.

What Are Frosted Glass Shower Doors?

In contrast to clear glass shower doors, frosted glass shower doors are not 100% see-through. The surface of the glass is treated in several ways to give it a certain percentage of opacity.

True frosted glass shower doors are produced by applying heated fluorite on the glass, which etches a pattern or opaque layer into the glass. This method yields a soft and refined finish where the glass has been melted to create layers at unique angles that reflect light differently, reducing the glass’ translucency.

The second way to make frosted glass shower doors is to use the process of sandblasting where particles are sprayed at the glass at intense velocities, stripping off the surface area of the glass to produce a micro-chipped finish that makes the glass less see-through.

Alternatively, there are also frosted glass shower door films that can be purchased and glued onto the glass surface with a particular design or pattern you would like.

Comparing Clear Glass vs Frosted Glass Shower Doors 

While both clear and frosted glass shower doors are equally functional in retaining the splashes of your daily shower, there are other functionalities you should also consider. The main functionalities are transparency, privacy, and hygiene.

Transparency and Privacy 

While a hot shower does steam up the glass panel shower door, affording you some privacy, this is temporary. Once the steam runs off the glass panel, you are placed on full display again.

Luckily, frosted glass shower panels ensure privacy by being semi-translucent or opaque, while still letting light through. Bathrooms can easily be dingy and dark, so having a shower door that gives you privacy while still letting light enter the shower is a real plus.

Hygiene

A glass of any kind is a great boost to hygiene since it is easy to clean. With glass being non-porous, there is less chance of bacteria and other harmful particles lodging on the surface of clear glass. What about frosted glass?

If a glass was frosted during the process of sandblasting, there is a chance that the surface became micro-porous, which means your bathroom shower door may end up retaining more than just a few splashes of water. This small opening, created by sandblasting, can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other undesirable particles.

Despite this, a frosted glass shower door is still much easier to care for and maintain since it won’t show water streaks or a buildup of “hard water” deposits that result from chemically treated water that many states in the U.S. rely on.

Cost Efficiency 

Since frosted glass doors always start off as a good quality clear glass panel, frosted glass is more pricey. The time, materials, and labor involved in sandblasting some privacy onto a clear glass shower door can be the cost of a new shower door.

Etching, while being a more high-end finish, can cost substantially more than sandblasting does. So the question is whether the expense of frosting your shower glass doors with either method is worth it becomes a bit one-sided. Most owners of frosted glass bathroom shower doors will definitely testify to the high quality and exceptional service these doors offer.

Fact is, frosted glass shower panels are easier to clean, saving you time, which we all know is money, and these frosty doors are much prettier to look at. Clear glass doors need to be spotlessly (and streaklessly) clean to look good. A few missed drops of water and a shower day that didn’t involve cleaning with vinegar spray and your clear shower door will require expensive cleaners to strip away the instant buildup that forms.

Frosted shower doors are an investment, and by being easier to maintain, they will save you money and time in the long run.

Lifetime

Frosted and clear glass shower doors have a similar lifetime or life expectancy. Breakage is normally what causes the need to replace a glass shower door, whether frosted or clear.

Alternatively, if your frosted glass is made with a stick-on film, you may find that the film separates over time and peels off the glass, becoming unsightly and requiring replacement.

Sandblasted frosted glass will rub off over time if the sandblasting has not been done deep enough into the glass. The friction from cleaning may eventually reduce the frosting effect. 

With clear glass, there is a slight “melting” effect that can happen if you love hot showers. You can see this in window panes too, where the sun may melt the glass, causing the glass pane to thicken at the bottom. This may be rare, but it can cause a buildup of chemicals and chemical deposits where the glass has thickened in your shower door. You can expect this to take a long time to happen though.

Types of Frosted and Clear Glass Shower Doors

With frosted glass shower doors, there are different designs and patterns to choose from. The frosted layer is usually on the outside of the shower door as this helps clean the inside surface more easily. In addition to traditional sandblasted frosted glass shower doors, there are also textured glass shower doors available, which are more like an etched design melted into the glass.

Clear glass shower doors are usually a standard glass mix, but there are variations available too like the low-iron glass shower door. The shower door’s glass is changed at the manufacturer to be clearer without the tell-tale green tint that glass normally has.

Design and Aesthetics Comparison

There is a range of design options available in frosted and clear glass shower doors. Both clear and frosted glass shower doors are an asset to your bathroom with the clean and glossy finish that only glass can offer. Frosted glass offers more privacy than clear glass shower doors, but the trade-off is that frosted glass can become ruined if it is achieved with the lower quality of a frosting film.

Clear glass shower doors can be cleaned quite vigorously, but frosted glass can become damaged with excessive rubbing to clean buildup and mold from the “rough” surface where the sandblasting or etching has been applied.

Final Thoughts: Which Glass Shower Door Is the Winner?

Deciding whether to install a clear glass shower door or a frosted one is a tricky choice. Both clear and frosted glass each has their own benefits. At the end of the day, the decision will boil down to whether you prize privacy over ultimate hygiene and whether you have the time required to achieve that streak-free look that is so hard to get with a clear glass shower door.

If you opt for privacy and easy cleaning, though it may become mucky on the outside over time, then you should install a frosted glass shower door. Should you desire a clean and shiny look, and you’re willing to put in the time to achieve that each day, then you should choose a clear glass shower door.