Dan is a licensed electrician and has been a homeowner for 40 years. He has nearly always done his own repair and improvement tasks.
Can You Paint a Bathtub?
The short answer is "Yes, you can," but there is more to it than that. If you use some types of latex paint, I can guarantee that your satisfaction in a job well done will be very short-lived. The paint won't last past the first few baths.
Things to consider before you begin:
- The type of paint you use will play a large part in determining the quality of the work, as will preparation. Prepping the surface and using the right materials is the key to success here.
- The difficulty of the project needs to be considered. Are you prepared to take on a home improvement task?
- Your expectations of the finished product need to be evaluated. The finish will not be absolutely perfect, and if you don't like the result, it could well require a complete bathtub change.
Each of these points will be discussed in detail below.
What Kind of Bathtub Paint Should I Use?
Several products and manufacturers supply paint intended for bathtubs, tile, and sinks. You can use both one and two-part epoxy paints, and I would recommend the two-part brush-on epoxy paint even though it requires mixing two paints into one. Any leftover paint will not be usable, but it is a small price to pay for a high-quality job. I used paint from Rust-Oleum for this article, and I was very pleased with the result.
While a spray can of epoxy paint is also available and might give a better, smoother surface, it would also be complicated to clean up places where the spray breached or worked its way behind the masking material. In addition, a spray requires a great deal more care in masking off areas that are not to be sprayed.
Under no circumstances should you use regular paint (not made specifically for bathtubs) as they are simply not designed to stand up under constant water conditions. It is one thing to have the paint occasionally rained on and quite another to have it underwater for long periods of time.
How to Paint a Bathtub
The first step is obviously to read the directions on your chosen paint. A two-part paint will require mixing the two parts into one container while one part will not.
Clean the tub thoroughly with soap and water and make any repairs as necessary before beginning. Easy-to-remove pieces such as faucet handles, trim, and the water spout should be removed. If the shower door is fitted to the bathtub, consider removing it as well; removal and installation will take only a few minutes and is probably quicker and easier than masking and carefully painting around the bottom track of the door. It may be necessary to do some sanding with 200 grit up to 600 grit sandpaper, and thorough cleaning with TSP is a good idea as well.
Mask off the wall at the tub edge with masking tape, as well as any other parts not to be painted, such as the drain. Don't try to paint right up against these items without masking them, as removal of excess epoxy paint will be difficult, if not impossible. Extra time spent masking is well worth the effort.
Painting can be done with a small paintbrush for the edges that are masked off and either a large brush or a roller for the larger surfaces. Brushes and rollers won't really be cleanable, so don't use your best brush; buy a cheaper brush and discard when finished.
Two coats are almost certainly required and the drying time will vary depending on which paint you use, as will the instructions for what to do with the epoxy while the tub is drying.
Following the instructions for your particular paint, then re-apply after drying the recommended amount of time. Store the paint and brushes during this drying period as instructed on the paint—different paints and manufacturers recommend different storage methods.
After a second drying period, remove the masking tape and re-affix any removed items such as faucets. Again, check the paint instructions for the time necessary before using the bathtub and wait at least that long if not a few days longer.
My Personal Experience in Painting a Bathtub with Epoxy Paint
When my wife and I bought our latest home, it came with hideous avocado green fixtures throughout the house. While I changed out the kitchen sink and toilets, I did not want the expense or work of replacing a bathtub and instead decided to try painting it.
I used a two-part epoxy paint that required mixing with no trouble. Interestingly, the instructions were to store the paintbrush and paint in the freezer overnight while the first coat was drying. I very nearly decided that they really meant the refrigerator but finally wrapped the brushes in Saran Wrap and stored them, along with the paint, as instructed. The next morning the brush was still soft and pliable and the paint in good condition, ready for the second coat. (Lesson learned: Follow the instructions.)
My own paint job turned out very well, with no runs or streaks. The paint was very smooth, and it was hard to tell it had been painted at all. I also painted a small bathroom sink simultaneously, with the only problem there being that my brush was really too large. Nevertheless, it also turned out well. I did wait a week before using the bathtub or sink, even though the instructions did not indicate that it was necessary to wait that long. As I have another bathroom available, it was not a particular hardship, and I felt it wasn't worth any risk at all of peeling the paint up prematurely.
That work was done nearly 10 years ago, and I am just now seeing some chipping and peeling of the paint. One huge spot in the bathtub has chipped off, along with a couple of tiny areas, as well as a couple of small chips in the sink. It has actually lasted longer than I expected it to, and I plan on re-painting the bathtub. The sink, being more difficult to get a good job in and much cheaper and easier to replace, will probably be replaced soon along with the countertop.
Overall, with the understanding that the paint will not last forever and will need to be redone sometime in the future, I found that painting was a good alternative to replacing it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can you tell me the exact brand of two-part epoxy paint you used?
Answer: I used a Rustoleum brand paint.
Question: I have an Acrylic tub - can i use Rust-Oleum on this?
Answer: There is no real reason an epoxy paint cannot be applied to an acrylic tub. If it isn't installed correctly, however, it may flex every time a bather moves and that could crack the epoxy.
Question: I am planning on refinishing and painting a clawfoot tub. It has flaking paint areas and am wondering if this needs to be patched first or can I just paint the epoxy over it? If it needs to be patched, what would you recommend using?
Answer: If it is an iron tub and rusting in the flaked areas it will need a thorough sanding - all of the rust must be removed. In addition, any flaking areas need sanding to smooth the transition to the unpainted area and to ensure the flaking will stop.
Other than that, there should be no reason to patch anything.
Question: How come the epoxy paint is peeling after we put one coat in bathtub?
Answer: By far the most common answer is that the tub was not cleaned, and the paint was applied over a dirty surface; when the dirt comes off so does the paint.
It is imperative that the tub be absolutely clean before painting.
Question: My porcelain tub was resprayed professionally about 5 years ago and parts are peeling off now. Can we use this method to paint over the peeling area?
Answer: Regardless of what you put over peeling paint, it will come off as the paint continues to peel. Any loose paint or other product must always be removed before repainting.
Question: I used the rust oleum spray tub paint and its coarse like sand in spots, and not glossy anywhere. I followed the prep instructions and let it cure for a week. How can I fix it?
Answer: If it's not too coarse, you can try to paint over it with the roll on tub paint. The only other choice is to sand it off and repaint.
Question: I just painted my tub three days ago, but don’t like the results can I repaint over it? Will it stick? I’m using the magic tub and tile refinishing kit.
Answer: I suspect the answer is yes. (I don't know why paint would not stick to itself), but a firm answer can only come from the manufacturer of the product used.