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Curtain Tension Rod Won’t Tighten: Here’s What to Do!

tension rod wont tighten hdr

Stubborn tension rods that keep getting loose are a first-world nuisance for sure.

I’ve faced issues with these in my house: On my kids’ bedroom windows, the guest bathroom shower, and even with a make-shift curtain door in an partially finished basement closet.

So, I went on a hunt to find some proven solutions for when a tension rod won’t tighten.

I’m happy to report that I figured out some excellent ones!

These fixes help you keep your rods—whether in the bathroom or inside window casings—in place.

No more unbelievably startling clatter sounds in the middle of the night.

Let’s take a look at why these rods sometimes fail and how to get them working again!

Reasons Why Tension Rods Won’t Tighten

I know my home isn’t the only one to experience of loose tension rods.

If this is a regular occurrence in your house, check out these common reasons why tension rods won’t tighten completely or consistently.

bathroom tension rod not staying tight on wall

Smooth and Moist Walls

One of the most common reasons why tension rods keep falling actually has to do with the surfaces they tighten up against and humidity.

Smooth surfaces and moisture are enemies here, making it much easier for rods to start slipping and eventually fall.

This is especially true when a shower tension rod won’t tighten and stay put given bathroom walls are often tiled or made from smooth bath area enclosures.

Here’s the thing:

Some tiles, like glazed ceramic ones, are just too slippery and smooth for even the grippiest rubber.

In addition, your bathroom walls—especially the spot where you put shower rods—are going to be hit with moisture from overspray and steam.

Then, throw in a little soap residue and you’re riding a slippery slope for sure!

The same is true near windows, where you might be using glossy painted trim work as the anchor points for your rod.

Windows also tend to have higher humidity levels around them!

Loose Rod Screws and Springs

Sometimes, the problem is the tension rod itself. Loose screws and springs within the poles can mess up your rods’ steadiness.

I’ve noticed that the cheaper the rod, the short its life span.

This is a big problem since the rod relies heavily on the spring inside to create tension between the walls and the rod pieces.


wall indented from tension rod force

We see drywall panels used everywhere for indoor home partitions or walls. They’re made up of materials like plaster, gypsum, or wood pulp.

These materials aren’t really all that rigid when you think about it.

Unfortunately, drywall isn’t as sturdy as actual concrete walls. But how many of us have concrete walls indoors? Not quite the home decor look any of us is after, right?

As tension is placed on your wall, these panels indent ever so slightly at the point of contact, i.e the end point of your rod. 

And just because you’ve set your tension when installing the rod, over time, the space at either end of the rod begins to widen.

It’s a game of millimeters here, so it doesn’t take much!

All this to say that drywall isn’t ideal when it comes to holding tension rods well.

On top of that, too much tension can easily leave marks—or worse, cracks—on your drywall or surface paint.

The Best DIY Fixes for Loose Tension Rods

rod securely on wall with tension

Now, what can you do with tension rods that won’t tighten given the above issues?

There are a few ways to help compensate for these culprits causing your tension rods to become loose or lose gripping power.

1. Tighten Rod Adjusters

You might be wondering:

What if my tension rods won’t stay up because the poles keep retracting and won’t hold?

The short answer is to tighten the rod adjusters.

If the poles constantly return to their original length, look into the rod adjusters.

Most tension rods will have a built-in tightening mechanism that locks the pole at just the right length.

Unless these components have just given out over many years of use, it may just be time crank up the tension.

It’s sort of like a piano string – every now and then you need to “re-tune”.

Again, if you’ve tried this again and again it may be time for a new rod.

Needless to say…

This essentially solves the issue of how to make a tension rod stay up, especially if the root of the problem is related to pole length.

Buy I get it… it’s not always that easy! So let’s move on.

2. Create Friction

lightly sanding wall

Another way to deal with a loose tension rod is by creating a little friction between the walls and the ends of the rod.

One of the ways to do this is to use some fine sandpaper. You can simply sand down the rubber end caps of the poles slightly to allow them to get a better grip on the walls.

Additionally, you can sand down the specific part of the tiles or painted wall that come in contact with the rod ends.

In both cases, just use a fine grit rating of 150-200. A little scratching goes a long way!


Bare in mind that in certain lights and viewing angles you’ll see a slight scuff on the paint or tile you sanded.

If it’s covered up by the rod, this may not be a big deal of course.

An alternative to adding extra friction is to use small piece of rubber shelf lining!

These liners can provide a more solid grip for your tension rods. You can simply glue or tape them onto the ends of your rods.

If your shower rod keeps falling because of your buttery smooth tiled walls, these options might be the right fix.

3. Secure All Parts of the Tension Rod

curtain rod ceiling mounts

Part of ensuring your tension rod stays up is to secure all parts—the ends and the middle. No part of the rod should slump.

Sometimes, when you lengthen the tension rods, the pole’s middle section can sag. 

That can cause unstable rods that are prone to falling as gravity works in slowly but surely.

This depends on the curtain size of course; the longer obviously creating more of a risk.


One way to solve this problem is by adding ceiling mounts, such as this simple but sturdy option.

You can clasp the mounts to the parts of the tension rod that sag in order to lift them up and make them straighter and sturdier.

This is a handy fix to repair window tension rods that usually extend way more than those you see inside bathrooms.

Be sure to install using anchor bolts!

4. Use Tension Rod Holders

tension rod holder example

Using tension rod holders like these clear ones, is an alternative step if creating friction between the tension rods and the walls doesn’t work.

These rod holders usually have an adhesive backing. You simply need to stick it to the wall just below where your rod tips go.

Then, all that’s left to do is to slide down your rods into a groove built right into the holders.

It doesn’t have to be exact, so these will fit most rod diameter sizers.

This product is an excellent fix for when a non-spring tension shower rod won’t tighten.

Since there isn’t a spring to create strong tension, you’d need another way to hold up the rod, and that’s where these holders come in.

For a few extra bucks, this has solved my problem more than once!

Frequently Asked Questions about Tension Rods

Do tension rods stay in place?

Well, they’re supposed to! Tension rods are made to have the same function as regular drilled-on rods.

Their main difference is that tension rods, as the name implies, are held up by the tension created by the compressed spring inside the poles.

Do tension rods need drilling?

Nope, and that’s the best thing about tension rods!

They’re renter-friendly because you don’t have to damage any walls to put them up.

This is also the reason why they’re so popular as temporary curtain rods. They’re essentially a damage-free option.

It gets better:

They work for virtually any room—shower curtains for bathrooms, living room curtains, and even hanging storage for kitchen cabinets.

How does a twist tension rod work?

A twist tension rod works by twisting the poles to get the rod to the right length.

Usually, it’s as simple as twisting clockwise would shorten it, while twisting counterclockwise would lengthen it.

Here’s a YouTube video that shows you how to use Maytex’s twist and lock tension rod:

Now that I’ve outlined the best and easiest fixes for when your tension rod won’t tighten, what are you waiting for?

It’s time to secure that tension rod once and for all!

Some of the solutions include securing all parts of the rod and creating more friction between the rod ends and walls.

With the right amount of elbow grease, you won’t have to deal with loose tension rods ever again!

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